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I decided to celebrate my joining a mountain bike team by carpooling with some team members. In the team van, a 1973 Dodge Tradesman with custom team graphics, no air conditioning, home-re-covered vinyl seating areas, and a really loud stereo. The vehicle is known locally as the Blue Ghost for the puff of smoke emitted during startup, I might add. Did I mention that the race we were carpooling to, in Wendover, Nevada, was about six hours away by van? Or seven if you stop for pizza in Salt Lake.

I got off work a little early, doing the flex-time thing, and headed down to Poky to meet the team. My car would appreciate the relative rest after two trips to Salt Lake the previous weekend. We loaded up six individuals and bikes and camping stuff and headed off for points southwest.

After the aforementioned pizza/quick Mexican food stop, we rolled into Oasis about eleven to find the gas station which is the only thing that is Oasis, Nevada, "temporarily" closed. Actually, it was only ten because of that tricky time zone thing. But it was dark, so half of us camped and the other half enjoyed the comforts of the van (converted to a camper via rearrangement of the vinyl seating areas). At least the van campers were farther away from the freeway; a tent doesn't sufficiently attenuate the sound of a semi going by 100 feet away at 75 mph. It was not an extremely restful night, but I was up early.

Somewhat surprisingly, I seemed to be the only one on the team signed up for the downhill race prior to the cross-country. And the other members seemed not so interested in driving me to the downhill course, some five miles away. Via freeway mostly, that is, and so I felt not so interested in riding there myself. So I hopped on a "DOWNHILL SHUTLE" Official Chevrolet Wild Rockies pickup driven by Ronda, and zipped off up the freeway to the top of the hill.

The downhill course followed an old highway-turned-gravel-road down for 2 miles, not terribly exciting during the pre-ride, then an absolutely terrifying drop off the highway bed into a sagebrush ravine just before the finish in the ravine. Still pre-riding, I stopped, looked down, watched a couple other people stop and a couple others ride down. Then I went back up the road a bit, yet very slowly came down the drop. As it rolls out there is a very off-camber jog with some nice loose rocks in it. It doesn't help to be on the brakes here either. I made a nice endo, two-point landing if you count my head, and landed on my back. The spectators up above said, "You know, a lot of people crash there." Really? I was glad I had my arm-warmers on, though my shoulders got pretty dusty anyway.

I hiked back to the top of the drop and watched a few more people attempt it. The experts were interesting to watch, as they caught some air off the lip and then didn't brake until the ravine floor. I'm thinking they all were about 40-50 pounds lighter than I and had somewhat less of an attraction to the earth consequently. Some people crashed too, making me feel a little better. Rich showed up, endo'd right where I did, followed closely by his friend Casey. He tried again, endo'd again, this time tacoing his front wheel. This he beat on the ground until it was reasonably straight, hiked back up, made it down the next time, called it good, and went off to find the back-up-the-hill shuttle.

I studied the drop some more, and then attempted once more. I was so far back that I ended up sitting on my back tire near the botom, which proved an impediment to forward progress. But I didn't hit my head again, I was kind of sliding along with both feet on the ground, sitting on the stopped tire. One more try, and I did what I had seen some experts do, unclip the turning foot. This seemed to weight the the other side and lend more traction, and I made it down without another endo.

Finding the back-up-the-hill shuttle, I was in for another adventure. How many people and bikes would you try to put in the back of a pickup for mixed dirt road and interstate travel? I was just glad I wasn't the guy squatting on the tailgate.

At the top again, Rich had found a kind soul with a workstand to true his wheel and even adjust his brakes for him. Then Ron arrived at about 10:30 and announced that official race time was 9:50, first riders off in ten minutes. And people started going in about ten minutes. I had to wait another hour or so for my opportunity to cheat death.

Eventually it came, I started, and cruised down the former highway uneventfully. Soon I came to the drop, unclipped the appropriate foot, and promptly endo'd onto my head again. This time with an added bonus of a pound of dirt down the back of my shorts. I got up before the fat donut-eating paramedics up at the top of the drop could move more than a couple of waddles and coasted across the finish, since I didn't take time to put my chain back on.

Rich was behind me, and he arrived successfully if less dramatically, pawing the ground and snorting. He likes downhills for some reason. I asked him if my pupils were the same size, and he said they were, so I rode down the freeway to Oasis to rinse off my scrapes. It wouldn't do any good to rinse the bruises anyway.

My teammates said, "Dude, did you crash?" Only three times, guys. Now I had about three hours to kill before my cross-country started. Whee. There being only three Clydesdales entered in the downhill, I was quite content to receive third-place honors.

After the experts started it was another hour until the sports started, and another hour until the beginners started. I was just hoping I didn't stiffen up during the race, trying to just ride around.

We started, and I pretty much took off from the gun. Rich had said he tended to go out too hard, so I would provide him with an opportunity to do so again. I was well into the laggards from the previous starting group after the first mile of gently sloping gravel road. As the climb got steeper, I passed some more. My goals were to a) work out some aggression over endoing twice, b) try to make people chase me and blow up without myself blowing up, and c) make enough time on the climbs so that I could take it nice and easy on the downhills and not worry about being caught while make sure not to fall again. I had had enough of falling for the day.

My plan worked pretty well. After the start, I never saw any other Clydesdales until post-finish. The fairly gentle climbs of the beginner loop were stomped under my cracked-sole shoes. Sometimes people would fly by on a downhill, but I usually caught them again at the next climb. I was feeling pretty good as I turned onto the final slight downhill gravel road section and cranked along in top gear. And, well, I did win. Beat Rich by about 5 minutes.

Then my carpool-mates all wanted to pack up and leave immediately, but Ron promised to hold the awards soon (only one member of the carpool didn't win something). "Soon" turned out to be an hour or so, and of course my awards were next to last as usual. Oh well. The guys were trying to get back for the wedding reception of another cyclist in Poky, but it was clear that even if we had left before the awards they would barely have made it if at all.

So we all picked up our schwag and then took off, and got back to Poky at midnight. I still had another hour to get home before I could sleep, and even after some naps in the van I was lying down on my non-injured side most of the day Sunday.