Here’s the scene:
A small group of riders paused on top of the highest point around, to take stock of the next challenge facing them and enjoy a short break after climbing out away from the tough creek bottom sections they’d just finished. They’d gotten a late start, due to one of them suffering a flat rear tire that was only discovered as the trials began. This fact resulted in their current situation, which was one well behind the pack that was by now safely back in the pits between rounds. As they dismounted and stepped toward the blue and red ribbon stretching ahead, they felt the first drop………
Round 4 of the Southeastern Division’s 2009 ITSA championship series rolled like thunder into Goodlettsville, TN this past Saturday. Trent Park was playing host to several competitors on his geologically diverse, hillside farm. This was the second run (in as many years) at this place, which offered an almost perfect combination of rock and water, logs and some of the steepest hills we’ve faced yet. It would have been a challenge under any circumstances, but under water? It was unbelievable!
The day started with a lot of sunshine after what seemed to be 6 weeks of rain. It had been a little damp when the Guru and crew had laid out the sections a week before, so the sections were geared for the day’s start. It was….well, a little slick in places. It was the sort of conditions that begin to improve as the riders make their way through the sections and everyone was thinking that scores would improve as the day progressed.
The first round began in the lowest portion of the property. Here the loop led to a lowland ditch that sported some sections with really tough terrain. Exposed roots competed with good sized rocks for the obstacle causing the most problems, for riders in all classes. It didn’t take many going through a section for everything in it to be coated with mud, making the going even tougher for the next few entering (it would get worse before the day was over).
The loop eventually led the riders out of the lower sections of the property and onto the ridges that while not free from the slick stuff, at least didn’t hold much standing water. Some of the most challenging (read that, most fun) sections were found in the area lying between the high and low ground. A mix of gravel-laden soil and good black earth would funnel the rider to (and through) mounds of incredibly soft red mud. These spots had the stopping power of one of those run-away-truck exits you find while going down a mountain along the interstate. At least it made for a soft landing pad for those of us who couldn’t stay upright in the attempt.
After a few sections in the high county, it was back to the creek-runs and drainage ditch. The creeks sported some good flat rocks and short (but steep) banks that the layout crew utilized to good effect. A rider would pop in and out of the creek several times on their way through the area. There was also a good amount of sand along the main creek channel and this resulted in several feet slipping from the pegs as riders attempted the tight turns laid out through the stuff. Emerging from the creek after the last section of the first loop and it was back up and out toward the pits just before the rain started to fall. That is, if you hadn’t gotten a late start.
For the group delayed by the flat tire, the heavens seemed to open up over there heads and what had been a dry ride through the green woods of late spring, became a dash from section to section in a dripping rain forest. It was an incredible transformation and one that did nothing to dampen the spirits of the group still out in it. What had been a collection of sections featuring soft mud and slick logs, became one of deep muddy water and little (to no) traction on almost all surfaces. It turned what had promised to be a fun and challenging trial in to something really special that I (for one) enjoyed immensely.
Conditions were such that made precision riding nearly impossible and high scores were the order of the day. This diminished the edge of competition somewhat and paved the way for everyone to really enjoy themselves. There’s something about slipping and sliding in mud and water all day, to really bring out the kid in you. I saw that reaction in most everyone present and when the scoring was done there were many who just stayed out to ride for the fun of it. Now how often does that happen?
The Captain's Pics From Park Place 2009