Round 3 – Ligonier IN 2013 SUNDAY!! Despite the horrific weather stories happening all about the Midwest, Ligonier’s weather again was exceptional. Overnight had been cold enough to leave even the motorcycles covered in frost, but a bright spring sun cleared the chill and brought the riders out of hibernation one more day. Saturday had been a genuinely enjoyable day riding for me – the concept of giving the Beginner class full open rein to ride any line they chose had taken out the fear factor, and I had succeeded in riding every novice line and even 2 intermediates with pride and confidence. I felt bad, however, when I finished the day with a 2nd place trophy, knowing several youngsters were just getting to ride their first events and would’ve cherished that award far more than I did. So, despite having seen on Saturday that at least one line was almost certainly unridable for me, I elected to take on Novice today. There was no doubt that the CD had saved the tougher sections for Sunday; this was a point of conversation among many riders. We bantered about the ideas – let Saturday be a warm up, or recognize that many of us are out of shape and tired from Saturday and so leave the easier lines for Sunday’s tired and dragging riders? I think both arguments had merit and it was fun to toss about as we waited to ride. It was PURE joy to watch the young riders, those who had just graduated out of youth to the Beginner classes, all throughout the day. The CD had clearly taken time to leave open lines for the Beginners, even those on 50 sized bikes, to work their way safely through the sections. And, with smiles oh so like those of the youngsters against which she competed, our own student, Liz, tackled Beginner line after Beginner line – stretching her skills as her confidence blossomed, until she completed two full loops riding every Novice gate except two. These two gates were in sections with significant logs, and she was recognizes her own capabilities. Liz had clean or nearly clean sections so many times that she even forgot to complete her touchdown dance a few times! The CD clearly put a huge amount of work into this event. The sections involved tons of excavator and heavy lifting to set up logs, tires, spools and more. Most contests have tons of work into loop setup to make it possible to get TO the sections, with most of the sections then carved from natural terrain. This hay field and cattle pasture didn’t offer a ton of natural terrain choices, but the CD’s efforts created interesting challenges for the riders in every class. By the comments of many riders who attended last year, the difficulty was turned down dramatically; however, several of the sections still had lines that were surprisingly high difficulty and high fear factor for each class. For me, my swansong was section 4 today… one I walked Friday night with dismay. I have never competed a novice competition in which I was able to ride every Novice line of every section. Sadly, despite a winter’s intense work on wheelies and logs, this event was no different. Section 4 included a straight line to a hard 90 and with just over a bike length’s launch space, an uphill 8” (approximate) log and a continued climb. The log required not just a lightening but a proper lift in such a short line. Above all, it will require my #1 challenge – genuine commitment with little run-up. I attempted the section on the first loop, and was able to get the bike onto the log, but unable to finish the line. Fived without completing it. Well, just like every other Novice competition, this was the section that I would punch a five without attempting the line. On lap 3, despite having seen several other novices drop their bikes, I was feeling a bit more confident, and Mike agreed to spot for me. I entered the section, completed the sharp 90, stared at the log with my very best effort mentally… and… pulled the clutch. I struggled my way around the nasty wad-of-future-splinters, and took the five. There were several other sections which would have been outside my rookie skill sets even at the end of last season, so I was very glad to see Beginner as an option for our student, Liz, and would have certainly ridden Beginner last year had the option been available to me. My favorite today? Boy, that’s a really tough choice. Would it be section one’s technical challenge? Section 2’s dragon back-like difficulty in cutting across upper classman’s lines? Section 3’s UPPP and down? I cannot say it was any of those. My high of the day, undoubtedly, was watching the top youth rider, at the end of the day, taking his Osset through the beginner and novice lines of the stadium section 10. I can’t wait to see that young man in a Beginner class in the near future! The weather was fantastic this weekend, as were the conditions and most importantly, the people and the thrill of this great sport. Thank you, MOTA, for including TI in this fun competition and we look forward to seeing many of you at the Tilton Trials in 2 weeks!