Friday, June 8, 2012

Black Hills Fat Tire Fest - aka Rain Maker

Fat Tire and Monster sponsors. Good indicators!

Ryan and I have been going to The Black Hills Fat Tire Fest weekend event for a few years. It's pretty well organized with lots of vendor support, city support and alcohol support. Last year we didn't want to return because it rained out half of the weekend and we spent it wandering around. But because the event was transfered to the local trail advocacy group BHMBA, of which our good friend Jason Kingsbury is a part, we wanted to support it and his efforts. Also, the XC race venue was moved to one of the better trail systems around there and that was enough to get us up there. I can't say it loud enough, people. There is so much awesome single track in and minutes from Rapid City. It's a secret stash of techy, rocky, flowy, droppy, yummy trails! Get your kitch and dirt on!

The trip was going to be just the two of us this time, which was great, because we needed to test the sleeping capability of the van. (We plan on camping in it for a week in July). Testing it in the Walmart parking lot in Mitchell, SD (home of the Corn Palace) was not my ideal way of testing but it kept things simple. Bottom line: sleeping in our van, good. Walmart parking lot: suck. It was way too bright. It didn't help that I was sick with some freak body aches, either. But sleeping wasn't all that bad and we even made a Walmart parking lot pal. Another "camper" walked by the van and asked if we had been warm enough. Then felt compelled to explain their recent escapades in Michigan and future plan in Rapid City and how they hadn't been there in 30 years. We had to laugh as we pulled away. That could be a reality show all of it's own. People of Walmart Parking Lot. But on a bright note, I did pick up some meds and a Lord of the Rings DVD for $5. That would be a nice time killer on the way home.

We made it to Rapid just in time for absolutely nothing. The rain closed down the trails for any preriding so we hung out downtown and hit a favorite shop Acme Bicycles. The owner is a new conversion van owner so we had to see what we were missing. Okay, the pop top was very cool. Okay, microwave was nice. A bed. Yeah, but where ya gonna put the bikes and people? We decided we liked our van! (Side note: if you find yourself if Rapid, go to Acme. Tim Rangish is the man and he will take care of you).

That night we went to the opening weekend social. Those Hill people know how to party. Catered buffet with gourmet noodles, 'zza and dessert. Not your typical prerace pasta feed neither. Fat Tire on tap and live tunes, all indoors, under heat lamps. 5-star all the way! My body aches came back and with a vengence. By the time we got home I had the chills and just went to bed.

Nom, nom, nom!

New Belgium floweth.

I wasn't too upset that the next day was wiped out. I didn't have the chills anymore but I still was achey. It rained all day. We did hang out at the venue for a bit, chatting with other racers. Jamie from Norfolk was there so we talked bikes, vans and motos. We took a ride to the XC course to check it out but couldn't find it so I buzzed good ol Tim Edwards, State Farm Insurance rep who sponsors Psycowpath. He has a cabin nearby and was going to be there. Turned out, he owned the land the course was on. Ha! And the start/finish area was his meadow and the road to the single track was his road. We were jealous. He met us in his meadow and took us for an ATV ride up to his old place and then to his new place. With views of the hills and all of its natural beauty, we couldn't imagine why he was still in Omaha. But we surmised, it would only be a matter of time. We killed the day talking bikes, vans and motos. We got Tim up to date on all things biking in Omaha and enjoyed a bowl of his wife's homemade soup. Couldn't really complain. That night we enjoyed home made chili at Jason's house with home made corn bread and guac. Life wasn't too bad. Good thing this weird illness wasn't killing my appetite.

By Sunday, we were ready to get our dirt on. No more sitting around! The sky had cleared and it was going to be 60 at race time. We were first to arrive at the venue. It had rained all night so the road and the meadow was wetter than wet. But the locals were optimistic. Me, not so much. Not only had I forgotten my team shorts, but I was still feeling kinda sick. So, it was gonna be what was gonna be.

It was a small turn out and the usual suspects weren't there. I lined up 2nd row and didn't see any other women around me. I could hear them towards the back of the group. A couple looked tough! When the gun went off we had about a 100 yard dash to the hole shot. Perry Jewit founder of The Dakota 50 was right there with me and he was haulin' it. I know that dude can handle himself so I slid in behind his wheel and it was off to the races. The start was greasy here and slippery there. Our insider informant told us the hardest part was the beginning. Lots of climbing up new and old trail that were littered with rock, baby heads, and some roots. The loamy soil was pleasantly rideable. Perry and I changed spots a couple of times. The last time he went by, bombing down a hill screaming, "Pedal Power!" He knew many of the racers and called out to them by name or let them by. Cool dude.

Perry putting pedal to the metal. Braaaaap!

Somewhere after Aid Station #1, I had a rider on me pretty close. I moved over to them them pass and it was a woman in my class. Curses! The trail was swoopy and flowy and she rode it like she was on a magic carpet. With her down hill-style shoes, baggies and camelback, I knew I was up against a local who knew all of the lines. The race was still early and I was feeling pretty good. I kept an eye on her. We went back and forth a couple of times. She'd fly down the descents and I'd catch her on the ups. On one of the descents, I was actually leading and then I got a small branch caught in my rear cassette. Before I could event unclip, she was stopped and pulling the branch out for me. It wasn't an easy procedure. I urged her to go on as I was feeling pretty stupid by then but she didn't stop until it was out. Then she took off saying there was a big climb coming. I kid you not, it was like she had a rocket on her back. Two turns later and she was vapor.
Damn! But soon enough we started climbing a rather long ATV road. I asked her if she road these trails a lot and she said yes. I knew it! I told her I could tell. I knew this was going to be a slogger of a climb and I also knew that she wasn't able to climb as well on her longer travel bike. It's not like I stood up and hammered, but I put the hurt on because what goes up must come down and she was better on the down.

Caught walkin'. Damn!

Once I crested the hill, it was swoopy heaven. I road hard but smart. I couldn't have any mistakes. The trail wasn't all that technical but there were a few drops and logs here and there. My goal was to stay out of sight. I figured once she saw me, I would be done. At one point I did drop a chain on a bouncy, switchback descent but I was able to get back on the saddle without loosing too much time.

Good ol South Dakota rockness.
I knew if I could just make it to the last aid station I could possible take the top podium. Good friends of the Kingsbury's were marshaling and cheering me on. All downhill from here, they yelled. Woo-hoo. I took a big swig of water and pointed myself downward. 5 miles of smiles is all I can say. What is it with SD races ending in long, swoopy descents? I love it.

I managed to pull out the win. 2nd place was a mere two minutes behind me. She was a great sport and encouraging. I told her she was fun to race against. Especially with her mad descending skills. Everyone said that was her specialty. Glad I could make the most of my other specialties to bring home the top spot.

Yeah, forgot my team short. Doh!

Later that day, we hopped over to the DH course and watch the real descending. 6' and 8' drops, between trees and around rocks. SICK! There were some ladies taking their turn on the intermediate loops and it was fun to hear the crowd roar when they came down.

The night was capped off with an awards ceremony and buffet of all kinds of yummies. I bagged some tall boys, a Fat Tire banner and some cash. I was tired, hungry and thirsty, so it was the best place I could think of to be.

Hardware and hopps. Can't think of a better way to celebrate.

The Fat Tire Fest is a great event. It has a local feel and the new guard are really working hard to improve it and I think they did. Weather and illness aside, it was a fun weekend. I was right about Spearfish and the Five-0 when I made the trumpet call about that event. Hear me on this one - The BHFTF has potential of being just as rad.

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