2015 BT Epic by Kevin Minton
4 AM came way too early on race day as it always does. After loading up the truck I headed out to race HQ at Bass River Resort just outside Steeleville, MO. After getting checked in, setting camp and doing some socializing I lined up for the 8:30 start.
A few announcements later and a shotgun blast - we were off on the course in a mass start. We rode for what seemed an eternity on the dirt road leading out from the campgrounds at Bass. Finally, after thinning out a bit, we dumped in on the trail. Everything just seemed to be flowing well at this point, the trail was in good shape and the weather was near perfect. I felt great. My legs were fresh and I was ready to take on the BT Epic! I hung with a good group for a few miles until one of the guys flipped over the bars (he was okay) and caused us a bit of a slow down on a downhill. We kept motoring on and ran into another rider down on the side of the trail. Not sure who it was, but she was bleeding pretty well from the knee and looked a little shaken up. There were half a dozen people around her and yet nobody had a first aid kit. As I came by I heard them asking for one so I stopped and handed mine off. Back on the bike and I managed to hook up with another guy and we put the hammer down on the next sections. We managed to catch back up to the original group we were riding with and we tagged along with them until we hit aid station 1
Not sure what distance that was at, maybe 10, but I was still feeling good. I felt so good I yelled out my number, thanked volunteers and kept right on going. From here it was a small stint on paved road with a little incline, then back to the trail. I love going back and forth with other riders and just having a good time on the trail. I managed to have a little spill on this section. I came up a switchback and dropped my front tire off the downhill side. I got a really good look at the leaves when I face planted. To save face, I casually sat up and proceeded to take a break. After eating a bit, I jumped back on the bike and took off. Some sweet single track brought us to the next aid station, Berryman campground.
I loaded up my bottle and got some spare food at this aid station, but it was not without incident. I had the bright idea of tying my drop bag string so nothing would fall out on the trip to Berryman in the trucks. Turns out, this is a horrible idea as I couldn’t untie it at the campground and those stupid bags are really strong. I did eventually break into my bag, and was on my way in about 5 minute’s time. The next section was very fast with some nice smooth downhills and short little climbs. This section really seemed to fly by and next thing I know we were climbing the jeep road and hit the next aid station.
I spent around 5 minutes here eating a Payday and talking to some friends from OT100. Next I was headed off down the dirt road and eventually another section of trail. This was a longer section of dirt road leading to a section of the trail that contained the infamous “Three Sisters” hills. I had been dreading this all day as I have never ridden these hills and no one really had anything good to say about them. I reached the trail and took the left, then leaned in for a nice right sweeping turn and the front tire washed out on me. I didn’t go down and kept riding, but thought something was off. Went into the next turn and the front tire washed out again, confirming my suspicions of a flat tire. After cursing the rocks I jumped off the bike and set to work. I wasted about 10 minutes changing the tube just making sure I wasn’t going to pinch it again so I didn’t have a repeat of the OT100. After I got the wheel back on the bike, I took off to conquer those hills. It turns out I didn’t really conquer the hills like I had hoped. These hills are no joke steep and had some very technical switchbacks. I rode what I could ride and walked what I could walk and made it through all three hills and down into Bass River campgrounds. After all that my legs were feeling a bit drained, but I was still in good spirits until I pedaled out into a field and a headwind. Damn you Mother Nature! Who puts a headwind in a mountain bike race? Personally, I blame the race directors and there sadistic sense of humor.
After about a half mile on the gravel/pavement I came up to the last aid station that was conveniently located about 300 feet from the finish line…. and BBQ… and beer… and warm clothes. I was so close, yet so far. Instead I gnawed on some gummy bears and got the scoop on this last 8-9 miles of trail. At this point I have to mention that I have no watch, cell phone or odometer, so I have no idea what my pace is. I ask a volunteer as I am heading out if he knows what time it is and he responds with 1:35. 1:35? I’m five hours and five minutes into the race and have 8-9 miles left to go to the finish. As long as I don’t do anything dumb, I know I will break my 7:00 hour goal. Even more, there is a small chance I could break 6:00 hours. BT Epic had other plans though. Coming up out of the aid station was a monster of a paved climb. After suffering up that there was another ridiculous climb, but this time dirt. After we dropped into the trail there was a nice bit of single track that included this really nice rock ledge. I glided over the edge with ease. I was so excited about clearing this that I turned around to consider a rerun. It was my own folly that caused me to smack a small rock off the side of the trail. I went over the bars and got up with a much smaller ego. After some expletives I rode off. A mile later I hooked up with two guys named Matt (could have been one, but pretty sure there were two of them dressed exactly the same) and joked around with them while pushing as much as we could to the finish. At this point I knew I was going to be close to 6 hours, but figured I would be a few minutes over and had accepted that. We hit the top of the last hill and one of the Matts gave a warning that this section was really washed out last time he rode it, but that didn’t seem to matter as those guys took off towards the finish. Not to feel left out I jumped in right behind away we went. That final downhill was a blast and way too short. We popped out and made the quick left into the finish.
I dropped my bike by the food tent. At that point the biggest thing on my mind was getting BBQ. Two years ago there was no food left when I finished so the thought of a hot plate of meat at the finish line kept me hustling throughout the race. I saw a few of the Team Seagal guys and asked if they knew what time it was – 2:28 PM. Had I actually broke six hours? Someone pointed out I could go to the timing stand and see live results. Low and behold, I had finished in 5:56! I was pretty excited to have crushed my original goal by an hour…and still got BBQ and beer.