After surveying the ATV course before last night's Four Wheel Frenzy, a race official turned and said, "It looks like someone dumped 1,000 pounds of coffee grounds on the Mekong River." Each bottleneck turn was saturated with water and peppered with loose dirt from the day's heavy rains. One course attendant stood knee deep in the quagmire.
Getting the event started wasn't the problem; it was the task at hand after the race. A crew would be required to entirely reconfigure the course for the next day's Terracross event, combating several inches of mud with sub-par earth movers.
"The real challenge is that this whole venue drains into the racecourse," Tes Sewell, the ATV event organizer, said. Considering rain bands from Hurricane Dennis were continually watering the region, a lot of H2O was running off the timber events area, creating a lake on the ATV course.
Though ATV does stand for all-terrain vehicle, the acronym doesn't include anything about aqua. Running across open water would've been impossible. Prior to the Four Wheel Frenzy start, heavy equipment was used to skim the water off the track surface and pack down the mud.
"Usually we can glade off top layers of mud and find pretty stable ground underneath it. But last night, after the Frenzy, we were taking off layers of mud and uncovering water spouts," said Sewell.
What was going to be a renovation job turned into a salvage operation as the rains continued to spit in the face of event organizers. When 2:30 a.m. rolled around, the course crew was ready to call it quits. With every inch of progress they were being met with what felt like an inch of precipitation. At 5:30 a.m., though, the steady chugging of diesel engines could be heard. The crew was back to work.
By mid-morning, Sewell assessed the situation. He stood by a small earth mover that was digging a hole. When asked what it was doing, he shook his head and answered, "We want to keep the integrity of the course if we can. What he's digging there is a mud pit." Around the course, several natural mud pits had formed from the drenching, but the plans called for a man-made one at the starting gate.
"Terracross is supposed to simulate actual hunting conditions, so this shouldn't be anything too difficult for the riders," Sewell said as he chuckled. "After all, anything can screw you up out there, not just mud."
The Games will be aired on ESPN and ABC Sports July 13-17, 2005. Click here for the broadcast schedule.