By Bob ReinertOctober 9, 2009
FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Thousands of miles from home, he pedaled and sometimes carried his one-speed bike up and down the hills and across the flats until his legs burned and he was muddy and wet.
"On the last lap, I was toast," said Tony Corke in an unmistakable English accent. "I was just cramping up everywhere. You have to really punch a lot of those short climbs, especially running a single speed, as well. It's a lot of hard effort, so my legs were shredded on the last lap."
The effort paid off for Corke, a Somerset, England, native who recently moved to Tacoma.
Riding alone Saturday for 30 kilometers on a showery morning, he dominated the sport class of the Fort Lewis Extreme Mountain Bike Race II over four laps of the challenging Soldiers Field House cross country course, winning in 1 hour, 35 minutes, 44 seconds. Steven Brady was second in 1:42:19.
"I just like going fast on a mountain bike," Corke said. "Whether there's someone there or not, it doesn't really make any difference to me.
"Actually, I find the mountain bike quite soulful. You know, you kind of get in the zone. And if you don't have other people to race against, it's kind of ... like a Zen state."
Corke, who has been mountain biking since age 17, got into that zone immediately, rode smoothly and proved untouchable.
"On the third lap, I was having fun ... really starting to learn the course and know where to push it and when not to," Corke said. "(I) probably did my fastest lap on the third lap, but then on the fourth, I was toast."
Course designer Jerry Weydert, director of Fort Lewis Sports, Fitness and Aquatics, was impressed by Corke's performance.
"He was the best rider I have seen on the course," Weydert said. "He was very complimentary about the course."
"The course is great fun," said Corke, "really, really good technical sections, faster, flatter bits, and really evil run-ups."
Michael Schmidt of Silverdale chose to do the two-lap, 15-kilometer beginner's race. He won it in 57 minutes.
This is my first race ever," Schmidt said. "It went really well. It was a lot of fun."
He rode a bike he bought about a month earlier. Encrusted with mud, it no longer looked new, but he didn't seem to mind.
"I liked it," said Schmidt of the race. "This was definitely a pretty good course, ... but, overall, really tough."
Toughest of all was the 45-degree ascent known as "Semper Fi Hill," which no one has successfully ridden up.
"That was hard to even run up," Schmidt said. "They need a prize, like a hundred dollars, sitting at the top if you ride up it. That would be good motivation, huh'"
Priscilla Baker, who completed the one-lap, 7.5-kilometer recreational race in 43:36 in her competitive debut, will need no incentive to participate in the event again.
"I thought it was fabulous, said Baker, whose husband, Troy, also rode. "It was a great track. There were some nice challenges, but it wasn't overwhelming.
"I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'll do it again."
Bob Reinert is assistant editor of Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.