After we arrived is Budapest, Hungary after 20 hours of plane travel time we had a nice 3 hour drive into Kosice, Slovakia. We got to the hotel around 5:30 with our bags and went down the main street to get something to eat and get to bed. After an awesome nights rest it was time to get down to business for the first week. We started the day walking tests and got through the first two days from day 1 and 2 the first day we were there. They looked pretty awesome and the weather was a pretty hot 95 degrees all day and everything was dry and dusty. It seemed like the conditions might suit me well.
Throughout the week we built the bike up and walked the rest of the tests we would have for the 6 days. I made it through the practice track with only one little scare and we even got a chance to walk some of the tests again. We impounded Saturday morning and that was when the weather dramatically changed. The temperature dropped about 30 degrees and the skies opened up. In the blink of an eye the whole 6 days experience became an entirely new one.
Day 1 was exciting that’s for sure! Everyone was antsy to get off the line and onto the trail. The first test of the day was only 4 km from the paddock so everyone would be ready to rip. As I dropped into the race line for the first test it took all of 150 yards to hit my first big tree root sending me into a panic revved sideways nose wheelie. I took that as a sign to calm down and make it through the test. As I got through test one safely I just tried to get into a pace that I knew I could keep the whole day. All this was extremely foreign to me as the dirt was slippery, the rocks were slippery, and the roots were slippery! Who knew just a little rain could make everything so slick!
I spent most of the day just trying to figure out how to ride the terrain and had one good test in the 2nd one of the day when it was dry. I felt like I was really able to lay it down, but the second time we got to the test it had been dumping rain and all I tried to do was keep the bike off the ground. It proved to be 2 minutes slower than the first time I went through it and while I didn’t fall down all day I would start the 2nd day further back then I was hoping. I got back to the paddock got two tires changed in my allotted time and the bike into impound. We didn’t get back to the hotel until after dark, but I was glad to have not picked up any route points and make it through my first day.
Day 2 started out awesome! I felt better in the tests and more comfortable on the bike. I picked up my trail pace for the day (as they had given us a little less time than the previous day) and it seemed like my test times were all faster the 2nd day then the first. I felt like I was riding with aggression and I didn’t have any falls in the test, which was another plus. Unfortunately though, day 2 would see me pick up my only route point. In the transfer between TC 2 and 3 on the second lap I would have a little fall. Somehow the brake line hit a rock and knocked the banjo bolt on my rear brake loose. I had to ride the last long, rocky downhill into the time check with no rear brake.
When I got there, we didn’t know what the problem was so we made the decision to switch out the rear brake system. I struggled with the change a little more than I was hoping for and ended up riding through the check just as the clock switched over to the next minute. Well I should say I rode through the flags 59 seconds into my minute, but unfortunately the timing light was another 15 feet behind the flags and I picked up a minute there. It ended up being a very disappointing cap on what was a really good day. As I was riding back to the paddock I also had a rider flip up a stick in front of me causing me to break out 2 of the front spokes. When I got to the evening work area I was only able to change a rear tire and get 2 new spokes into the wheel.
Day 3 started with swapping the rear brake system back to my original one and reconnecting the rear brake light switch. Day 3 was probably one of my most frustrating ones out of the entire 6 days. The day was plagued with crashes in 4 of the 6 tests and one of the crashes in the final test had me launching my bike off into the weeds taking over a minute to get it back onto the trail. I don’t have much to say about this day other than I made it through it in one piece and so did the bike.
Day 4 was another frustrating day, but not as bad as day 6. My second worst test of the week came in the 2nd test of the day (I felt like I rode the first one awesome even with one small tip over) where I crashed twice and got stuck on an uphill. The second time around I backed it down a little in that test and was almost 30 seconds quicker the second time through. The whole day I felt like I could be riding faster, but it seemed that what would be little mistakes on day 1 and 2 that would be easy to pull out of were turning into crashes. Even though I felt relatively okay physically it just didn’t seem like I was all there to keep the bike off the ground. We got a heavy rain that started right before the final test of the day and the woods were so dark and slippery I was 2 minutes slower in the test my second time through. I ended the day a little frustrated again and looking forward to the final day of trails.
Day 5 started with me cold and tired again but I was looking forward to getting through the last day of real transfers. I started the day off slow but it seemed like I was quicker than those around me. I just tried to stay off the ground and focused in the test, and while I didn’t always succeed I felt like I was riding better than the previous day. I don’t remember anything to spectacular other than a few falls on day 5, but I was glad to be through it and all I had left was the final moto.
Day 6 they reverse the start order, but since they still go by class I left around the same time I normally did each day. I was excited because the motocross track looked AWESOME when we walked it the previous week and even though it had been raining I was hoping for the best. And when we got there the track and held up awesomely. It wasn’t getting the rough, the dirt had soaked up the water nicely, and it was rutting up perfectly. When my moto was set to start I knew that I could do this, and I really wanted to end the week on a high note.
When the gate dropped for the C3 moto I got a terrible jump, but since that happens to me a lot I cut hard left early and ran up the inside missing a lot of the carnage from people pushing wide. I was probably around 15th going into the second corner and I set to making as many quick passes as possible. It was awesome to see that all the Americans in the C3 class had made it into the 2nd (or faster) C3 moto so we had a total of 9 Americans in the 31 rider field and most of them were up front! I made a lot of quick passes on the mostly one line track and had gotten into 3rd by the 3rd lap of the 7 lap race, as we started the 4th lap though it all came apart. I was looking for different lines from what I had been running to try and stay out of the roost of the top 2 guys when my foot caught an acceleration bump. It threw my leg over the bike and I had too much momentum that way and stepped off the bike on one side 4th gear pinned around the front straightaway. I tumbled twice and as I hopped up to run to my bike I saw it do its last flip and slam to the ground. When I got the bike the bars were really tweaked up and the front brake had to get pumped back up (I thought it was gone at first but it turned out something pushed the caliper in). After the crash the arm pump was crippling and I only ended up losing 3 spots in the whole process. I decided it would be best to just finish out the moto in 6th as I probably wouldn’t be making up to much time here.
When the checkered flag fell I was glad to have finished my first 6 days! It was definitely a rough one but I made it through it all and learned how to ride terrain that I’ve never ridden in my life! I got to see old friends and make some new ones and while I can nitpick at everything that went wrong, I’m trying to focus on the stuff that went right. I ended the week 12th in the E3 class and 62nd overall club rider out of 297. That gives me a silver medal in class, and I only missed out on gold by a mere 1:45. That definitely gives me drive to come back and earn a gold medal. I don’t know if it will be Spain as I will be transitioning from Grad School to a real job this year, but I want to get back there and take home gold!
Finally I have to say thank you to each and every person that helped me out. Without everyone that donated whether it was time, money, parts, gear, and support without you guys I wouldn’t have made it and I thank you for that. I hope you all enjoy the read and I am truly thankful to everyone that has helped support this endeavor.