Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, May 19, 2014

2014 Olympic View Road Race/Masters State Championships

It was another Saturday of racing where no one knew exactly how to dress.  If you looked at the forecast online it showed the typical half sun, half cloud with 70% chance of rain.  Will it rain, will the temperature drop significantly when it does?  This was the Washington State Masters Road Race Championships and we didn't want to get caught off guard by anything. We all decided to dress for the extreme.  You can always strip gear off, right? 

It looked like it could rain at any minute but at the start the conditions were, well, OK.  Along with me, Aaron, Nikos, Mike, Kevin and Ed lined up for the Masters 1/2/3 40-49 race.  Other teams were also well represented and we knew we were going to be in for a tough race.  The course isn't that tough on paper.  There is one gradual climb  not long after the start and a short grinder about 3k from the finish.  Looking around we noticed that there were a slew of sprint specialist in the field and if any of them were still around for the finish sprint it could get ugly for us mere mortals.  Once again our plan was to get 1 or 2 guys off the front in a break.  I was going to keep my eye on Jeff Reed(Starbucks) and Aaron Shaw(HSP).  They are two that have been luck getting into successful breaks so far this year.  There were others to watch but I figured most of them would wait for something to happen and then try to jump on.

Not long after we were released by our lead car Jeff Reed took of and Todd Gallaher(Guinness) quickly joined him.  I was near the front and ready to go but decided to see how the rest of the pack was feeling.  No one else wanted to join the fun and I decided to just sit in near the front and see if anyone got nervous.  Jeff went into diesel mode and Todd decided to sit up. Soon enough Jeff was just a speck on the road in front of us.  A short while later I looked over at Aaron(HSP) and said, "You know we can't just continue to let him ride off the front like this, don't you?" 
Aaron smiled and said that there was over 60 miles to go in this one and he won't be able to hold it riding solo.  Did you see what he did at IVRR a couple of weeks ago?
Still, no one responded for a while but when we reached the short climb 3K from the start we started racing again.  After the descent the pace towards the finish line was super fast.  We were strung out single file.  Jeff had held his lead for over a lap but as we took the right hand turn after the finish we could see him up the road.  Everyone slowed up a bit, deciding to just let him dangle off the front for a while before reeling him in.  The only thing wrong with that is Jeff doesn't give up and as soon as we slowed he hit the gas and started to increase his gap again.  I hadn't really done any work so when we hit the climb I attacked hard just to see what would happen.  A few guys jumped on and even though we got a little gap it all came back at the bottom of the hill.  After that a small group of us started working pretty hard and after about a five minute effort Jeff was finally brought back.  It didn't looked like he was hurting at all and he was immediately able to slide right back near the front of the pack.  A few moments later Brad(HSP) took off and again, no one decided to go with him.  He too disappeared up the road. 

Brad held this for quite a while and I actually thought that if we didn't do something soon he might be able to pull it off.  We started the final lap and it was now or never if we didn't want Brad to solo in for the Gold.  Nikos, Doug(Audi) and Jeff(Starbucks), yes, Jeff, took off hard and got a gap.  I was surprised that no one from Bikesale or Olympia Ortho made a move to go with them.  We started up the first climb and Aaron(HSP) looked over at me and asked if I was OK with what was going on.  I told him if the three of them were able to bridge up and work with Brad then I was super comfortable with it.  I told him that if a group of strong guys responded hard to try to bridge we'd have to go with them.  Right as I finished my sentence Rich McClung jumped hard with a couple of guys in tow and Aaron and I quickly responded.  As we made the turn at the bottom of the hill I looked back and realized we had a gap on main pack.  It was kind of a cluster f*ck at first but Rich finally got us organized and we quickly increased our lead.  Soon enough we hauled in the three in front of us but Brad was still up the road a bit.  There were 11 of us and right away I noticed that that about four of the guys with us were just happy to be there and were doing zero work.  One of them was Aaron but we knew he was going to just tail gun until we caught Brad.  After we got our double pace line going I finally took stock at who was in our group.  I soon noticed that none of the big time sprinters made the break!  Now we not only had motivation to catch Brad but also to keep the main pack from catching us!

It wasn't long before we caught Brad.  He sat in the back and took a rest while about six or seven of us kept the rotation going.  We had no idea how big our gap was so we couldn't start playing games.  With about 10K to go we finally got word that we had well over a one minute gap and I knew the State Champion was going to come from this group.  I looked around and knew Rich(Broadmark) and Mike(Bikesale) would be my two biggest threats in an all out sprint and that Jeff, Aaron and Brad could make a move and possibly get off the front.  Now the small solo attacks started and they didn't stop.  We kept our eyes on HSP and Audi who along with us also had two in the break.  We were not going to let either of them go without Nikos or I jumping on.  Jeff(Starbucks) was still feeling good after all the big efforts he had put in and of course put in a couple of attacks himself.

 It was starting to get hard to respond to all the attacks but both Nikos and I were still feeling pretty good and when we finally got to the short climb that was 3K out Nikos jumped hard.  I sat up and waited for others to respond and as soon as they did I jumped on and took a free tow up the hill.  Near the top of the steep sections I saw that everyone was just lining up behind him so I decided to jump hard to force them to work a bit.  I wanted to see if we could drop a couple of guys and also really wanted to be one of the first to hit the steep, winding descent.  It had rained off and on during the whole race but seemed to be mostly dry now.  I wanted to be able to take it as fast as I could and keep the packs strung out before the last 1.5K.  I was the first to hit the finish stretch and I swung wide through the turn, forcing about four guys to go past me.  We ran straight into a pretty strong head wind and I was sitting in great position about four wheels back.  I looked back and saw that Mike(Bikesale) was right on my wheel and it was pretty much single file all the way back.  I was going to wait and pick my time to sprint.  I was feeling pretty confident. 

With about 450m to go Jeff Reed jumped from behind and as he came by he yelled, "Get on my wheel!" I normally would be more patient but based on how he'd been riding all day and how fast he went buy I decided to take a chance and jumped on.  We were flying!  I looked back and saw we had a gap......a small one but a gap none the less.  It felt good.  Jeff was going to give me a perfect lead out!  It seemed  too good to be true.  Jeff had gone so hard, so early that with about 300m to go he blew up and pulled to the right.  I had no choice but to just put my head down into the wind and hope for the best.  I went as hard as I could but I could tell I was not going to have the juice to do this for the full 300m.  I had to just hope everyone else was dying too but I knew they were lined up behind me just waiting to pounce.  At the 200m mark (which was probably at 250m) Mike(Bikesale) jumped hard and got a small gap.  Rich(Broadmark) came by next and I got on his wheel.  It was short live.  I couldn't hold it and as the finish line got closer and closer I just waited for the swarm to engulf me.  With about 50m to go I was still sitting 3rd but then one by one they came flying by and I couldn't do anything about it.  I ended up 7th and Nikos 11th. 

Jeff still managed to hang on for 9th and after the race he came up to apologize.  I told him there was nothing to apologize for.  That's just bike racing and we took a big chance and this time it didn't pay out.  It has for each of us before and will again.  He then said, "Yeah, I guess I didn't hold a gun to your head and force you to jump with me!"  Exactly!  We were a little disappointed but we both knew we left it all out there.   I was super happy for Mike.  He played it perfectly and deserved the win!  On to the next race.

2014 Tour of Walla Walla Stage Race

Actual conversation I had with someone from work when they found out I was taking Thursday and Friday off from work:

"Are you doing anything fun during your long weekend off?" 
"Yeah, I'm heading over for the Tour of Walla Walla!"  
"Oh, we've done that!  If you have the chance you have to make sure to hit  (Enter Winery Names here) while on your tour!" 
"Oh,  you checking out Whitman? No, wait.....did the law finally catch up with you...ha ,ha, ha?"
"No.......and No comment!"
"What, then what are you going to do over there?"
"Actually it's for a bike race.".........moment of silence......
"Oh, like STP?"
"Yeah, just like that."

Yeah there are a lot of great vineyards, a university and yes, a maximum security prison but to me and the community of local bike racers it is the location of one of the best stage races in Washington.  Four stages over three days on great courses against a lot of guys we don't usually get to race against makes the long drive worth it.

About half of us that were going decided to head over Thursday afternoon.  It gave us a chance to settle in to our house and enjoy an evening cruise around the TT course.  When we left Bellevue it was raining.  When we crossed over Snoqualmie pass it was raining.  When we reached the Tri-Cities, it was raining and yes, when we reached Walla Walla it was f'ing raining.  We looked at the forecast and it showed that the next three days were supposed to be nice.  None of us felt like getting soaked so....... What else is there to do around here?

When we got up Friday morning the weather was nice but the wind was blowing like crazy.  We got out on the TT course for a spin and even though it was super windy it only seemed really bad in a few sections.  It was supposed to be just as windy on Saturday so we knew what we'd be in for. 

Stage 1 is only for the Pro/1/2 field, Masters men and Cat 3's.  All other fields start off on Saturday morning with the TT.   I think it has rained during this stage at some point in each of the last few years but there was no chance of that today.  We talked strategy and even though we are all decent time trialers we knew that last year Todd Harriott destroyed everyone in the TT and put a minute on the 2nd fasted time.  He would be hard to drop in this race (he won Stage 1 last year in a five man break) but we had to give it a shot.  All of us had been riding well so our plan was to attack, attack, attack and then well, attack some more in hopes of getting rid of some of the TT specialist.   We found out from Alex that unfortunately Todd was not going to show due to personal reasons but, the Evolution team from Oregon was bringing up another strong team this year and we still had our work cut out for us.

Stage 1:  Waitsburg Road Race.
We had six strong guys lining up for the Masters race and were eager to get things going.  We were doing two laps on a mainly flat course that has a nice, steady 3K climb to the finish.  It's a tough stage in the fact that guys want to establish the pecking order before the TT.  We rolled to the line for our start and we were told that we pushing each start out 15 minutes.  Back to the RV for another quick piss.  We rolled back and were then told everything was being pushed back an hour and, the Pro/1/2 race was going to be shorted to the same length as ours.  WTF was going on?  After anxiously sitting around for another 45 minutes we were told Stage 1 was going to be cancelled.  Without going into details, here is the email we all received from the promoter:
I want everyone to know how bad I feel about today's stage cancellation.
WA State requires certified flaggers on State Highways, Friday's course requires 7  . Not following these rules puts any future event in jeopardy. Arrangements had been made well in advance,"the best laid plans" sometimes simply don't happen. Time was our enemy, a start later than 5 would have put you, the riders at risk, something I refuse to do. Again, I am sorry about today's cancellation but we still have 3 stages of great racing ahead of us.
Michael Austin-Race Director

I'm not really sure how this happened but after receiving the new it was cool to see about 250 guys hit the course for a hot lap before heading back to town!

With the stage being cancelled it was a whole new ball game.  Now it was just a typical two day/3 stage race and the TT specialist could put themselves in a happy place.

Stage 2....I mean 1 - Time Trial.

The course is 9 mile semi circle with a nice punchy climb about 3k in. Our start times seemed to be pushed up by about an hour to what they had been in past years.  My start was at 9:41.  The weather was pretty much perfect and for the first time I can remember there was basically zero wind.  I got a good warm up in and rolled to the start.  I didn't really have a plan except to go as fast as I could for as long as I could.  It took off and as soon as I took the turn out of the gate I had a nasty little coughing attack.  My allergies had been acting up since we arrived in town and I'd been hacking up shit most of the previous day but felt fine at the start.  It really put my breathing out of whack and I was worried I wasn't going to be able to finish the race.  This went on until around the time we take the right hand turn that leads to the climb.   I coughed a big ass ball of phlegm out and then it stopped.  I tried to get into a rhythm and remembered what I was here to do.  The rest of the race seemed to go OK but I never really got into a really good rhythm.  I shifted gears a lot more than I usually do on the back side of the course and was kind of bummed when I crossed the line.  I ended up with a time that was about twenty seconds faster than last year and it was only good enough for 11th place, 1:13 back.  Alex was in 10th and Nikos 14th and Tom 18th.  Oh well, on to the crit.  Kevin and Neil were a little further back.

Oh, and on a side note, this was the first time in a bike race that I've been busted for cheating.  I guess during the final 10 second verbal countdown I must have took of a fraction early and was docked two seconds.  That two seconds dropped me down a spot to 12th. 

Stage 3 - Downtown Criterium:
I love this crit.  It is fast, exciting and usually a lot of people line the streets to watch.  Alex was sitting 10th, I was 12th and Nikos 13th, all of us just over one minute down.  Since we weren't sitting high on the GC we just wanted to have a good showing.  We'd attack, go for primes, try to possibly get someone off the front and if not, get someone lined up for the sprint at the end.  I was chosen to be that guy.  The race went well and we took a bunch of primes but with four laps to go we were all together.  A couple of attempts were still made to get guys off the front but I could tell we were in for a mass sprint to the finish.  With two to go Tom drove hard to the front and really got the pack strung out.  I was sitting about 6th wheel and kept my eyes on Brian(Fischer) and Rob(Audi).  Tom dropped off and Nikos took over and as we came up to the last two turns things were looking good.  We rounded the 2nd to last corner and we were flying.  I was right were I wanted to be and but just before the final turn a guy who had been going hard like he was either going to lead someone out or go for the win just sat up.  To avoid braking I moved slightly to my left (not where I wanted to be) and readjusted.  The only problem was a crosswalk that had a section where the curb jetted out into the course.  I had to immediately squeeze back in right next to the guy that sat up.  I was slowed up for just a split second but I lost Bryan's wheel.  Although I had a good sprint I could only manage 6th place.  I was happy with that.  But there's more.  Apparently there was a major issue with the finish camera and they worked hard to sort out who the top five were and then just gave everyone that wasn't gapped 6th place with the same time.  It's a stage race and time is the key but it just felt like the whole weekend might just fall apart.  So, me and about 40 guys were listed with 6th as our finish.

Stage 4:  Kellogg Hollow Road Race:
This one can be super brutal.  Three years ago I finished 4th.  Two years ago I was dumped on the last climb and last year I finished 2nd.  If you are not at the top of your game there are a lot of factors that can kill you in this race.  The climbs, the weather, the wind, oh, and the competition!  Anyway, all our guys were feeling good we knew Evolution would really work hard to control the race and not let anyone get too far up the road.  We figured we could at least make it a hard race and attack as much as we could.  Soon enough Kevin got up the road with three others, two of them being from Evolution.  None were high up in the GC so the pack let them go.

Things slowed down and by the time we reached the first climb it had gotten pretty boring.  About 1/3 the way up I decided to attack hard.  John(Evolution), who was leading the GC quickly got on my wheel along with a few others.  I knew he wouldn't do any work but I was surprised non of the others did.  I decided to just push on.  We were closing on the break fast but I was only willing to do a certain amount of work.  Just about the time I was thinking of sitting up Rick(Fischer) came flying by and took the lead.  Here we go!  By the time we finished descending we were all back to one big happy group.  I finally had a chance to catch my breath and took a quick look back.  Our field was not as big as it was 10 minutes ago!  After that there were a lot of small attacks but nothing unmanageable.  When we reached the first climb on the last lap it was Nikos' turn to initiate some pain.  He took off hard and really strung out the pack.  Once again by the time we hit the flat section the pack was a little smaller. 

By the time we crested the final climb we were down to about 25 guys.  It was time to think about the finish.  With about 4K to go Tom came up beside me and told me to follow him to the front.  We had four guys up front and with about 2K to go Alex attacked.  He got a small gap before the group responded.  This was awesome as the pack really got strung out.  When they brought him back he waited a second and then went hard again.  This really gave me a chance to pick where I wanted to be for the finish.  I looked around and saw Rick and Warren (Fischer) getting ready to hit the gas help get Bryan to the line.  I hooked onto Bryan's wheel and at the 200m mark (which was way longer than 200M) he took off.  I was locked on his wheel and with about 40 to go I swung hard left and made my move.  It was almost perfect.......almost.  I passed him right as we crossed the line.  I jumped a fraction too late but was totally happy with 2nd place and the effort my team put in to put me in position to win. 

I think our overall results would have been better if we would have raced stage 1 but it was still a super fun weekend of racing.

Tour de Bloom (Crit)

We had made camping reservations a long time ago in Wenatchee for this race.  A few weeks back I decided I needed a break and planned on skipping out on the Omnium.  A few days before my wife bought a brand new SUP board and saw that the weather in the Seattle area was going to suck starting on Saturday.  Wenatchee was looking good so since we still had the reservation we decided to head over.  Since I wasn't planning on racing I decided that I would only do the crit and just hang out and enjoy the weather the rest of the weekend.  My start time wasn't until 7:00pm on Saturday so that would give us plenty of time to hang out.  I'll spare you the boring details of our day and skip right to the race.

I knew the field was going to be small and normally I might opt to just wait and jump into the Pro/1/2 field but their start wasn't until almost 9:00pm and I wanted to be well into food and beer by then.  Minus a little wind the weather was perfect but as I warmed up I wasn't too excited.  I told myself that if the field was too small I'd just pack it in and head to the bar......Easier said than done.  Once you've kitted up, warmed up and rolled to the line it's hard to shut your game face down and just call it quits. so........

They had a pretty cool atmosphere going on around the course with loud speakers everywhere and several beer gardens.  We took off and right away the pace was really high.  After about three laps I took a look back and noticed there were already only five of us left.  I looked at who was still there and all of them were strong.  It was going to be a tough 40 minutes of racing.  Along with me were Martin(Este), Greg(Cycle-U/Apex), Warren(Fischer) and Jeff(Oly Ortho).  Jeff had already told me he was just glad to have made the break.  I knew Greg and Martin would want to try to take solo flyers off the front and Warren was going to be my stiffest competition if it came down to a field sprint. 

The primes were all for Omium points and since I wasn't doing all three races I told everyone I'd back off on those laps.  We got in a good rhythm and all took turns at the front.  On every lap someone always tried to attack on the short climb to see if they could get away.  I could tell when we were about half way through the race that no one was going to get dropped from this group. 

When the officials turned off the clock and started counting down laps we saw the rest of the guys up in front of us.  We were going to lap them before it was over.  I started to think about the finish and decided that with about three to go I was going to try to slot into 3rd or 4th wheel and camp out there.   Then, with one to go I made a plan to attack as hard as I could about halfway between turns two and three.  Hopefully I was the only one with that plan.  We started the final lap and right after we crested the climb and pushed through corner two I slowly started to shift up.  BAM!  I swung hard to the right and went as hard as I could.  Just before I reached corner three I took a quick look under my shoulder and saw I had a small gap.  I took a really aggressive turn through corner three and had a great line.  I shot out of corner four in my 23X11 and kicked as hard as I could.  I was all in and just prayed no one was on my wheel.  With about 50m to go I knew I had it but still went full boar to the line.  Thank God I did.  If the line was a few meters further Warren may have been able to pip me at the line.  

Monday, May 12, 2014

2014 Ravensdale Road Race

Even though I'm a crusty old man and mostly line up  in the Masters field I always race category for several races throughout the WSBA calendar.  Ravensdale is one of them.  This was the first race I ever did as a newly scared shitless Cat 2 and I always race category for this one no matter what.   Mike was the only other teammate lining up with me for this one.  Pre-reg for this one was pretty small so I wasn't sure who would be showing up from other teams. Once again I thought the weather was going to be somewhat nice for this one but it rained pretty hard on the drive over and although it wasn't when I got to the venue we all sat around wondering how we were going to dress.  Again my choice was to prepare for the worst.  As we lined up I saw that we had a good sized field with a lot of strong teams and several local pros.  Let the games begin.  Wait, hold that thought.....

As we lined up Rory and our chief official gave us the normal pre race speeches and we were set to go.  Then Rory got word that something was blocking the road and we needed to delay the start for 10 minutes.  Time to take another quick bathroom break.  I got back and we heard that there was crash near the finish line and an emergency vehicle was on site. We didn't know if it was still from an earlier race or some rec riders.  We were told we would be about another 20 minutes so a bunch of us took a little spin up the road.  When we lined up again Rory told us that because of permits and such they were going to have to cut a lap out of our race.  So now were only racing six laps for a total of 50 something miles.  I wasn't happy about that.  This course isn't that tough and the shorter mileage could keep more guys in the mix. Oh well, that how it goes sometimes.

We only rolled neutral for a few hundred meters before being sent off.  Right away about four or five guys jumped.  Here we go.  The start is about 5K from the finish so we actually take the one hill on seven times.  I had been riding well and felt I should be in this break too but when we lined up for the 2nd time I was sitting pretty far back in the pack and with the narrow road I had no way of moving up to make a move.  When we reached the climb we got spread out a bit and I took off hard up the hill.  Jeff(Starbucks) and I got a small gap on the field and closed in on the break.  At the top of the climb I soon realized that with the 40 minute delay, no warm up and now bad timing with pre race nutrition my legs slapped me in the face.  The rest of the pack quickly closed the gap and as we came through the finish line telling us we had six laps to go I was having trouble just hanging on to the back of the pack.  I looked back and there were only a few guys behind me.  I tried to move up but couldn't.  Shit!  I might get dropped on the first lap!  It was weird. I tried to stay calm and not get frustrated.  I didn't try to move up and just tried to ride this shit out.  When we neared the climb at the end of the first lap I pretty much prayed that I could just somehow manage to hang on.  To my surprise my legs had finally warmed up and I was able to climb up with no issues near the front of the pack. 

As we crossed the finish line with five to go I noticed there was no lead car in front of us.  I was so busy just trying to recover and hang on that I had no idea someone had jumped off the front.  How many, who were they?  I was told that Will Teal(HSP), Eric Cockrell(HSP) and Steve Wilssens(Audi) were up the road.  I actually didn't really care at that point.  I was still trying to get my head back in the race and wasn't about to help work to chase them down. 

After finishing lap two I was feeling really good and started to move towards the front of the pack.  The break away group had over a minute on us and even though we were moving at a good clip we were not cutting into their gap.  Besides HSP, KR had the biggest team out there and I was wondering if/when they might move to the front and start working together to pull this thing back.  I think it was sometime during lap four when they did start to organize.  I watched them work for a while and then decided I wasn't just going to sit in all day and watch the race happen.  Jeff Reed(Starbucks) and I, along with a few from Bikesale, Olympia Ortho and TAR jumped in to help.  I think we had a 16 man double pace line going with HSP and Audi tail gunning on the back in.  Pretty soon we started to slowly cut into the gap.  I wasn't yet sure if we would actually bring them back but at least I was helping in the cause. 

During all this the weather was about as schizo as it gets.  It would rain on the back side and then the sun would show itself near the finish.  Since I was dressed for it I was actually hoping it would just start pouring......Not really. 

This all kept up for a couple of lap.  As we near the end of lap four we started up the hill again.  I was near the front and for some reason a few guys started acting jumpy.  I wasn't sure what was going on.  We crested the hill and with about 1K to the finish guys stopped pulling through.  I was on the front and no one came around me.  I let this go for a few seconds before looking back an sitting up.  One of the Oly guys yelled for everyone to keep working.  I moved to the back of the pace line and jumped back in.  Still, several guys were looking around and while not pulling through they were also not getting out of line.  All of a sudden with 200m to go Mike(Bikesale) and one other guy jumped hard.  What were they doing?  I decided that they were going to try to bridge up so I and one other took off after them.  Mike was going full tilt and I couldn't figure out why.  I wasn't going to go that hard to close on him so I looked back and then sat up.  He and the other guy crossed the line and he pumped his fist.  WTF!!!  It turned out he thought we were on the final lap and was going for the sprint for the finish.  When he heard the bell ring for the final lap he just sat up and pulled to the side.  I felt bad for him and hoped he would be able to jump back in.  Several guys came flying by laughing.  I guess in the confusion of shortening our race some guys weren't completely clear on how many laps we were doing.  Watch the lap board!

I moved back into the rotation and when I looked up I saw that the three in the break were taking turn one not far in front of us.  We were going to catch them.  A few guys dropped out of the rotation but I decided to stay in thinking that it would be the easiest way to stay near the front if someone attacked or if things slowed down.  These roads are super narrow and if things got bunched up before the climb there might not be room to move up.   At this point there were about eight of us still in the rotation and I could tell that the three off the front were starting to lose it.  Things were about to get real. 

As we made our way down the fast section towards the sharp right hander that let to the climb HSP finally stopped tail gunning and moved to the front.  It's no secret what they were doing.  I simply looked for Richter's wheel and marked him.  We reached the hill and it started to get crazy.  We flew up and once we crested the steep section I took a look back.  A lot of guys had already sat up.  I was right on Dave's wheel with Benny(Cal Giant) and Jeff(Audi) both competing with me for it.  With 1K it didn't seem like we were going that fast but HSP was doing their job keeping things strung out.  Carson(Jamis/HB) had jumped hard off the front and were trying to get away.  Even though I felt good I resisted the temptation to go.  I just sat behind Dave.  With about 275m or so to go a couple of guys moved out and kind of started to go.  "Don't do it Sean!"   I figured Dave would wait another few......Jesus!!  He shot off earlier than I thought and caught me slightly off guard.  I was in the gear I wanted to be in and started my sprint.  Benny was over on my right and Nick(KR) on my left.  I decided to ease up and get on Nick's wheel.  I knew I wouldn't catch Richter but anything else was possible......even getting completely swallowed up by the pack.  I didn't look back and just went as hard as I could.   I was getting ready to swing left around Nick when he got caught in between gears and lunged forward.  The rear end of his bike started to come out from under him and I though he was going down.  If he did there was no way for me to miss him.  I had to move out further to my left just to make sure.  He recovered nicely and kept going.  I'd slowed up just slightly and now really thought everyone would blow by me.  I saw Ryan Short to my right move up next to me and just waited for more.  Where is the f'ing finish line.  All of a sudden we were there and no on else came.  Shit.  This old man just sprinted for 5th place and a podium spot!  I'll take it.  I was pretty stoked to have mixed it up with the super fast Richter and these young bucks.  What started out to be a day when I thought I might not finish turned into a super great race for me.  Meanwhile my teammate Dave took the win in the Master's field with Nikos taking third.