Jun 22, 2006
A race report by
a yous guy, Harlan.
here is the cycling news article
I just drove 1,865miles on my motorcycle with my bike strapped to the back to go head to head with the crippler, Chris Eatough. People always ask about putting a bike on the motobike. Well here is a picture. It’s not so bad, but let me debunk a few myths about the motorcycle. It’s cheap on gas, but not maintenance. It’s faster and more maneuverable, but you have to stop more often to stretch the legs and fill up at least every 200 miles, so in reality it is a little slower than driving. A motto is not relaxing. Day dreaming has severe consequences.
Anyways, I took off Thursday morning with a fresh oil change, and service from the (both types of bike riding ) boys at Manayunk Triumph. Tom has a pretty good collection of bikes (bottechia, holdsworth, panasonic) that hang from the rafters in the motorcycle shop. Off at 6:30am and i beat the traffic with a freshly tuned throttle, and shot north towards 80. De Jevu hit since this was the same route I took to go to the Mohican100. As highways go, 80 is pretty scenic since it cuts straight through coal country Pennsylvania and Ohio. Bridges cut deep into the rock and shoot out through ancient valleys with morning mists rising from the trees like a sleeping dragon’s breath.
I stopped for lunch in fabulous Youngstown Ohio. The front page of the newspaper had a picture of a decrepit building and asked if Youngstown’s blight was fixable. Not exactly at the top of my must-see list for places to visit.
Getting to Ann Arbor I realized my stomach was on the revolt and demanded some food, but finding anything that wasn’t prefab chain “fine dining” was proving pretty difficult. I could have stopped and eaten a decent meal at any of the Chili’s or Bennegins, but i have this thing, that makes me hate the idea, so I pushed my stomach a little further, and was rewarded with a Mediterranean deli, with falafel's and spinach pies. Plus the owner was great, and had lived in Philadelphia for years. Because there is a large Lebanese population in Michigan, he came back for his family, but admitted he would rather be in beautiful PA.
12hrs after leaving Philly I made it to Brighton state park north of Ann Arbor Michigan. A total shot in the dark, Brighton ended up having a great little trail network, just right for spinning my legs out before curling up in my burrito sized tent. I did the 5mile long Torn Shirt trail. Tight twisty and a few loose climbs to keep you honest.
At the trailhead I ran into Peter Murphy (not of Bauhaus fame) and his friend Jerry. We chatted for a while about bikes and things of Michigan importance. Taking pity on me Peter offered to bring me home and feed me, and since that sounded better than the bag of nuts and PB&J’s I had planned, I went off to meet the extended network of the tall and tanned Murphy family. We surprised his wife, Robbie (sp?) and daughter, but they took this gypsy in stride and we had a nice dinner and conversation. I think I might have gotten Peter thinking about doing a 100miler, which I hope he does, despite his hesitation about being in his 50s, which is really no excuse for not doing one. So after eating I headed back to the campground to fold myself up and try to fall asleep while the campers next door yelled at their 2yr old to shut up and quit crying. Fortunately i was tired enough to fall asleep during a break in the terror filled screams of the kid. Quite a stark contrast to the family i had just left.
At this point I’m beginning to realize that MI is more than Detroit and Emminem, and it is actually quite beautiful, and it was only to get more beautiful as I drove north. With a three hour drive ahead of me I took the western coast route and drove through Lansing, Grand Rapids and Muskegon up highway 31. The highways were mostly straight and similar to florida but they rolled up and over ancient sand dunes that were still being swept by the lake’s winds that made the landscape look tilted to the east.
I pulled into Manistee around 1pm and found a coastal downtown with it’s eyes on the tourism dollar. The old town center has those effortless downtown sidewalks that make strolling or loitering a natural progression, after a long trip. I ate at the Tuscan grill, then headed over to the Bent Crank bike shop to get a spare tube and multi tool. Brain Buysse, the owner turned out to be a great guy and after we talked for about an hour and he learned I was up against the Trekie, he offered me the chance to get a good nights sleep in his guest bedroom. These Michiganites are super friendly, and being the obliging man I am I took him up on his offer. I agreed to meet him later after I went out to pre-ride and register.
The Race, Finally!!
Okay sorry it took so long to get to the goods for those of you only interested in this part of the story.
The race was being held out of the Big-M State Park XC ski access parking lot. As I pulled in I got my first taste of Michigan sand when my Motorcycle started to prove that it wasn’t made for the beach. I thought I could ride it out but soon dumped the motto on the left side and popped off one of my hard cases. Luckily it didn’t damage either bike, or my back when I picked it up and pulled up onto the harder packed field for camping and parking. I avoided embarrassment by playing it cool, as if it was supposed to do that.
After parking and punching myself a couple of times I noticed that (surprise) Trish Stevenson was there. We had both said we weren’t coming to this race. Liars we are!
Trish and I decided to do the first 8mile loop together to see what the course had to offer. The pre-ride proved that the race was going to be fast, and I mistakenly began to believe we might even break the 7hr mark the next day. Not a technical feature on the smooth swoopy 100% singletrack course. I started planning my wheelsucking.
After the preside, we cleaned up a little and Trish and I headed into town for a prerace meal. Dinner at Tuscan’s was as good as lunch and eventually Trish and I parted ways to get some sleep. At Brian's I did some pre-race prep, talked to him and his girlfriend Chris, and eventually went to sleep in the air conditioned room! What a luxury.
Up at 5:10 made breakfast, Brian was awake, drank coffee, got out the door by 6 made it to the start at 6:30 barely got ready, missed the riders meeting, went out on the road, and waited for 20 min.
The start was on pavement then turned onto the sandy entrance road where I had dumped my bike, so I knew that trying to avoid the sand would give me a better chance to go into the single track in good position. My plan worked and i ended up in a perfect 4th position, with a long string of a 176 riders behind. Eatough was at the front and pushed a decent pace but, nothing gut busting. Eventually he pulled over and let Russ Tiles take the lead who upped the power and proceeded to pull us along for about 10 miles. At one point there was only Chris, Russ, Me, and a Bells Brewery rider, but eventually a few people caught back up and we had a train of 6-9 riders with me riding third wheel. I never bothered to look back until about 15 miles in to see who was there. The pace was casual enough conversation was easy, and a few jokes were thrown around. Chris started talking about how it would be hard to get big time gaps on such a smooth course and I agreed but kept my eye on him.
at about the 20mile mark Chris, who had kept looking back and was just in front of me, launched an attack that felt like world cup pace. I stuck his wheel as the Bells guy stuck mine. The group was quickly shattered and Bells boy eventually asked to come around me since i was just hovering off of Chris. I knew that Chris would be stopping to get a water bottle or two at the end of the first lap so I figured I’d save a little energy and catch him, since I wouldn’t have to stop. Sure enough we came around the corner, Chris stopped, Russ was with me now and we all regrouped, but I was starting to get the feeling that this pace was a bad idea for me, and after going for a couple of miles I let Bells and Chris go and told Russ to go around. I warned Russ but he was eager to keep up and jumped after Bells Boy(mike Simonson) and Chris. I let off to recover and was soon caught by Anthony Slowinski. He passed me but I kept him in sight and eventually rolled back up on him, then we road together for the rest of lap two and part of three.
Sure enough, not long after we caught Russ and he stuck our wheel and we all rode on. Russ, being a local, and knowing Simonson predicted his demise, even though Simonson was the fastest XC racer in the area. Sure enough not long after, a blown Bells jersey came into view and we road right passed him, and I said something about getting burned by the English Muffin. Soon after we dropped Simonson, Russ faded off the back and it was just Anthony and I for a while. I could tell he was fading and we stopped for a group drink and stretch at the halfway aid station. After getting back on the bikes I soon lost Anthony and rode for the next 3 hours alone.
The course was a mind bender, especially after the 12mile aid station, when there was still a half a lap to go. For some reason that section took forever and had a few longer climbs in it that made the finish feel like some eternally receding destination. the third lap was my hardest and slowest feeling. When I finally came around to the end of lap three and the start of 4 I got a time split, Chris was 25 up and third was 3 min back. Panic kind of set in and I new I would have to battle through the last lap, hoping no one felt fresh enough to catch me. Part way into the lap I looked down while climbing and realized my seat had slipped about 1.5in. This made since, because my climbing had felt terrible all day. After a quick adjustment I took off and hammered as much as i could without going into the bonk and at the halfway mark I tried not to think of the finish, in order to avoid the frustration of wanting to be done.
When the 3/4mile sign to the parking lot eventually showed I great relief overcame me, and I finished at 7:41 just 33 min behind Chris and I managed to put time on third when Russ came in 10min later. Harvey Minton pulled out an 8th place in a stacked field.
Over all it was a brutal day with high humidity, 85 degree heat and unrelenting singletrack, which offered no rest and made eating difficult. Loosing my Endurolytes in the first lap was disconcerting, but proved to not be fatale.
Now all I had to look forward to was awards a nights sleep and 15hrs on the motorcycle.
Rick Plites put on a good awards show, where tons of good stuff was raffled off and big ax trophy’s were handed out to the winners. Good luck to those who had to get on a plane with one. Founders provided two Kegs which were quickly kicked, due to everyone's dehydration. A lot different from last year when a keg was left over. I’d say that's a sign of a successful event.
My ride home wasn’t too eventful. I stopped outside of Cleveland in Elyria, ate some Pho noodles and decided to take my mother’s offer up on a Hotel room.
The next day I put in 11 hrs on the bike, with a few naps in between. It rained about a third of the time and I managed to keep my sanity.
Overall it was a good trip. I have to thank the people I met along the way, Peter, Robbie, Brian, Chris, Trish, Chris, Garth, Madison and Star-la. You’ve made things a little easier each step of the way. Thanks!