The Inaugural 2008 Berryman Epic Tour/Race:
A Brief Report
by MH

In early 2008 it was announced on the Internet that some race-minded folk were going to be staging their own epic-length bike race in Missouri. Their goal, it stated, was to bring a race like Syllamo’s Revenge or the Ouachita Challenge to the Ozark hills. The website started taking orders in early April for those that dared. The race payout was substantial and schwag giveaways promised to be huge.

Too soon, summer came to a close and the Burnin’ at the Bluff V 12-hour came and went – in a ball of flame, of course. As the weekend of October 24-25th approached I grew anxious. Lisa even wondered what it would be like.

Will the course be marked or will get lost and resort to eating crawdads and katydids? Would the weather cooperate or would we find mud bogs and frosty handlebars? Would the trails be sweet or just plain suck?

The weekend before the race I went down by myself and checked out the Courtois sections at the start and below Highway 8 to get a feel for the trail and see how well it was marked. I came back and explained to Lisa that there wasn’t anything to worry about – the trail was well-marked and in perfect condition. No downed trees or bad sections.

On Tour day Lisa, along with Jim and Wendy Davis, set off with 40+ riders and everyone stayed in high spirits. I drove around to each crossing with directions, a pump and water handy. I think many appreciated seeing a road, wheels and a face towards the end of the 56 mile ride. No one got injured and no one got (permanently) lost.

That evening Scott, the promoter, raffled off a ton of prizes. Several high-dollar items included 4 Redline Monocog complete bikes, a cargo trailer, a Garmin Edge 305, an LED light kit, a wheelset and a bunch of other things. Lisa and I didn’t win anything but it looked as though over half the people present got a schwag prize.

That night Scott Piepert and Bryan Adams arrived to get the lowdown on the course. I told them it would be a blast. The next day would come too soon.

On race day over 92 bikers lined up in the parking lot of the Bass River Resort. At 8:30 everyone took off and it only got faster in the coming minutes. The super fast geared guys were off the front – and Matt Keeven on his single speed. Bryan, Scott and I all rode single speeds along with Jim Krewet and a couple of other folks.

The organizers had placed a temporary bridge across Brazil Creek which was a blessing. The creek is over 4 feet deep now and 15 feet wide from the equestrian traffic. All the racers ran down the switchbacks (they are nearly unrideable now), across the bridge and received their first checkpoint zip tie. I was the second ss guy through with Jim, Scott and Bryan right behind me.

Next, we jammed over the Berryman trail over to the Berryman campground. I passed several guys and felt quite good. My left knee has been giving me trouble and I had hoped a new pair of shoes, a lower bike fit, new cleats and some insole shims would do the trick. So far, so good.

Lisa met me again at the second checkpoint at the Berryman campground. Again, I was the second SS guy in but was already 5-8 minutes behind Matt “morale crusher” Keeven. I set off down the lower Courtois and tried to make up for lost time. Jim Krewet passed me at the campground checkpoint but I kept him in sight almost the whole time heading for the 3rd stop at the end of the Courtois. The trail followed several creek drainages and whenever it had to gain some elevation it shot up the hillside. I was forced to walk many of these tall climbs in order to conserve energy.

After getting to the third checkpoint I finally caught up to Jim on the gravel road back to the Berryman campground. We agreed the pace was fast and I admitted I was feeling slightly blown. My knee started hurting and I knew things didn’t feel just right.

At the fourth checkpoint back at the Berryman campground I had to sit down. Lisa cheered me on but deep down I knew Jim had me. He set off on the remaining leg of the Berryman back to Bass Resort while I composed myself.

Once I hit the singletrack I knew I was in trouble. My hands were beginning to sting and blister from the rigid fork and my 32:19 sissy gearing felt hard. And then the unthinkable happened.

I really hate leg cramps but boy they sure loved me. I had to stop 7-10 times over the remaining 15 miles to keep me from losing my mind. The agony was obscene and it hurt to see people passing me. Scott Piepert passed me at the running spring and that’s when I tried to pull it together and finish it off.

Limping back around 7 miles an hour and ruining my chances for a good overall placing I kept my legs turning but applied no pressure to prevent the hell cramps from popping in to say hi. At the last checkpoing Jim and Wendy cheered me on. I mentioned the cramps, the pain, the possible bonking and they wanted to know if I wanted some gum! They’re pretty damn funny even when you’re feeling down. I got to pedaling back to Bass and promptly got passed by 10 more racers on the gravel road back to base.

I pulled into Bass not a moment too soon and had the best ride of my summer in Missouri. The Lynskey rocked out even if I couldn’t keep up and I promise to tighten my bottom bracket before starting the race next time around.

Overall, Chris Ploch got 1st overall, Matt Keeven got 1st Single Speeder (4th overall wtf?!!), Jim Krewet got 2nd SS, Scott Piepert 3rd SS, Me (Matt) 4th and Bryan Adams 5th.

Many thanks to Scott at Springfield Bicycle Co. for organizing the event and chopping out over 70 downed trees to make for a memorable (and sickly fast) race.

See you next year at the GORCtoberfest when GORC merges mayhem with the Berryman Epic. It’s in the works, see you then.