Final Race Report for 2017
Dustin White, Master of Flow and First Ever Flow Master Winner!
Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to my final race recap of 2017! This edition aims to highlight one of the most highly anticipated events of the year: The FATS Flow Master! In previous reports I usually spend some time explaining the course, but as many of you raced that day, and many others have ridden FATS…I instead want to lead in with a huge thank you for everyone who worked to make this race possible! I’ll speak for a few of us who travel a lot to attend races by saying it is a huge relief and joy to be able to do what we love on home soil! So my deepest gratitude to all of you and to everyone who participated in the race to make it a success. Y’all are awesome!
When I said above that this was a highly anticipated race, I was not kidding. I had a very full Spring and early Summer of cross country racing and then a long period between MTB Nationals and the Flow Master. Fortunately I fit in Fool’s Gold as an endurance race to stay motivated, but it has been a long year trying to carry training motivation from January to October. With that said, nothing can get you more motivated than racing on home trails in front of the home team! Fortunately, the morning of the race went off flawlessly. I got to the venue with plenty of time to check in, prep the bike and spin around a bit. As we were directed down to the start line, there was a little bit of nervousness growing in the air and self-questions of…what the heck is my game plan for this race?! Not kidding, this was a true fly by the seat of your pants kind of event for me!
On the start line, I was joined by the great company of Josh Jackson, Jamie Babcock, and my buddy Chris Lessing who lives in Alpharetta. We were all enjoying cutting up on the start line knowing that we were about to have a dual with each other! What some of you may not have seen is that a news reporter came up to the 4 of us asking for 2 minutes to talk to the camera about 5 minutes to the start. As I sometimes have a coarse filter I replied back “man that’s a whole lot of minutes!” Well that comment stirred the pot and all 3 other guys directed the reporter that he should interview yours truly. As my 3 friends are snickering away at their successful plot, I get to field some “interesting” questions to have thrown at you on the start line. First came an easy one…”Do you ride here often?”….my reply: “oh yes.” Next came the most memorable question of them all…”So you are lined up on the front row, do you think you have a good chance of winning?” Well wasn’t that just something else….how does one respond to these sorts of questions? Sporting a huge grin I replied “I am going to ride as hard as I can and see what happens.” Phew! We dodged that one. The interview concludes and then with the excitement of Drew’s release chants we were off and racing!
As I mentioned above I did not have a true game plan for this race but did know some things I would have liked to happen and others to avoid. The first on my avoid list was leading up the gravel road…well that halfway was successful as parts of the climb I was on the front or off to the side and others perfectly nestled behind Chris in a draft. As we got up to the parking lot area, I never looked behind but knew for certain that Josh and Jamie were right with me. Chris attacked a bit through the grass to make it to the single track first because even though he had only ridden the trails the day before, he is a competitor and loves to shake things up! With that move we start the long descent down to the river and Chris was flying! We rode that section the day before but he was hitting many lines I use which means he either memorized them or naturally he picked them as good lines as well! Next came the transition back to gravel and an opportunity for me to cash in something I wanted to do in this race…lead brown wave. As I came around Chris on the rake and ride section, I grabbed some water on the gravel road and then picked up the pace some leading into the start of BW. In practice I knew this trail was slick and precarious to say the least. However, I know many of those turns so well and wanted to test if I could dislodge anyone early or capitalize on someone’s mistakes. Thankfully we all made it through the trail safely, but I was not able to shed anyone! I felt like I was flying but these guys must have had some redbull that morning! To add to the mix, in a switchback turn I noticed a jersey and bike that I did not recognize meaning we had another competitor to add to the mix of 4! Well dang!
As we left BW, I wanted to relinquish my turn in the lead and thankfully Jamie came around me to start Skinny. Looking back at the photos, at this point of the race we were a group of 4 including Jamie, myself, Chris, and Karl…the fore mentioned mystery rider. With Jamie on the front we were in for a great ride through Skinny, bombing the descents and attacking the uphill sections! Although at the time we were in race mode focus, in retrospect I remember tons of drifting, sliding, bouncing, and air time! I don’t know if anything but a race can motivate you to push the pace so hard and that’s what makes competition so awesome! We left Skinny in that same order and started Great Wall in the same. Now making it to that steep descent was another milestone of success. I really wanted to be behind Jamie on this section. We had ridden the trails together many times this Fall and both with and without the resurfacing, Jamie flies through that section! It certainly is not safe speed, but it is fun and controlled no doubt! I think this speed and small mistake in that section made Chris separate off from us. It may have been a little later but he did let Karl come around him and now there was a racing pack of 3!
As we approached the midpoint of GW I still did not know how this race was going to shake out. In fact, I didn’t even know that Karl was behind me…I thought the whole time it was Chris! Well Karl must have sensed my mistaken comfort and came around me during a small clearing in what I like to describe as a common “cheeky” move of racing! All in good sport he made a great move, but first I was shocked to not know the guy who was hanging with us and secondly I was bitter to be 3rd wheel approaching the crunch time of our race. Well, there isn’t much to be done during these scenarios, so I waited patiently and then see that we just passed the bench on GW…crap not much time left! Then came a few minor openings to pass, but we were going so fast that they shut down as fast as they appeared. After a few landmarks that I can recall, I knew we were about to make a sharp, sandy right hand turn and start climbing some gravel. I braked back, but Jamie and Karl went into this turn a little too hot and washed off the trail a bit! I took this chance to dive inside of the turn and pass Karl back! Jamie started to lead up the twisting hill that has recently been resurfaced and I knew it was about 15 minutes home from this point…so…it was time! I moved past Jamie up this hill and started to peg the pace as hard as I could! At the small rock garden at the top of this hill I had a couple feet of a gap so kept the pace up! With a few wide open corners leading into Ewok Village, I was nervous and excited all the same!
Many things go through your mind when you push a move to try and win a race…”keep the pace up” “no brakes!” “oh crap where did that tree come from?!” Yet more than anything, there is the intensity of your heart beating heavier and heavier as you hear less and less of your opponents tracking noises behind. Down the ewok village and up the last climb was an intense iteration of these feelings! I wanted to win this race! Not for myself, but for Drew, Kim, the AJBW folks, and the memory of Papa J. Thankfully all the cards made into the deck for me that day and as I turned back into the finishing area, listening to Drew going wild on the megaphone was a very rewarding prize that I will never forget! I completed 22 races this year…14 wins…4 second place finished…2 thirds…and 2 off the podium. All of them were special, but to win an event for this cause, and for these people…that is one I will not forget!
And so 2017…you and I are done with each other in the racing scene, but I will always cherish the memories and all the new friends I made along the way! Thanks to everyone for reading my silly reports and for the kind and encouraging words this season. I could not have had near the success without your support. So until next time, CHEERS!
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