Greetings, rabid Team Seagal fan. Casey Ryback here, along with teammate Mason Storm. In the last day and a half, we have been through a lot - more specifically, our minds, wrists, and t'aints have been through a lot. We just returned from the Spoke Pony Showdown 3/6 Hour race at Landahl State Park near Kansas City, after having entered into glorious battle in the 6 Hour Duo Open category (and the only 100% singlespeed team to do so, as well.) Tell 'em how we did, Mason! "Holy crap, the competition was fierce, but due to our Superior Attitude and Superior State of Mind, we finished 3rd place out of 8 very worthy opponents! See fo' yo'self:"
But saying "3rd" place is only a small fraction of the story.
Spoke Pony had originally been scheduled a few weeks back, however due to inclement weather and trail conditions, Heartland Race Promotions were forced to reschedule to Saturday, 3/29. Has anyone ever said just how badass of an event promotions company Heartland Racing is? This is one of the reasons why - they really look out for the trails, and this weekend it paid off in droves. What I mean by this is that the Landahl race course was in PERFECT - I REPEAT PERFECT - shape! There were maybe 3 tiny mud puddles (that had already been armored with large rocks) other than that, the surface was extremely fast, grippy, and dry without being dusty. You could rail your front end into corners with nary a fear of washing out. People often talk about suspension forks/frames being very forgiving of rider mistakes - the same could be said for these course conditions; go into a turn with too much heat and slam hard on the brakes a little too late, turn the wheel, lean in, hit the gas, and you'll come blasting out of the turn. I remarked to Mason that I felt as though I had a tailwind at my back on most laps, despite being a very calm day. These were the conditions that you dream about.
Optimal trail conditions only added to the fun at Landahl. This *may* be the best mtb race venue in the state, with 24/7/365 camping, a huge staging area, endless route options that never have to cross a road, and a perpetual state of flow that will put a smile on your face even in the heat of and epic battle for 1st place. As best as we could tell, the only "east-side" people willing to venture over there for the event were ourselves, and Dwayne who came in 2nd against a deep solo field. Seriously people, St. Louis riders need to wake up to this trail system and all the BADASS races that are held there! Rapture in Misery and 24 Hours of Landahl are happening later this year - don't miss them!
Oh yeah, what about the race itself? Mason and I arrived late on Friday night after a harrowing journey across I-70. Setting up camp by propane light, we quickly proceeded to quench our thirsts using the best tool for the job: Pabst. The night was cold, but our sleeping bags were warmer than a Pabst after it's been sitting on my dashboard for an entire day in the Castlewood parking lot in August. We woke up with the sun and the sounds of other racers arriving and setting up their camps, none of which looked as good as ours:
We both ate some not-home-cooked food all the while hoping for the sun to come out and warm us up. No dice. Before we knew it, it was time to line up for the Le Mans-style start:
If you look closely at that photo, you can see my middle finger. That's right.
We were too busy going fast to take pictures during the race. We put in some excellent lap times, especially when you consider how piss-poor this year has been so far in terms of being conducive to riding and training. Exercising the greatest of passing etiquette, we clung to 3rd place for basically the entire race. 2nd place was pretty well locked in by two very strong and cool guys - Joel and crap-I-forgot-his-name. 4th place was constantly keeping us in sight, never more than 4 or 5 minutes down, so we knew that we could never rest. No problem when Superior Attitude and Superior State of Mind are on our side. In fact, it appeared as though the teams in 4th and 5th place were more focused on each other, as they had a very close race going, with sometimes less than 1 minute between the two.
Things were going fairly smoothly for most of the race - we both ate well during our rest laps, and we stayed dressed to impress. One lap on, one lap off. Mason did find himself on two separate occasion staring into the face of flat tires, but expertly handled them. There was a scare during one of the flat fixes when he was passed by another racer in our category. Fortunately, he was completely aware of all surroundings at all times, like a true ex-Navy Seal. He was able to pull his way back onto his tail, and then proceed to pass and put some time on him.
I found myself unprepared for Mason's face-meltingly-fast last lap. As he jammed around the corner on his way to the start/finish area, Cow-town in tow, I looked up in horror, realizing that I still needed to change shoes, don my helmet and gloves, and get my lazy ass to the staging area where I could get the baton and start what would be en extremely exciting final lap. I knew that he had our competition on his tail as he was pulling into the staging area, but I wasn't sure where this particular racer stood - was he in 2nd? 4th? I was assuming that I now had to play catch-up to this guy in order to either bump us up to 2nd place, or save us from falling off the podium into 4th. I also knew it was one of the Cow-town dudes, and I could see him up ahead fairly early on. It took me quite some time to make any headway on this guy who was fully suspended, and with gears. I realized that he must know I'm gunning for him, as he was running a pace that said "you're going to earn this..." So I kept on the gas, and was getting worried that I wouldn't be able to keep much of a lead if I were to pass him at some point - but I knew I had to pass him at some point before we finished this final lap.
I thought, "So this is what REAL racing is."
He eventually let me pass, as it turned out he didn't know I was a direct competitor. I did not see him again on that lap, but the thought of him being not far off of my tail kept a fire in my legs. Or wait, maybe that was the lactic acid? Whatever it was, it hurt. I finished the lap, having completed my goal of what I thought to be at least keeping us on the podium, maybe bumping us up. Turns out, he was actually a full lap ahead of me, and was in 1st place, which means it didn't really matter if I passed him or not. So what - it was good to have to dig a little deeper than I was planning. Here we are on the podium, the 1st place rider in my little story is the 3rd from the left:
Mason is VERY happy with both our results and mustache, and has to share with Mini-Steven:
A trip to Council Bluff requires a meal at Dos Primos. While that is essentially Team Seagal hollowed-ground, Shakespeare's Pizza in Columbia is AT LEAST as delicious, and blew both Mason's and my mind:
Stay tuned for reports from Rim Wrecker at Council Bluff, and for more pictures and full results and lap times from Spoke Pony!
*EDIT* Results are up! Shit that was fast! RESULTS