It had rained that week, including the night before the race. The park that the course is on is very flat, low-lying ground next to Lake Allatoona. It doesn’t drain well at all, and mud often lingers long after a significant rain. The race was delayed by two hours so that the race promoters could groom and maintain the course to minimize the muddy spots, and more importantly, so that the racers would not do too much damage to the trail. It worked. There were plenty of small muddy spots, throughout the course, but it was far from the mud-fest that was predicted.
Garey Gomez, Wes Parrish, and Colby Millen lined up at the start. There were two guys in the Expert 30-39 field who were particularly threatening based on their past results, and they were Ezra Lusk (retired Supercross star), and the always fast and consistent Tyler Martin. It was 65 degrees and sunny, and a perfect day for a race. The strategy in most mountain bike races is to be one of the first people in the woods – to get the holeshot – and this race was no exception. Once in the woods it’s difficult to pass racers, and those racers that aren’t close enough to the front get caught up in too much “traffic”, making it difficult to keep up with the race leaders.
The start whistle blew and the race was on. Garey, Wes and Colby fought for position during the long sprint into the woods, with Garey getting a good position as the 5th wheel. Once there, the first two laps were blistering. Positions did not change much amongst the top 7 riders in the first lap, but what did happen was that those top 7 riders created a large gap between them and the racers that followed. They were out of sight within the first lap, never to be seen again. During the second lap 3 of the riders fell off the pace, leaving a group of 4 that included Ezra Lusk and Garey Gomez in the 30-39 age group. No signs of Tyler Martin. Toward the end of the second lap the lead group had been caught by Scott Hood, a 40-49 age grouper who was on a rampage that day. The group now had 5.
The third lap created another critical selection in the lead group of 5. With Ezra Lusk pushing the pace, things became very difficult for the other racers in the group. Ezra pulled away very slowly but steadily, and over the next lap wound up on his own. The rest of the group settled into their respective paces at that point. Since Ezra Lusk was so far ahead with no hopes of catching him, and the other riders in the group were in a different age group than Garey, all Garey had to do was maintain a respectable pace and not make any mistakes. As long as he didn’t get caught by another racer in his age group, Garey had 2nd place locked in.
The final lap was about 2 minutes slower than the previous lap, but Garey maintained his position in 2nd place and finished the 5th and final lap in 2:53:26, just 6-1/2 minutes before the 3 hour cutoff. Tyler Martin finished in 3rd place, about 1:30 behind Garey. Wes Parrish took 6th place in the Expert 30-39 age group, and Colby Millen took 6th place in the Expert 40-49 age group. It was a fantastic first-year event and a great way to kickoff the season for LITESPEED-BMW!