The 5-Man Team category of Burn 24 turned out to be, in the words of race promoter Jason Bumgarner, a grudge match. Not between 1st and 2nd, but down past the podium at 4th and fifth. The FM teams from Atlanta (Christopher, Nico, Aaron, Marc, and Yoni) and Charlotte (me, Zac, Brian, Joey, and Tumas) traded positions for the entire race, never gapping more than 10 minutes, and it came down to the last lap.
But it all started before lap one, in the lemans start. Teams at Burn had to put up one rider to run the roughly 1/3 mile loop around the camping field. Christopher and Tumas lined up for FM. Tumas loudly announced that he would win the run, and he came damn close. He tagged Zac to ride second overall, and Zac shot out like a cannon and quickly overtook the lone lead rider.
Tumas tagging Zac off after the lemans start
My first eventful lap came on my 3rd time out. Christopher took off right before me, and I chased him down in the woods. Our teams had a wager of 2 cases on this race, but I knew I couldn't win it here, this early. I decided my best bet was to just stay on his wheel and keep it really close, knowing that our next rider, Joey would put some time into ATL on his lap. So I worked my ass off to keep up, and lost Christopher on one of the final climbs. I laid it all out on the last downhill, a roller coaster of burns, jumps, drops, and gargantuan roots. I caught a glimpse of him just around the last berm. I carried way more speed than I should have coming out of the woods, and went tits-over-ass trying to hop the last root. I slid in the dirt for a good 20 feet before jumping back up, looking at everyone looking at me aghast, and then remounting my bike to try to minimize the damage. I had done enough to set Joey up with a 20 second deficit, which he easily shut down.
Don't you love the strategy?
We didn't see them on the trail again until my second night lap. Aaron was out for ATL several minutes ahead of us, but as I rode across the field to line up, I saw him scrambling a back-up bike out of the Maxxis truck. He got back on the trail about 30 seconds ahead of me, which I quickly closed down. He told me he his gorilla exploded, and his single-speed back-up was geared too tall. I rode with him for a little while shooting the shit, then passed him about half-way into the lap and didn't look back. It felt a bit strange taking advantage of my bro when he was struggling, but I got over it and dug in to open as big a gap as possible.
Aaron inspecting his gorilla, mere hours before it would betray him.
We held the lead into the last lap, where huge efforts from Zac and Tumas set Joey up for the last lap with a 2:07 lead. But he was being chased down by ATL's fastest rider, Nico. Aaron tells an awesome account of the finish here but suffice to say we won thanks to Joey putting out his best lap of the race, and Nico contracting a flat. It was one of the most exciting race finishes I have ever been a part of.