The cool kids all say “new year, new me!” and I figured I’d try it out to see what the hype is all about. I figured I’d open the new year by going out and doing some racing to welcome in 2020 and the perfect place to do so would be SXCS’ Hangover Hare Scramble at Wicomico Motorsports Park in Charlotte Hall, Maryland. This facility sits next door to the world famous Budds Creek MX and while I’ve been to Budds a number of times over the years, I’ve never been to Wicomico and never had the opportunity to venture into the woods, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect other than the chance at some really cool trails, just knowing the general roll of the land in this area!
This would also be my first time attending a SXCS event. This is a really cool series in the Mid-Atlantic Region that hosts a unique season with three different formats including Hare Scramble, GP and a Sprint Cross format. I had heard good things from those who raced it last year, so I figured I’d give it a shot and boy was I glad I did! The Hangover event draws a unique crowd of folks as there were a number of ECEA competitors from up in New Jersey, as well as a lot of folks from the VCHSS and VXCS series’ in Virginia, plus folks from West Virginia, PA and surrounding areas as well. On top of this, the presentation of the event was really nice as well. You can really tell that is a series by racers, for racers!
Of course, first we had to get there! Kayla and I got up at 4:30AM on Sunday morning, after staying up until 1AM watching the Anaheim 1 Supercross on TV. We began the four hour trip to Wicomico, but that quickly turned into a five hour trip when the Interstate 68 from Bruceton Mills, WV to Cumberland, MD was pretty much all covered in snow. You’d hit a few breaks and get up to about 60 miles per hour before running into snow again. It definitely wasn’t ideal but thankfully that’s not an incredibly long stretch of highway, and once we were out of it, we were done with the snow. We finally made it to the race, even though it took longer than intended!
I opted to sign up for the Collegeboy 16-30 class, which I’m on the very, very far end of that age range but it seemed like a fun class with a really cool mix of folks. My other choices were to race the “Open” class in the morning or run Open A since I won’t be 30 for a few more months. I wanted to race the afternoon event and knew I’d get destroyed in Open A, so I figured mixing it up with the guys in that Collegeboy class would be really fun. I had been saying for several days leading up to the event that I was just going out to ride. I hadn’t been on a bike since I test rode the 2020 Yamaha YZ125X and YZ250FX at their Introduction Ride in November, and I’d be riding my new GNCC sweep bike, which I had just picked up a couple of weeks prior and had ZERO seat time on.
I started the bike a few times at home and heat cycled it, then started a couple more times at the track before taking it out and riding it in circles in the field. Luckily for me, I’m not overly picky with my bike and I’ve gotten very good at setting everything up how I prefer, so after riding it around the pits for a minute, I took it straight to the starting line! At the start, I was keeping my “just here for fun” mentality and even told Kayla that I would probably let these other guys go off the start and fall in behind them. Well, somewhere in between then and when the flag flew, my mind changed a bit.
When the green flag flew, I hit the button, eased out the clutch and started going but quickly realized that the riders right by me weren’t going. So, I nailed the gas and went for the holeshot. I managed to squeak the holeshot right in front of Kolten Hawk, and Mikey Horwatt who was racing the Schoolboy class that started on the same row with us. I figured I’d lead a couple of turns and these guys would get by me, but I ended up leading all the way to the woods. Once we were in the woods I didn’t exactly pick the best lines in the first woods section, but still managed to stay in the lead!
I would actually lead for about a mile and half until I made a big mistake. I was looking to pass a rider from a row ahead and took a line burnt in from the morning race. It went up a small hill and as I came to the hill I saw about 10 riders scattered across this small hill. I also realized this hotline led you into some really slick logs, which at first I thought I would bounce right over. However, I sat my front wheel down on a slick spot, washed the front end out and ended up facing downhill. Oops!
I got the bike turned back up the hill and went to dump the clutch to get myself out of a small hole, but ended up dropping the bike and looking like a total goon. Once I picked it back up and got over the second log and back on the track, I had lost several spots and the lead group had started to pull away. I’m usually not great on the opening lap, especially considering I usually don’t go look at the course, so I went for a ride on the first lap. I ended up hooking up with Mikey Horwatt in the Schoolboy class and we spent the first lap taking turns leading each other and showing one another some good lines. I had a lot of fun riding with Mikey and he rode really well!
I came around fifth place at the end of the first lap and set out to try to pick off a few riders as I saw them just ahead of me. Mikey and I kept riding together for the majority of lap two but I ended up pulling a little bit of a gap on him and didn’t see him again. I was thinking I had worked up to maybe third place, but at the end of lap two I found myself in the lead! I was mind blown because I really didn’t expect that, so I figured I’d better put my head down and keep riding. I’m out of shape and the lack of riding, plus a new bike I hadn’t ridden yet had made me a bit tired but I set out on lap three with the hopes of maintaining the lead.
The cool thing that comes along with my job is that I’ve gotten really good at mentally calculating how much time should be left, where the overall leader should be on course and when the race should end. I had calculated that since I started on one of the last rows, and wasn’t exactly setting blazing fast laps that the leader should catch me about halfway through my third lap. I had also figured that the leader would only be doing four laps, and once he lapped me I would be headed for the checkered flag. So, on the ten mile course I began expecting the leader around the five mile mark.
I rode all the way to the six and hadn’t seen the leader. I rode all the way to the seven, still no leader. I was beginning to get worried because I was getting tired and really wasn’t sure if I wanted another lap. I also knew that second place wasn’t terribly far behind me, so if I wanted to keep this lead I couldn’t slack. Around the seven and a half, I hit a deep rut and had that “Oh s$!t” moment when I heard the clacking sound when your chain rolls up on top of the sprocket teeth like it’s about to throw the chain. I stopped and dug mud out from the chain guide and around the front sprocket to give it a little more room.
I sat there working on it for probably around 40 seconds when I remembered that second place wasn’t far behind earlier in the lap. I got back on and kept going, then somewhere after the eight mile mark was passed by the overall lead. I knew I had to be headed to the checkered flag, so it gave me a little bit of a second wind as I cruised through the last two miles. I forgot how good it felt to ride into that checkered flag and I was able to maintain that lead and hold on for the class win! I also finished somewhere around 47th overall out of around 160, which isn’t the most stellar overall performance of my life, but I was content with that given how out of shape I feel and a general lack of riding.
It’s been a long time since I felt like I worked hard for a race win and I forgot just how good it feels. It’s given me the bug to race again, so I sat down and made my work schedule for the year. As of right now, I’ve got 26 weekends scheduled for work and the SXCS series hosts a total of nine events. Amazingly, including the Hangover event, seven of those take place on off weekends for me so, I’ve decided to race the series for points in 2020! This is the first time I’ve committed to a series since 2009 and I’m excited to see how it all comes together.
Of course, I do have some folks I need to give a thanks to for making this happen. Naturally, first and foremost I have to give my wife, Kayla, a huge thanks for tagging along to that first event and also not giving me any grief for wanting to commit to racing for points! Thanks to Racer Productions and GNCC Racing for the amazing job I have that will allow me to do this little side-hobby of actually getting to race! Then of course, there’s the great folks who have some amazing products that I use each week; XC Gear, COR Moto Graphics, ProTech Guards, AOMC, DP Brakes, Moose Racing, FAHQ Racing, ODI, 100%, Dunlop, Acerbis, Risk Racing, and Twin Air.