The weather-related delay of Sunday's Virginia City Grand Prix had some of the 230 riders as restless and frantic as cattle on the killing-line as they sat crammed in at the starting gate on C Street among the boardwalk and Bloody Mary mix mid-Sunday morning.
Not rider No. 143, Brian Spiersch, whose wife won the traditional pre-race auction to give him a 1-minute's head start. The price: $450. A tear rolled out of her eye.
"These are tears of happiness," she said as her husband squeezed his red Honda to the front of the pack.
At 11 a.m., Spiersch left the gate and made his way down the slick street with a calm but determined roar.
Exactly 1 minute later: The super-adrenalized deluge -10 riders to a heat, spaced just 15 seconds apart roaring down the steep streets, with little room, let alone room enough for error.
With rain pouring over the 19-mile track much of the previous night, the starter compared the conditions to black ice and cautioned the riders to be careful.
Of course "careful" is a relative word in motor sports. Most riders elected to jolt the throttle like they'd just been electrocuted then hold on around the blind left turn down the sheer-as-a-mine-shaft Union Street as their bikes took to the air crossing over the D Street intersection, much to the delight of the fans squeezed on rooftops and roped behind the yellow caution tape.
"These guys have brains - they're not crazy," said one fan as a heat of riders came barreling down the hill in a grit of tire smoke and bilious white gut-bursts from a half-a-dozen straining engines.
"These guys would run over their mother to get one spot ahead!" said Lee Seely of Redding, Calif., who comes to the race every year with a bunch of friends.
The clean start turned into a dirty race as riders made their way off the pavement and into the grooves and cut lines of the sloppy track.
"A wet track usually makes for a fast track," said Virginia City Motorcycle Club president Craig Givant, whose organization puts on the event. "But we delayed the race an hour to make sure it's a safe track. At least they won't have to worry about a lot of dust out there."
As they jockeyed in the slop, wakes of mud had some frustrated riders pulling off their goggles and face masks just to see.
An off-and-on drizzle kept the chaos coming, and after only one lap of the endurance race, most of the bikers were so fully covered in muck and desperation, they looked like they were retreating from the Russian Front.
Miraculously, there were no broken bones or fatalities.
All said, press-time victory went to No. 79, Dennis Belingheri of Reno. Brian Brown took second place, and 17-year-old Justin Soulé of Reno got third. Official race results will be posted at www.vcgp.com.
Donnie Bird, vice-president of the VCMC, summed it up pretty well before the race, when he was informed over a walkie-talkie that there wasn't enough toilet paper in the outhouses.
"So many different things can go wrong when you put something this big together," he laughed. "It's nice when it's all over and everything's gone smoothly."
n Contact reporter Peter Thompson at email@example.com or 881-1215.