I thought I would have been a little more cooked from doing the Ice Breaker TT on Saturday but I woke up Sunday morning feeling pretty good. I was more nervous than usual before a race and I knew why. It was the first road race of the season for most area riders. Because of that and the nice weather I figured the fields would be big. Guys would be jumpy and mistakes could be made. Our race didn't start until 1:05 and all weather reports I saw showed rain moving into the Shelton area by noon. I'm scheduled fly out of town for a work/vacation trip a few days after the race and a bad crash would not fit well into those plans. I sometimes wish that the Mason series was after a few races that incorporated hills where the fields could get spread out more and guys could ease back into the racing scene. Mason is flat and fast and big bunch finishes can be a recipe for disaster this early in the season.
With all that in mind I was on the road with Wes by 10:00am. We were hoping to get to the lot to see the finish of the CAT 4 race. We had a really strong group in that field. We ended up missing it but soon found out that Jordan took 3rd, Mark M. took 4th and six guys SCCA guys finished in the top 25!!
The skies looked like rain but it was holding off. It was a little chilly but not too bad. The wind was really starting to pick up so I knew that would be a factor. We rolled out right at 1:05 with a field of 65. We were doing six, 12 mile laps for a total of 60 miles. Right after we ended the neutral roll out guys started to attack. They weren't big but enough to get the pace up and string out the pack. Garage seemed to be the most represented team and I was looking to see what they would do. After a handful of unsuccessfully break attempts, a break with about six guys finally got away. Garage and Thumbprint had guys in the break so those teams were doing their best to control the race and make the break successful. I think the gap got to be over a minute. Wes and I were just trying to stay up front so we wouldn't miss out on any other moves.
As we got within 1k from the finish on the 4th lap I was sitting first wheel. We hit the little downhill section and I decided I would try to bridge. I took off and only one guy from HB came with me. We started the 5th lap doing about 35 mph and quickly got a gap on the main field. I was really surprised no one else came with us. We checked with each other to make sure we were fully committed and started working together well. We got the gap down to about 8 seconds and then we made the turn into the backstretch and BAM - head wind. We could almost touch them but with only two of us we couldn't get any closer. I looked back and the main field was still about 30 seconds back so we kept pushing. We burned a lot of matches in that effort. We finally gave up and waited for the pack to catch us. We had done our job. After we settled back in, the lead group was caught a few minutes later. I soon found myself sitting about 40th wheel and thought I was done for the day. I started to realize that I was still feeling really good but we were close to the start of the final lap and everyone was trying to get up front and there was no place for me to go. I didn't want to be "That Guy" and force the issue. So, I was hoping I could find a way to move up, but if not I would just try to blow by a bunch of guys in the sprint and at least get a top 20. It was now starting to drizzle. "Please hold off until we are done!" I was thinking. With about 10K to go I still was not able to move up. All of a sudden a guy that had been in the break decided to drop back into the pack and when he did guys got out of his way. There was a small space being created and I was in the right place at the right time. I shot through and next thing you know I was sitting 5th wheel. I was not going to give this up! With about 3k or 4k to go, Garage had six or so guys up front and they sent a guy off. I was now sitting first wheel right on the yellow line and everyone else around me was from Garage. They really slowed the pace down and their guy quickly got a nice little gap. I knew if I went they would gobble me up and I would lose my spot. I looked over at Morgan and told him I was willing to help them out and let their guy go. I was riding face first in the wind but I was feeling good. With 2k to go I figured their guy had the win and I was in great position to contest for the field sprint. No one was getting by us. I was not giving up my spot. Then a guy on the right took a chance and shot up the shoulder (if you want to call it a shoulder) and managed to sneak by. Game on!! The pace went from about 17mph to 30
mph in a matter seconds. As the pack started to string out I was willing to stay in the wind and not give up my spot. I was now about 10th wheel but that was perfect. We hit the 1k mark, caught the lead guy and things started to get sketchy. Guys were trying to create space that wasn't there and one guy in particular that was just in front of me was making me really nervous. I yelled at him to settle down. He was moving in and out of his lane, trying to get though but there was nowhere to go. At about the 400m mark he made violent move to his right and I started seeing guys go down right beside me. It seemed like it was happening in slow motion. Luckily I was on the yellow and I swerved to the left and just missed a riderless bike flying by me. It slowed me down but I was able to get back on track. The sound was horrifying. I knew a lot of guys were going down but I didn't want to look back. We got to about the 300m mark and I finally gave a quck look over my shoulder. Holy Sh!t!!, there were only about 12 of us. Did that many guys go down? We hit the 200m sign and it was a mad sprint to the finish. We were spread out across the whole road and crossed the line almost all together. I had no idea what place I finished. I ended up 5th and was extremely happy. It turned out that the crash took out about half the field. I was so lucky to have avoided it. I would have never thought I'd see a crash situation like that in a CAT 3 field but like I said, it was the first race, it's flat and that is a recipe for disaster. Wes got mixed up in the crash...again...but for the second road race in a row didn't go down. I was so happy to see him and my old teammate Dave come across the line in one piece. I hope everyone involved is OK.
After getting 8th in the TT on Saturday I was ready for a big ass burger and some beers! It was a good weekend for me and my team.