The line is set! Bikes are off! A quick glance to either side reveals a big class of veteran riders all geared up for battle! The only thing that feels odd is that we are all straddling our front fender, facing the wrong direction. You can hear a pin drop as we wait for the 1 minute card to drop and the flag to waive!
GO!!! The flag is up, its time to pin it! I swing around my dumpster baby Jolene and she lights right up! And we are off! Not a great start but its a 2 hour race and I know I am fit, don't worry, just don't make any mistakes. The narrative in my head is non stop. "Wait on the brakes Morgan, get on the gas NOW!"
The first mile is pavement and so much fun but its not my forte at all. I manage to make up a spot on the asphalt but I am watching the leaders get a way and its maddening! Ahhh, here comes the dirt, lets do this!!
A 180 degree turn onto the grass and now I can get to work. I am twisting Jolene's neck to the limit and she not only doesn't seem to mind but I think she kinda likes it. After a quick dash across grass we are on the motocross track. Another discipline that I am not great at but at least there is dirt. I put down a quick lap and its into the woods full tilt. Time to take some chances and catch back up. My friend is somewhere ahead of me and he is my main target!
The woods section is sooooo good. They have changed a few things up with the course this year and it is making it a TON of fun! There is a fair amount of moisture in the ground so the traction variable is high! Imagine being on the worlds largest slot car track with the worlds fastest car and that is close to how it feels. I really can't make any mistakes. My tire choice is perfect, A Bridgestone M59 up front and a Pirelli Scorpion XC MS out back. The Lectron carburetor is fueling perfectly and I can't stop smiling in my helmet.
I charge hard through the woods and pass a few guys as quickly as I can. Still no Jason but I know that he is really fast, especially early in a race. I get back out of the woods and hold Jolene wide towards the pavement. Timing and scoring shows me in 5th!! Damnit, I was really hoping I would be in the top 3 already. Oh well, more work to do! I pass my pits and give the high sign as I settle in for a mile of rest on the pavement. After a solid lap on the motocross track I fly headlong into the woods to make up time! This lap goes even better, I am still feeling strong and I have my lines dialed. The few mud holes are getting good lines through them and I remember to take the left split at one of the 2 "choice" sections. Its way faster and sets you up for the coming right hander way better.
3 laps down now and I am back out of the woods and turning onto the pavement when I see Jason pulled over in the pits getting gas! PERFECT! Just as I expected, he needed gas because he is still running the Mikuni on is 2017 KTM. I look down and I have plenty of fuel! I tape Jolene wide open as I pass him, knowing that he will be coming for me with a passion hotter than the noonday sun in Oklahoma in July! He is faster than I am in this terrain but hopefully I can put enough time between us during his pit that I can hold him off.
I have one option now, GO FAST! I put together a pretty good lap and get back through timing and scoring in 4th place. Still not where I want to be but at least I am beating my good friend. It's funny how all of us motorcyclists like to beat the people we like the most! Its a sickness and one I love to live with everyday. Lap 5 is going well and I haven't seen Jason yet but as I pivot turn in one of the few rocky sections I see him coming. CRAP!!! He is on me pretty close and we only have a little bit of rocky woods left then its a mad dash in the open towards the pavement. I know he is willing to hold it wide open and I will have to push it really hard to maintain my lead.
There is one last wet, rocky section before we break out into the Oklahoma sun. The grass comes and I give Jolene the equivalent of the whip as I put my head down! I am screaming in my helmet "GO, GO, GO, PUSH PUSH PUSH!" There is one last grass section before the 180 onto the pavement and about 100 yards to the finish. I hear his SX screaming like he as the exhaust inside my helmet! "DON'T SCREW THIS TURN UP MORGAN!" Until this moment neither of us know how many laps we have left because we haven't seen a white flag and we don't know the time we have been out but I look down the track and see the CHECKERS! HOLY (bad word) I might be able to do this! I feather the clutch, twist the screw and pray for the best! My dumpster baby gets a hold of the planet and accelerates like a Saturn rocket towards the finish line!
The workers see how fast we are coming and start waiving us to slow down "ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I'M NOT SLOWING DOWN FOR ANYTHING!" I cross the line and look at the monitor that is showing position and I am surprised to see 3RD place!?!? What?? Hell yes, not only did I beat Jason but I ended up on the podium in a very competitive class! Another level of happiness rushes over me as I congratulate Jason on a great race. There isn't anything more fun to me than to battle on a bike, especially with a friend! Racing dirt bikes is as good as it gets! I wasn't the faster rider today but my equipment kept me ahead and that is part of the game too!
Stay tuned for the story of our team race the next day. It was just as close and just as exciting!!