Eddie on the Peakposted Aug 13, 2008
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By Eddie Mulder, a racing legend.
Pikes Peak, Colorado. July 20, 2008. Every year in July for 86 years, The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb near Colorado Springs, Co. has beckoned the world's best racers to challenge the mountain. Rising to an elevation of 14,110 feet, the twisting dirt and pavement "highway," like a wide fire road, dares bikes, cars and even big semi trucks to drive their fastest to the top. Weather, 156 dangerous curves, sheer drop-offs and the elevation all play havoc with the racers and their machines. Just finishing is an accomplishment! With a record breaking run last year in the Vintage Motorcycle division, I had my doubts I would break that record this year with the changes in the road, but was aiming for the task. My motorman, Karl Krohne and I loaded up the van and set out for the two-day drive. Traveling northeast thru Sin City we pulled in for the night in Beaver, Utah. We looked forward to meeting up with the rest of the "West Coast Vintage Wrecking Crew" in Manitou Springs, Co the next day to set up camp for the busy week ahead. At the base of Pikes Peak, we would ready ourselves to wage war on the mountain.
Getting acclimated to the altitude is a big part of feeling your best for race day so frequent trips up the Pikes Peak Highway not only get your lungs working, but serve as pre-runs to race day. I was really excited as two professional dirt track racers were planning on riding this year, National # 20 Johnny Murphree and National #3 Joe Kopp. I met up with the rookie Johnny and we took off for some Pikes Peak 101. Without generous sponsors like Motion Pro, Maxxis Tires, K&N Filters, A&A Racing and SDR none of this would be possible.
The first day is registration, tech inspection, riders meeting and Rookie School. The hotel parking lot looks like staging for an off-road race! It's a who's who of drivers, sponsors, crew members and spectators mingling around admiring the spectacle of powersports. Representatives from around the world and many forms of racing are there. Awesome! Next, three mornings of practice, up @ 3:30am, leave at 4am to get staged, practice and be done before the road is opened at 9am to the public. The dark and cool morning air is calming before the roaring of race vehicles at sunrise. The first day motorcycles practiced on the bottom 6 miles of pavement and dirt. Cars were on the top with Trucks on the middle section. The first day is also qualifying for race day starting position. Cars and trucks run one at a time up the mountain. Motorcycles and quads go in waves of 5-6. I like to have fun during qualifying and qualify last so I can get a last wave start and try to pass all my buddies during my race up the hill.
Every day after practice everyone headed back down the hill to grab some breakfast, discuss the days practice session and get back to the hotel for some much needed rest. After a few hours we mount up again on our dual sport Honda 450's by Scott Dunlavey Racing to pre-run the race course looking for places to make time, get acclimated and have some fun taking in the beauty of Colorado. The last day of practice we were on top and in between runs could walk to the edge of the hill and watch the trucks below us squealing around the curves as they practiced their section. Desert racer Mike Childress at the wheel of one trophy truck was thrilling to see and hear.
The race was held on a Sunday this year so Friday night Fan Fest in downtown Colorado Springs was happening as racers and crews could be out late with no racing the next day. Two city blocks are blocked off for the Fireman's Chili Cook-Off. Displays of top qualifiers, teams and vehicles line the street for spectators to get a closer look, photos and autographs before they are gone up the mountain on race day. Sponsors booths, live music, food and beer abound as everyone celebrates the second oldest race in the nation. Saturday being an off day we leisurely were able to get the finishing touches done on our bikes, clean leathers, mount tear-offs and pack the ice chest for Sundays race. That afternoon a few of us including my son Rick snuck out to an isolated back road to try to get the race bikes a little more race ready. We never could quite get mine running as well as my record breaker last year but it would do fine.
Sunday I awoke ready to claim my 8th PPIHC trophy. Most of the crew had gone at 6:30am to set up our pit area. I left at 9am. They switch the start every year between vehicles and motorcycles and this year the cars started first so we had a little while to wait. Estimated start time for the bikes was 12 noon but due to the slick road conditions causing 14 red flags and numerous delays, our start times were pushed back two hours. The first of two waves in the vintage class were finally waved off by veteran starter Sonny Anderson and my race had begun.
As I rolled to the starting line I knew that due to the hot, slippery conditions that not many records would be broken that day but I was ready to give it my best shot. I pulled the trigger after winning the holeshot and roared off towards the top. I began to pick off some of the first wave starters around mile marker three. When I ran upon fellow Wrecking Crewman Mark Stuckert from AZ, I passed him with a friendly tap on the shoulder which slightly startled him. I was in third at that point with second place rider Mark LaNoue just up ahead. I passed him at the Gravel Pit and had only one rider left to pass but knew I was fast time at this point. Being a timed event second on the hill was not a factor but I could see the dust from Robert Poole's wheels and gassed it to try to catch him, which I never did. After corrected time across the finish line taking the checkered flag my time was off last years by three seconds. No new record but another victory for ole #12! I was happy!!
If you've never had the opportunity to get to the Peak to experience the second oldest race in the nation you really should get to Colorado in July and do it. It is so unique pitting man and machine against the mountain. The Race to the Clouds is one you should experience at least once in your lifetime. Check out the website for more info www.ppihc.com.