March 25th, 2018
This weekend concluded the 3rd of 3 Florida races for me in the beginning parts of the year. It’s nice to see warm weather early in the year. I’m not a cold weather person. At. All.
The Gone Riding folks took us to some awesome trails this weekend. Haile’s Trails, located in Newberry, FL, zigzags through an old rock quarry. These trails aren’t like anything else I’ve rode in FL. The singletrack, only open twice each year, is nestled right next to Gatorback MX park, where the legends of motocross raced not long ago. When I prerode the course Saturday, I quickly noticed this would be a tough race. The terrain somewhat was divided into three parts. The beginning part took us through a field and over two large mounds of dirt. ‘Mounds’ doesn’t do them justice. The grade of these hills were nearly vertical. We then circled the perimeter of the large body of water centering the quarry.
This was all technical, rocky, hardback with several steep climbs. The 2nd part began through a field and took us into a more wooded section. It contained plenty of roots, long sweeping turns, and logs on the trail. I enjoyed this section because it was technical and fast. The 3rd part started through another field and led into a more loamy section of woods. Containing more vegetation and moisture, it was tackier and also fast. Now, the rocks and steep climbs never ended. They were also scattered throughout the entire course and again, were all nearly vertical climbs!
I was glad I could preride Saturday to get a feel for the trails. Having some familiarity definitely helps when you’re either out front or following someone else’s wheel.
Sunday morning was game day! This race was the first of the SERC (South Eastern Regional Championship) Series put on by the same promoters as the GSC series. Racing groups all generally remained the same, except a new additional category called ‘Elite’ joined together all Cat 1 racers. This group would be scored separately and the series leader would be given a leader’s jersey. For this race specifically, RealTruck put money towards a holeshot award, recognizing the first racer to pass their checkpoint flags roughly 100 yards from the start.
Lining up amidst the front, I was hoping for the holeshot award. We were off the line and charging. I was near the front, catching glimpses of other riders. Keep charging! We approached 50 yards to go, and two others put on the afterburners, talking off towards the line. I didn’t get the award, but was sitting in a comfortable 3rd. The leader, Michael Mace, led the pack and set a fast pace. After the first two ‘Mounds’, he began to open a gap. Sitting in 3rd, I didn’t want the lead to get too large. I took over 2nd and charged toward the front. Cutting the gap a little, a chase group of me and 2 others stuck together. Holding our pace, we were about 30 seconds back from the lead. The 3rd place rider, Sean, came around me to continue the chase. Ending lap 1 of 4, our group remained together.
Onto lap 2, we continued the charge. Sean, myself, and Blake stuck together most of lap 2 and 3. The final lap started and I wanted to make a final charge. With Blake fading and Michael still less than a minute out front, the final lap was a tough one. I grabbed some trail speed and put in a tough effort. The climbs were brutal, the rocks seems larger, and the sandy turns seems more slippery. As I came through section 3, I could hear the announcer congratulate the leader. I came across about 30 seconds back. It was a fun, tough, and fast race.
I will definitely be back to these trails. With only being open twice a year, my 2019 calendar already contains it’s first entry.