Back from vacation for only two days I was almost in a panic as I tried to get ready for this race up in Bellingham. Right before we got home I found a crack on the top tub of my Velo Vie carbon frame. I have no idea how it happened. I decided to take it for a spin and it felt fine and I was going to race on it one more time before dealing with the headache of getting it replaced. I later had 2nd thoughts and brought it down to Veloce Velo to have someone actually tell me not to ride it, they did. OK, time to get my training bike race ready. I put on a new chain and a different cassette on my Zipp 404's and got cleaned up the bike. I took it for a spin and it felt good. Just as I got back in the garage the rear tubular went flat.....Crap!....Les then 24 hours till race time and I wasn't going to glue a new one on. I put some sealant in the tube and it seemed to hold well. I took it for another spin and as I was looking at the wheel I noticed that it was horribly out of true....Crap!.....I through it on my truing stand and went to work. It was getting late and I still had a ton of stuff to do. I finally realized that I something was telling me that I shouldn't be riding my carbon tubulars for this race. Now I had to grab my Fulcrum Racing Zero's, put new tubes and tires on them, swap out the cassette, change out the brake pads and get some sleep. I'm not comfortable racing on this bike but what else can you do.
Our race was at 12:50 and as per the last couple of races it was going to be hot and windy. It was a nice course near Lake Whatcom that we would do six laps on for a total of 52 miles. I have never ridden this course before but the profile called for some rollers with a 200m uphill finish.
We rolled out with about 40 or so racers and the first lap was fairly easy except for the fact that these "rollers" seemed to be more significant as climbs and we were doing about 600+ feet of climbing per lap which gave us over 3500 ft. for the race. Normally that would be no issue for me but after just completing the Death Ride my legs were still not completely recovered. We hit the second lap and at the first long hill a couple of guys took off so it was time to test the legs. They were a little stiff but I was still able to up the tempo and pull them back. After this the break attempts were going to come often and at every point on the course. We hit the 2nd climb, which is more long and gradual but the wind was really a factor. A couple guys went again and got a small gap. No one went to pull them in but at the top there was a long downhill back to the start and we were easily able to bring them back.
The third lap is where I think I made my tactical mistake. We hit the climb and I took off with out looking back. I hammered as hard as I could and when I got about 2/3 the way up I looked back and only one guy was close. I waited for him and we decided to give it a try. We hit a false flat and then up again. He looked at me and said he couldn't go so I took off. I soon realized that I couldn't do it by myself and sat up. At least I put a big hurt on the pack as I saw a ton of guys falling off fast. As the group caught me two guys that new the pack was hurting took off. I was hoping that someone else would jump to catch them but no one went. They sat on my wheel and waited for me to do something. I wasn't ready for another big effort yet so I just sat there. We hit the short down hill and at the one sharp corner on the race where we, as a group had to slow the guys off the front were able to fly through the turn and got a bigger lead. Still, no one went. We hit the long uphill again and I decided I had to go try to get them. One guy came with me and we took turns pulling and were starting to gain ground. Two others finally made the gap and I thought we had a good chance. We hit the steep part of the hill and it was the first time this year where I found I didn't have the legs. The three of them shot out in front of me and hooked on with the other two. As we kept climbing soon seven or so other guys inched passed me. Crap, I'm going to get dropped. Somehow I dug deep enough to hook onto the back of the group and was able to recover on the downhill. I don't know where Denise was watching but I'm sure she was surprised not to see me on the front. We flew by the start and I could tell the 4/5 field, like ours was really starting to explode. We were passing riders left and right. We hit the climb and I was just hoping to be able to sit on the back and do no work. Well, it was work for me to just sit on the back. I haven't been in this situation all year so it was a challenge to be resolved to not be in the mix for the finish. Anyway, I was able to hang on and hoped I would recover and as a pack we would pull the chase group back. Just as I thought it could be possible we were approached by the officials car and she told us that she had to neutralize us. We argued with here saying we were chasing and closing and she actually threatened to disqualify some guys if they didn't shut up and pull back. We slowed to a snails pace and I finally looked back to see what was happening. There were only two guys coming. I thought it was a full field. We argued more. It took them forever to catch us. They finally went by but we were on the hill and we still had to ride slow until they were a good distance from us. Now I knew we were racing for 6th. This sucked. I think we all were resolved to do the last two laps basically as a club ride. There was only 12 of us left, everyone else had either quit or was so far back that they would never catch us. The next two laps were uneventful until we reached the final climb on the last lap. A couple of guys went and I really struggled to to hang on. A couple of guys fell off and I really didn't want to get dropped. I managed to hang on and we hit the downhill before the sharp turn towards the finish. We flew around the corner and this time instead of taking the left hand curve we go straight up for the last 200 meters. We hit the mark and there were only seven of us there. Could I at least get 6th? Hell no. I got out of the saddle ready for the sprint and my legs didn't go. I watched the other six fly ahead of me. I looked back to make sure no one else was coming and I coasted through the finish for 14th place. It definitely bummed as it was my first sub top ten finish in a long time but I guess everyone has a bad day. I was happy to finish with the main chase pack as most others did not. I collected my two Omnium points and went home. Maybe I'll blame this one on the bike. :)