Off the track and idling our bikes back to the pits, I look over and see the third place Yamaha rider next to me. We exchange glances and give each other a thumbs-up, the Bultaco gesture. It’ s been a great race.
Back in the pits I bask in the elation of my holeshot. “It was easy,” I tell Dan and Todd. And it was, so easy that it seemed strangely unreal, almost inevitable. I’m amazed and dumbfounded. I can’t believe it. I tell my writing students never to use that cliché, but it really seems to express how I feel. I can’t believe it.
Mostly, I’m impressed with the bike. I never thought it would do that. It simply won the drag race to the first turn, convincingly. It stomped everything. It’s an enduro and not a motocross bike, so it’s in a milder state of tune. The bike has massive piston slap at high speed and probably has its original top end. And I’d only recently resurrected it from the grain bin. That killer mid-range I’d read about in a Cycle World test of the 1981 Yamaha YZ 250 seems to have powered its way into my ‘82 IT enduro. I’ve been riding a blue rocket all these years and didn’t know it.
I’m elated, but I’m also exhausted. My legs are so tired that my walk is unsteady. I grab a Powerade, watch some racing, and attempt to recover. I’m particularly impressed with two Maico 490s racing closely and a guy in a vintage class on a CZ who’s really smooth and really fast. I watch a race-long duel in an advanced 500cc class between a Yamaha and a Honda. They’re both fast and the Yamaha is in front, but the guy on the Honda looks smoother and more aggressive. “That Honda’s going to win,” I tell Dan, but the Yamaha hangs on for the checkered flag.
My next race is the +50 amateur class, race 13. Several of the riders don’t look exactly trim and fit— +50 might refer to a few beltlines—but many of the bikes are open class bikes and I’ll be at a power disadvantage. It’s my poorest start of the day. Just like practice last week, the bike wheelies and I get crooked. A photo sequence of this start on the Hammer and Tongs website shows that the guy next to me on a Husky goes crooked too. I might have knocked him off his line, but I’m not sure. Still, the bike helps me recover and powers me into a solid position mid-pack. I finish sixth, but not before I get splashed big time at the mud puddle on the back stretch and learn all about getting pelted with chunks of mud shot slingshot-like from the big bikes.
I’m arrive a race early for the next 250cc amateur race and wait outside the starting area for the next race to get under way. I’m not leaving the starting position to chance this time. The bikes take off, the entrance opens, and I push my bike into the starting area and grab the same spot that worked so well in the first race. The holeshot could be a fluke, but even so, a holeshot in my first race ever will be a delightful memory.
But it’s not a fluke. Like the first race, I get off the line a bit slow and the bike takes over and rockets me to the front of the pack for my second convincing holeshot of the day. Maybe the bike just has more power than the other bikes, maybe it’s transmission gear ratios are perfectly spaced, maybe I shift at just the right times—I don’t know. Whatever it is, I get another moment of glory in front. I finish fifth.
By the last race I’m finding that the starts are a lot of fun. “They’re a real adrenaline rush,” Dan says. The start of the last race in the +50 class is fun in a different way. I’m about sixth or seventh going into the corner, but I emerge from the corner in third. Some commotion on the outside line on my right tangles a few riders and lets me by.
But in this race and the previous race my racing inexperience and fatigue start to show. I back off just before the mud puddle and someone gets by. To avoid a deep rut on the inside, I take a mid-corner line in the grass section and someone gets by. On the next lap I avoid the rut by taking the extreme inside line. I’ve learned my lesson. And I’m tired, so tired that I take off on jumps and wish that I didn’t have to stand up when I land. To save energy, I take the smooth outside line on a corner in the dirt section and someone gets by me on the inside. Late in the race, I can’t even see the bike ahead of me, but I can’t see the bike behind me either, so I take it easy on the last half of the last lap. I finish seventh.
After the race, I check the overall results and walk over to tell Dan. He’s sitting on his bike at the starting line. “I’m third overall,” I tell him. He gives me a high five. “You’re on the podium,” he says. There is no literal podium, but it’s nice to finish in the top three. I finish sixth in the +50 class. Dan and Todd have a good day. Todd wins both the 125cc intermediate class (1,1) and the +40 intermediate (1,1); Dan finishes third in the 250cc intermediate class (2,3) and wins the +50 intermediate (1,1).