I was riding Alafia Sunday morning. It was a big crowd. Ridge Riders were there, Bents riders were there, the parking lot was full. I was going into North Creek for the second time riding across the grass area between the parking lot and the pavilions. Taking in all the sights, seeing if I recognised anyone. I rode straight across the grass and the sidewalks and hit the trail. This was going to be my last few miles and I was feeling pretty good. I was rolling pretty good in my big ring and as I shifted own into the middle ring as I hit the first bench cut I noticed that somebody was chasing me down. I was being hunted. I was the Rabbit.
I hadn't really noticed the Hunter as I was riding across the grassy area, but he was there. I remember now. He was standing off to the side, straddling his bike. He had a full face helmet. I have noticed this hunting perch before. I find it amusing. I'm not a hunter myself, never have I tried to run anyone down before. A few times while riding as part of a group, but even then it wasn't a fair hunt as you never really know what the quality of the game might be. They like to wait in the parking area or the grassy area, or even at the pavilions. Waiting and watching. Hoping that someone comes along that they think is fast enough to put up a good fight. Someone worthy enough that at the end of the day they can tell there buds that they caught so and so. Sometimes they hunt in groups, a pack of riders looking to get one up on somebody or group of riders. What they want is to be able to ride past them as they stand there exhausted, panting and gasping for air. Maybe even bent over their bike with a hand on one knee, unable to get out clearly spoken words as the obligatory verbal exchanges take place. I guess it's all part of riding. It breaks the monotony if you are out there putting in long hours or tons of miles. Thinking about it, it's not even a hunt unless the Rabbit is aware that there is a hunter. Even then, the Rabbit must want to put on a chase. If none or little effort is put into it by the Rabbit, the hunt doesn't amount to much. Maybe thats what the hunter is looking for. Someone who wants to play the game. Normally I wouldn't play, but I felt like putting out some effort today and I thought why not. Lets see what this guy is all about.
I dropped into the middle ring and found the right gear. I flew across the bridge and remembered to look out for the face slappers as I hit the turn before the straight away section with the woops. Careful through the woops. As fast as you can but keep the bike on the ground. I was moving pretty good. The gap was not being closed as we rode on. He was back there but was not closing on me. How far will this go. This is a race. Further on up the trail isee two riders getting back on their bikes to resume riding. I yell up ahead 'riders up, riders up! '. One guy looks back and sees me coming up but they decide to move on and start riding. They are cranking away, determined to stay in front of me. I'm up on their wheels in 10 seconds. I don't ask to let me pass. They are moving out at a good pace. Sometimes it can be rude to ask to be allowed to pass. I think it is spoken with the bikes that when a rider comes up close enough to buzz your tire, you should let them pass. First opportunity where there is a easy pass zone. I ride this guys tire and then the hunter arrives and comes up behind me. Now we are four deep. No words are spoken. I'm thinking these guys aren't going to be able to go very far. They ar cranking away but I can tell they are in too easy of a gear, they are giving it all they can but it won't be long and they will pull to the side and let us pass. We come up to a sweeping right turn in the trail, a wide section. I take the turn really tight, almost into the brush. The Hunter buzzes my rear wheel, not expecting the line I took. He veers to the outside part of the turn as I pull up and he goes past me. He makes a startled reaction sound and I say '"sorry,man" He slips past me and now I am on his rear tire. Just like that. The game has changed. I sense that he realises what I did. He doesn't say anything, nor do I. But we know. Now I am the Hunter. He had his chance. In my opinion he couldn't catch me.
We go on. Four deep, tire to tire. The place where these guys are going to stop is coming up. The benchcut switchback at the top of the ridge. The trail evens out along the top of the ridge before it exits the woods at the grassy field area. There's a jump as you exit the woods. Sure enough, the two guys pull to the side as they round the corner at the top of the switchback. They say something. I couldn't quite hear it. The rabbit takes off so fast I can't believe it. This guy is gone. Not so fast, I say to myself, I put the hammer down to catch up. I'm not able to see how he handles the jump. I'm thinking that with that full face helmet he is into big air. I want to see what he does. Miss it. I keep my bike on the ground and by the time we enter back into the woods, I am on his tire. He had slowed down a bit, maybe thinking that it was over. That was all that it would take. Not quite my friend. He put the hammer down again and I rode his tire all the way. He is flying. I never had ridden that section of trail that fast. He couldn't shake me at all. After awhile, I'm happy. I feel that I've got this guy. I back off. He rides on. I close the gap again. Ride his wheel, back off. Close the gap again. I do this several times. He can't lose me. I back off again and we finish the trail. We cross the two track road at the end of the trail and enter that connector trail on RiverLoop. No break in the action. I am keeping him in sight. Around one of the turns, he encounters two riders coming up from the other direction. One of them apparaently bails from his bike, wipes out. The Rabbit is off to the side in the brush. I come riding up. No one is hurt, The other guy is getting up and back onto his bike. I have the singletrack. I tell the Rabbit, good riding, shake his hand and ride on. I don't know if he can speak English or not. He is worked. I wouldn't say that he was doubled over gasping for air, but he was, well, gasping for air bad enough that he couldn't respond clearly when I shook his hand. Maybe he couldn't speak English that well. I don't know. For meeee, in my mind, that was one Rabbit that I killed.