Berryman Trail Epic MTB Race

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Now that I’ve had a day to mull over Saturday, I’m good with the race I had on Saturday. Actually, Saturday I was good with the race, but I went through a bit of what if’s on Sunday, and now I’m back to good, which is where it is going to stand.

The Berryman Epic is pretty epic.  These 2 guys, Scott and Jake, from Springfield Missouri, have this fascination with just about anything associated with endurance in athletics.  They like to ride their bikes a long time, run in the woods, adventure race, whatever.  And they like other people to do it too, so they spend their “other” extra time, promoting events that are off the charts.

I’m not sure how they found the Berryman Trail area, but they have made it their own.  I’d bet both of them know the area like the back of their hand.  It is pretty special, but I am pretty confused when I’m riding there.

The race changed since the last time I did it 2 years ago.  They removed a far loop and added a loop closer to the Bass River Resort.  I’m not sure it was an upgrade from a riders perspective, but it is super good for the race.  We come back through Bass River with 10 miles to go, so it is good for support.

I don’t really want to do a blow by blow race report, but I’m sure this will be longer than I think.

I felt okay warming up, even though we got to the start a tad late. The race is close to 50 miles and is mostly on rocky, leaf covered singletrack.  It is in the Mark Twain National Forest and is pretty hilly always.

The race starts directly up a climb.  We took the first bit easy and then Brian Jensen, my TradeWind Energy team mate took off and the action started.  Brian held a couple hundred meter lead to the singletrack, which earned him $100 prime.  I entered the singletrack 2nd, but was immediately passed by Garet Steinmetz.  But, Garet was a little too excited and slid out on virtually the next corner.  The trail is very tight and was mostly covered completely with dry leaves.

I led a bit, down the first tricky, rutted descent, but which starting the next climb I was overgeared and had to dismount.  Little did I know then that my rear derrailleur cable had slipped and I only had 3 gears in the back.

Bryan Fawley and Garet both eventually passed me and I had to dismount to do any steep climbs.  I looked back and there were too many guys close for me to get off my bike and fix the problem, so I rode the next 30 minutes with just an 11-13-15, plus two in the front, 38-28.  I had to dismount a few times, but it wasn’t that bad.  Brian was right behind me and he would ride up to me on the climbs and I would get a gap descending.

Finally when I got to a pavement section, I stopped and got out a tool to tighten up the cable.  It took a while.  The endcap came off and I was having a hard time getting ahold of the cable.  And tons, or what seemed like tons, of guys came by.  I eventually got the cable working and got moving.  I’m not sure where I was, maybe 10-15.  I passed a couple guys pretty quickly, then didn’t see anyone for awhile.  I passed some more and was starting to feel better riding, which was encouraging.

I came upon Bill who was laying a couple meters off the trail with blood pouring out of his knee. I asked him if I needed to stop and he said no, so I kept going.  In the back of my mind I was thinking I should have stopped to make sure he was alert enough to really say no, but convinced myself there were a ton of people, like over 300 more coming by and if he needed help, he would get it.  I had to stop a little later because I had left my seat bag open and everything was falling out.

I got up to the first feed at the Berryman Campground in 6th or 7th.  I was 4 minutes back.  I got a bottle from Trudi and then realized I need to get some new stuff for my seatbag in the van, so did a u-turn and went to the van.   Here I got some Co2 and then some clear glasses.  I decided to let some air out of my tires since I had pumped them up pretty hard, like 30 psi (650b) and thought I might as well enjoy the rest of the ride even if it ups my flatting chances.

I was way back by now.  But, I was riding way better.  I didn’t start that great, my legs weren’t feeling that good and had a lower back ache.  But that was all gone and I was pedalling pretty well.

I was having trouble with the dual suspension, not having ridden it this fast before.  With all the leaves and loose rocks, when it was fully suspended, it felt like my wheels were slipping out to the side.  I just wasn’t used to it, so I was playing around with the lockout lever all the time.

I eventually just climbed with it fully locked out and then descended on the trail setting.  That worked great.

By now I was up to 5th, then I see Brian way off the trail messing with his bike.  He had made a little wrong turn and had endoed into a creek bed.  He broke a spoke and it blew a hole into his rimstrip, thus Orange Seal was spraying out into his rim.  Then I caught up with 4th just a couple hundred meters later, Travis Donn.  Then I rode for a while and passed Micah Gordan while he was filling a bottle, so only Garet and Bryan were ahead.

I thought I was way back, but then Bill was on the side of the road with a bottle for me.   I had left mine at the van, so hadn’t had any water for a couple hours.  He told me Garet was about a minute ahead and Bryan a couple minutes ahead of him.

I was going pretty good by then, at least for me.  I had good power and seemed to be flowing better on the leafy singletrack.  I caught up to Garet in just 3-4 miles.  He was pretty done.  I screwed up a couple tight corners and was walking and asked Garet how far Bryan was ahead. He told me 4 minutes.  That deflated my enthusiasm.  So I just walked a bit and talked to Garet. In retrospect that wasn’t the best thing.

I rode back into the Bass Resort with about 8 miles left and Trudi told me I was 1:45 back.  I felt pretty great and thought I could just maybe make that up.  There is a mile or so road climb out of the resort, pretty steep.  I was climbing out of my saddle and towards the top, made out Bryan turning onto a gravel road.  I looked at my Garmin and he was about a minute ahead, so I’d made up 45 seconds on the climb.  I saw Scott later and he said 45 seconds.

I was riding pretty hard now, not that I wasn’t before, but I knew the last bit was mainly downhill on singletrack.  I thought the race was supposed to be 50 miles and I was only at 46, so I had 4 more miles to make up the time.   I was climbing in the woods and heard someone yelling ahead and realized it was for Bryan.  It wasn’t far.  I got up to a road and they told me 18 seconds, which was doable.  The problem was that they said it was all downhill the last mile.

I realized that there was no way I was going to make up 20 seconds on Bryan Fawley, Kodiak Tough, on a downhill.   He is a super good bike handler and by then, he knew I was coming.  So, I just kept doing what I was doing and next thing I know, I’m at the finish.

I had a little problem about 30 meters from the line, on a small rise.  Trudi was yelling to me to go right when the finish line was left and I fell over.  It didn’t really matter, there wasn’t anyone around.  I am past the point of being embarrassed falling over on my bike.

So, officially I was 40 something seconds back, but had gotten it down to under 20 before the finish.  I’ve now won this race twice, finished 2nd 3 times and 3rd once.  Not really so bad.  I’ve historically had a bunch of problems, so this year was nothing new.  Just not the problems I had anticipated, which is usually the case.  The race turned out to be 48 miles with 5000 feet of climbing, in a little under 4 hours.

I was happy to be done.  With about 20 minutes to go I started feeling a little crampy in my left leg.  But I rode through it and didn’t feel like it slowed me down much.  My thumb wasn’t working very good all day and it was pretty done too. I’ve always said I’d rather lose a race and be riding well than win and be riding bad.  So, I’ll stick with that.

After the race is super.  They have a huge fire, free beer, a food buffet, showers, it is great. People are finishing and everyone is just catching up or telling their race stories.  It is great.

The awards is just a party.  Scott and Jake go overboard.  They gave out something like 30 bikes at the raffle.  They give out age group awards and overall.  A super time.

Bill was okay, just had a quarter sized flap of skin hanging off his kneecap.  Brian put in 3 tubes, but didn’t what to destroy his carbon rim, so he stopped too.

The race took just about 4 hours and I have so many memories.  I love the concentration level it takes continuously to race MTB’s fast.  So much different than the road.

My new Eriksen was great.  It took me a while to get used to the suspension movement, but it is so much faster over serious rocks.

Trudi won a bike in the raffle.  I was over at the fire talking to a couple that was hiking the Berryman Trail.  They came to watch the race, but were doing 50 miles of hiking too.  Pretty good weekend for them.

We didn’t get out of there until after 8, so got back to Topeka after 1 am.  I like driving at night, but driving on two lane roads through the Missouri Ozarks is tricky.  More concentration.

I am still a little tweaked today.  Yesterday wasn’t so bad, but it is always two days for me.   I’m not sure what the next race I am going to do.  I think maybe the Louisville UCI cross races.  I’d better go look at my cross bikes and wheels.

(Told you it was going to be longer than I’d hoped.)

This guy rode over 5 hours in a spaceman outfit. It must of been so hot. Pretty incredible.

This guy rode over 5 hours in a spaceman outfit. It must of been so hot. Pretty incredible.

Garet was organized like a little mouse at the start.

Garet was organized like a little mouse at the start.

Scott and Jake always have a nice fire going at the finish. This year was no different.

Scott and Jake always have a nice fire going at the finish. This year was no different.

Lots of swag to be had at the awards.

Lots of swag to be had at the awards.

NIce fall post-race meal.

NIce fall post-race meal.

This is Peat Henry. He'd won the singlespeed category, only 10 minutes back. It was a good course of singlespeed. Peat had broken his femur a couple months before I did last year and we talked about that a bit. Super good bike rider.

This is Peat Henry. He’d won the singlespeed category, only 10 minutes back. It was a good course of singlespeed. Peat had broken his femur a couple months before I did last year and we talked about that a bit. Super good bike rider.

This is Leah Kleager's knee after her becoming up close and personal with the Berryman rocks. She had something like 40 stitches. She was in super good spirits and was bummed she didn't finish. Next year.

This is Leah Kleager’s knee after her becoming up close and personal with the Berryman rocks. She had something like 40 stitches. She was in super good spirits and was bummed she didn’t finish. Next year.

Scott and Jake.

Scott and Jake.

Me, Scott and Bryan right after the finish.

Me, Scott and Bryan right after the finish.






19 thoughts on “Berryman Trail Epic MTB Race

  1. Krakatoa East of Java

    Just curious what kind of edibles those are o the top tube. I’ve been out of the scene for a while.

  2. shano92107

    that sounds like an awesome race. Love the Fall colors and greenery. Out here in Cali its still in the 90’s, brown and dry

  3. paul

    Steve, I love the fact that you are seemingly oblivious to the fact that you are what most would consider a bit down the road to be out kicking ass on a brutal mtb course like this. Congrats, and I hope to see you blowing by me at 3am at 24 hours of Old Pueblo this year. I’ll be sure to get the hell out of your way Sir.

    Rules are made for people who aren’t willing to make up their own.
    Chuck Yeager

  4. Chris Froome

    Hey Cycling Fans and Sir Steve Tilford, Chris Froome here, World Champion Mountain Biker extraordinaire (French word) who later became TdF Champ, here to remind you guys that I too started out shredding community tour Mountain Biking Enduro stuff like Sir Tilford’s post. As a kid going from camp to camp nursing hurt wild life I always rode my MTB, too, but I digress… Wait… I think because Sir Dave always makes me use his title in conversation and writing I’ve made some errors here… Sorry.

  5. cw

    Your bt epic posts I look forward to every year. Sounds like if you could eliminate some “dicking around” you would have been in contention for the win. Great result regardless!

  6. Mark

    Yeah, seriously. I guess the guy thinks his posts are funny/witty? I find them to be painfully neither.

  7. Mark

    It seems pretty amazing to most that you are able to compete with some of the fastest/younger guys around our region such as Garet, T Donn and Fawley. I think one has to take into consideration your pedigree. In your prime you raced at the highest level of the sport. Both road and mtb. Albeit around 15yrs their senior, you come from the Todd Wells and Jeremiah Bishop caliber of stock. There is a big difference between those guys and your average local “pro”. Of course you have faded a little with age, but I think a lot of people underestimate what you are still capable of as an athlete….Thoroughly enjoyed your race report and hope to read more of them on the mtb side of the fence!

  8. Chris Froome

    Dear Mark and Sir Tilford, This post is inspired! Keep them coming for our enjoyment and edification (English).


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