55+ Miles Per Hour In A Traffic Jam, But We Are Not Done!

Unbelievable tension; the drama really got ratcheted up last night. Thursday’s weather was perfect; calm winds, moderate temperatures and high, thin clouds had the guys chafing to run at mid-day, but looming on the western horizon was a large Pacific storm moving inexorably closer. The big question was could the bikes outrace the storm?

The guys were pumped. StreaMiner was repaired to an even smoother finish than the original paint job, the on-board computer was re-mounted, and Jerrod was well rested. The troops deployed to SR 305.
An hour before launch the clouds moved in, temperatures cooled noticably, the wind picked up, and Monday’s winter clothing reappeared. The teams gathered at the start area (mind the cow chips, boys) with Discovery Channel video crews hovering around the top teams, UMR included, of course.
StreaMiner was scheduled for the second heat and the last run of the night, so the guys had time to prepare. Jerrod and other riders warmed up on their stationary bikes, Craig helped launch riders in heat #1, and Andrew and Matt double-checked the chase vehicle. Jerrod even got some last-minute pointers from world champion and emergency tire-provider Sam Wittingham.
And then things got interesting. VERY interesting. The second heat was made up of all the fastest racers. The very best (Sam and other professionals) always go first because they can’t be overtaken. UMR was slated to be the last of 5 bikes to run, but the #4 rider balked at the strong crosswinds and opted out, so with light fading StreaMiner moved up a slot. And then they were off.

Jerrod fought off the wind (StreaMiner is designed for stability over 50 mph, not so much when slow) and began to build speed. 10, 20, 30, maybe 40mph as the mile markers slipped by. Get the right gearing. Hit the cadence. Two miles to go and the chase vehicles are nudging 50mph! Suddenly Jerrod begins to pull away. Farther. Faster. Faster still. He is leaving the chase vehicles in the dust! He HAS to be doing well over 60! The guys are yelling GO! GO, JERROD, GO!

And then they see the flashing lights. At 1,000 meters to go Jerrod is overtaking the #3 rider and his chase car, who started two minutes ahead! There isn’t enough room for all of them. In the fading light Jerrod can barely see the other rider, the other chase car can’t see Jerrod, and that rider probably has no idea what is happening so he can’t get out of the way! Jerrod has no choice but to back off pedaling to avoid a collision.
In what has to be a timekeeper’s worst nightmare both bikes enter the all-critical time trap at nearly the same time, so no one knows what speeds to assign. UMR’s pursuit car can’t get around the other chase vehicle and check on Jerrod, who by now is in the catch area as darkness falls.

Total confusion because this has never happened before in Speed Challenge racing. Back at the hotel things began to be sorted out; times were finally established and despite the mayhem Jerrod was clocked at just over 55 mph.

Ultimately it came down to the wind which refused to abate at dusk. The overtaken bike aparently was unable to handle the strong winds and chose to slow down or risk crashing (in heat #1 a similar bike crashed). StreamMiner, designed to perform at high speed, became rock-solid but simply had no place to go. And because of the wind none of the times that night would have became official even if records had been surpassed. After four nights of racing only about 10-15% of the sprints would have been officlal marks because the winds have just been too high.

There are possibly two more attempts for StreaMiner and the guys. Rain and snow threaten tonight’s run and may well preclude any speed attempts, but that gives Jerrod time to rest and recover. Saturday is the last hurrah for this event so it is an all-or-nothing at that point. Strong winds are still on the menu, so it appears that Mother Nature may be frowning on changing the record books. She is pretty harsh out here.
One thing is for sure. Missouri S&T/UMR is now a top player in this league, and four guys are coming back to Rolla with newly-minted grey hair. Stay with us, folks, there’s a lot more to this story.

Comments

  1. Nice dramatic flair, Bob. Show us where those bones are so we can get that on video. What is SR 305?

  2. Brian Jones says

    Ah man…..you almost had it.

  3. Nancy Wolk (Matt's Mom) says

    Great job Miners! You make us proud even back to little McCluer North High School,Matt’s alma mater before UMR. Good Luck Saturday!