Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dirty days

It's been a few weeks, and I am a bad blogger of late due to a new job, new baby and other things being more important (apologies!)

The 2008 Dirt Bike Masters- I competed in two of three rounds- was fantastic.

I swore to Mum (and to a lesser extent Rachel) that this would be my last gasp, my lap of honour on a dirt bike. But as I considered the fitness I gained in the lead up and the pure hard core physicality of racing a dirt bike for just 10 minutes three times in a day- I'm well and truly hooked and I am very keen (Honda willing) to go round again next season.

The first round was appalling. I was left a physical wreck. Terribly unfit and totally unsuited to the requirements of even low level competative dirt bike racing.

I skipped over round 2 due to both Bathurst and... this is going to sound insane... I had not recovered from the first round some 6 weeks earlier. Yes people. It's that difficult.

In the lead up to round three I actually managed to get some worthy fitness sessions under my belt. Rachel oh-so-conveniently found a gym with personal trainer and then I aided and abeted this conspiragcy by telling David the personal trainer that I was going to be racing the damn thin in a matter of weeks. He selected a program that I thought was ok, but it turned out to be brilliant come race day.

Race Day
Round Three at Lardner Park looked on paper to be a likely disaster for me. It was a grass track cut onto the side of a hill and then rotary hoed. Then a water truck.

I watched the first warm up session (women) with a mixture of admiration and horror. Some sections looked like potential youtube worthy disasters.

This was proved a worthy thought when I was out - determined to just circulate and get to know the track. The top turn was so wet that my idiotic decision to "experiment"with a few racing lines resulted in a slow front end tuck, slide and embarassing clean up back in the pits.

Race one was not great. I arrived late to the start (being cool n all) and was left on the far left side of the track. About 10 feet from the start I would have to cross the last turn berm and then realy try to get going. I got a terrible start, found a rythmn and even passed a few guys- as shown below.

Race two I was offered That Bike- the bosses factory fiddled CRF450X. I felt great insofar as my health and fitness was concerned (despite a slight fade out at the end of race one) so I was very keen to give the beast a go.

On the start line- again on the non favoured side, I decided that 60 odd horsepower would be enough to drag me down the straight in second gear. It was more than enough. She sat up like an as yet unbroken horse and I headed to turn one on the rear wheel, desperately clawing my 100 kilos of glory towards the handlebars to settle the stallion. Futile.

After about half a lap I realised this bike needed a different style. Where on the softer 250cc I needed to keep corner speed, keep the engine reasonably revved up, the 450 just wanted me to turn hard, stand it up, and shoot it to the next corner. It worked like fury. I passed many riders this way. I can act all "Jeez I was good" but it was a simple combination of more horsepower + fat guy + reasonable technique= fast.

This came unstuck twice- once when I tried a block pass in too high a gear with too much back brake. I got in front alright, but I stalled it and sat there for a lap trying to get her restarted. I was just about buggered when she came to life. I gave up a crowd pleasing wheelie of anger and rejoined my the same guys I had passed.

Fitness meant nothing. I was blowing like a steamtrain. The much loved horsepower was now straining my arms. I could barely stand for the whoop sections. I wanted the chequered flag.

Passing the last lap board, I decided to have crack anyway and was lining up a guy to pass in the exact manner you see in the video above and a perfect storm/bad planet alignment occured.

Yarrive Konsky- Woodstock Honda team boss and the owner of the bike I was racing- has small hands. He has the front brake lever very close to the bars. Me? I have huge hands. Everytime I pulled the front brake on with two fingers it hit my knuckles and meant the brakes weren't on hard enough. So I used all my fingers.

This meant I had lots of front brake, but bugger all control. The bike is bucking and weaving and I need to be stable to brake "just so".

...and so I am brought undone. I go in late, grab a man sized fist of brakes, hit a few bumps and lock the front wheel. This time I have a fast and violent front end tuck but I try to ride it out. I do not succeed in gathering it up and when it finally all goes to hell I hit my chest on the right handle bar hard and go up and over the bike like a rag doll. This breaks two ribs. I land on my back and feel ok. I go back to the bike and try to lift it and I feel significantly less ok. I cannot lift it. A track marshall lifts it for me. I remount, decide not to finish and roll down the grassy hill, bump start the bike and ride slowly to the pits. The bike is not happy. Check the handlebars in this shot (ignore Harry in his sling!):

I'm sore, but not in trouble. The talented and likeable Peter Boyle offers me his enduro championship winning CRF250 for race 3 and I reluctantly agree. (well, part of me is "oh I will crash ANOTHER factory bike" but part of me says "hell yeah")

So, I mount up, get to the start line early. I ace the start, I pass guys, I ride hard, I feel great. I'm in the top half and I feel ten feet tall and as stoked with my performance as legally allowed.

Here are some more pics:


thomasrdotorg's Dirt Bike Master Round 3 photosetthomasrdotorg's Dirt Bike Master Round 3 photoset

So thanks must go to: Yarrive Konsky and Sean Wisneske from Woodstock Honda. Super special thanks also to event organiser Adam Bailey and PR guru Marscelle Tully for getting me a ride and treating me so well across the various rounds.

God, wife and mother willing I'd love to go round again in 2008. Racing is back in my blood, and I'm better physically and mentally for it.

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posted by thr at 9:50 am


Anonymous MrCheeks said...

Love it Thomas... nice work for a young guy like you.

11/28/2008 9:11 am  

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