Let me start out by saying this: the Chequamegon is the biggest mountain bike race in the midwest, it's one of those races that EVERYONE who mountain bikes goes to, not just racers. There is so many racers, that they put a lottery on entering that limits the number of racers to 2,700. This is a long race (40 miles) that usually has around 2,000 people that the 'Pros' and many other adults do, but you have to be 18 to do it. The short race (16 miles) with around 900 people that is basically a sort of 'Midwest Junior Regionals'. All the juniors go to it, however there are still many adults, but few place in the top 15. The Chequamegon differs from many mountain bike races; in that it has no singletrack. However, it has too many bumps and rocks for it to be practical to ride a cross bike. This makes the front of the the race rather like a road race on mountain bikes. It's a very unique race.
Despite being sick, I had a good enough race last year (92nd overall). I got a preferred start, and started up on the front row. It was a VERY fast downhill start, (as you can see on the side banner photo of my blog, can you spot me?). The course then goes into a uphill that separates everyone out. I was able to make the separation into the front pack... and the race began! I was just so happy being right there with all the best juniors in the midwest, totally comfortable! I remember seeing Dad waiting to cheer me on, freaking out that I was in the front group. I stayed with the pack for quite a long time until we hit the sandpit. Lacking the power, got gapped through it. I was just about to catch back on when a attack was made and they all accelerated away.
I rode by myself for a long time (except for one guy who was sucking my wheel for the entire race till the very end) until John Thompson (an adult cyclist who is a friend of mine) came up and saw me pulling two guys behind me, while I was all aero going 23mph on the gravel. John said "What are you guys doing? Help the kid out!". After that we took turns pulling and our speed increased. We were catching up to the lead group when Jay Labecki came flying by on a tandem at 30 some mph. The group shattered trying to catch him, and I was unable to make the acceleration. I was alone again for some time until I hit the Birkie (where my arch-rival in MTB) Logan passed me. I battled hard to keep him in sight for the entire hilly and very grassy section, and caught many people. We came out of the Birkie into a slightly downhill, which was bumpy fast section. My full suspension top fuel was perfect on the bumps and I felt great. So I put the pedal-to-the-metal and flew by Logan, catching and dropping him at the same time. I had a few people pass me on the flat sections on the way to the finish and the guy who had been drafting me the entire race sprinted away on the final hill. I did not really care, I knew I was top 20 (and first place in my age group by a lot) and that was significantly better than I had hoped for in my wildest dreams.
I came into the finish exuberant and happy, with a big grin on my face. I heard the announcer say,"And our youngest rider yet, in 16th place, Josey Weik!" I put both hands up in the air, and enjoyed the moment. It was my breakout race, no body could believe that a 14 year old had gotten (almost) top 15.