Written by Jose R. Mendez Wednesday, 21 October 2015 00:00
This season went into pause after I injured my right middle finger a few months ago. I happened to find a tree while racing downhill through the singletrack and trying to unlock my rear shock at the same time. Hey, I was multitasking OK! Well I miscalculated the .78539 seconds it would take me to do it. I clipped a tree on the left and that snowballed into a slam on the right side. After my world came to an abrupt stop I shook it off and got back to racing. Massive pain on my right middle finger knuckle but I had to go. Gritting through the pain I happened to look down at my glove and noticed it had changed color. “Hmm, that’s odd. I don’t remember my glove being red.” I quickly realized my hand was gushing blood from somewhere, presumably that middle finger I could barely close. I had two choices; 1. I stop, take my glove off and evaluate the situation and 2. Keep riding and hope the pain doesn’t become unbearable. This was all happening in my head as I raced. I thought to myself “well if I look and it’s bad, I will probably stop racing”. So I decided not to look. Hey, it wasn’t that bad of a call, I won!
Once the racing was over I made my way to the clinic and they found it necessary to tack 8 stitches onto my knuckle. And, he also mentioned I added about 3 of those because I kept riding which kept splitting the wound. Ouch.
Fast forward about four months (joint skin wounds take FOREVER to heal, especially when you don't follow doctor's orders) and I am finally standing at the start line again. This time at the Southern Endurance Cup race put on by Chainbuster Racing in Hartwell, GA
I heard it was a nice trail with limited amount of climbing. Good, but not great for me. I need technical stuff and a good bit of climbing to start gaining an advantage on the field. Still, I was excited about all the “fun” talk.
So off we went on this beautiful Fall morning, up the biggest hill of the race, a paved road to thin us out before dropping into the trail.
The trail is smooth. Wow, so nice. Super fast. We just glide through the woods with no real surprises, just fast fun single track. About 4 miles in “boom!” I see a rider two bikes ahead of me go over his bars and flip off to the side of the trail. Uh oh, was that my son?! (Did I mention my 15 yr old son was racing?) In an instant I knew, it was him. I swing off the trail to make sure he is OK. A lot of cringing and moaning but he is now standing so it can’t be that bad. After making sure he is OK to get back on the bike I nurse him on and follow him back onto the course. Bummer! Not only did he get hurt, we also lost the top 5 guys who we were riding with.
It’s chase time.
We just put our heads down and got to it. I had no idea how many folks I could pull back. I was far back. I was in the t-shirt clad racing crowd so I knew I was WAY back. One pass at a time I just kept racing.
After a few miles it started coming back to me. This is an amazing trail! So fast! It wasn’t inherently technical but you could ride so fast it became technical. It was a trail that required an ultra-focused mind and eyes to keep you from flying off the trail. But no real surprises. Just race focused and within your limits and you will have a blast.
Laps came and went, smoothly. I was racing well and felt strong. Considering how long it had been since I last raced, I was really excited about how I was felt. I pulled back everyone in my category and managed a win on this day. Just doesn’t get better than that.
I must say it was interesting to race from the absolute back of the pack. It makes you ride harder and it really tunes in your passing skills. And to be honest I can’t think of a better trail to do it on than Payne’s Creek trail. It will go down as my favorite trail in Georgia... for now.
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