I've been looking forward to this race for a week or so now, not because of the race itself but because of the issues with registration and finish results during the first two MFG Series races. I'm sure I wont' be the first to say how frustrating it has been. Registration lines have been huge and even though I've arrived at the venues really early I was left with about 1/2 hour to get ready and warm up. I won the first race and they initially had me listed finishing 12th and last week I finished 3rd and I was listed at 25th and the winner was listed as 29th. Last week's results still haven't been fixed. I will start off by saying that yesterday's SCX race ran extremely smooth from start to finish. I'm sure that MFG will get their issues fixed but it sure was nice seeing how things go when everything clicks. Anywho....on to the race.
It was POURING down rain when I got up Sunday morning but at least it was warm. I did arrive early in case there were issues but since there weren't I had plenty of time to warm up. There usually are two to four fields in each race. This would be the first time that I was in the field that started first. Until now I have been in the third field and my whole race consisted of moving through slower riders in other fields. It would be a whole new experience racing with open road. Our race was the second of the day and with the rain, the first race would surely leave us with a nice, muddy course. We went off at 10:15 with a field of 50. I was able to get lined up in the first row, which was nice. The course started on a dirt track and we used about 3/4 of it for our run out. I was surprised that only a few guys were really going for the Whole Shot. Chad from Franatic got out front and I settled in right behind him. When we left the track I looked back and couldn't believe we already had a small gap. Brian from Stanley got caught in some traffic and was not with us. As long as we had a gap I was content to sit behind Chad and wait for him to make a mistake. A bunch of guys did get close when we hit the grass but but when we hit the long, sandy run up Chad and I got our lead back. The next section was pretty tricky. It consisted of a mostly downhill section with several tight, off camber turns. It was nice to have open road for once and Chad and I got through it with out incident. We made it to the bottom and when I had a chance to look back I saw that Brian was working his way through the crowd to try to make contact with us. We wound through the grass and hit the only other climb on the course. It was short but came right after a tight, right turn. During warm up people couldn't make it all the way up and I had to dismount. Both Chad and I flew up it with no issues. The rest of the course is on grass and the organizers made sure it wasn't a walk in the park. Every turn had some element of risk and with the rainy, muddy conditions we had to be careful on every one of them. Right at the end of the lap was where our barriers were. They were on a slight uphill after a left turn. You were going slow so all you had to do was get through them clean. We came off, went though the start/finish and back on to the track. I think a lot people used the flat track section as a place to recover. Chad and I powered through it and watched our lead increase. Brian was closing but I knew he was burning some matches doing so. We hit the climb for the second time and I was feeling good. I could have moved past Chad but just stayed right on him. We got though the rest of the lap without issue. When we got to the track for the start of lap three we still had a small gap on Brian and I could now tell that unless something catastrophic happened this was a three man race. The rest of the lap was the same. On the next lap Chad was still riding error free and strong. Brian was still inching ever so closer to us. I was starting to think about what I should do. Should I attack Chad now? Should I just sit and wait for him to make a mistake? I decided to stay put and if Brian got any closer I would make my move. We were now starting to lap some of the slower riders form the fields that started behind us. This would make things more interesting. Every time Chad got around someone I had to make sure I did the same. It wasn't easy. The slow traffic was good for Brian. I think he moved up on us a bit. I decided that if Brian got around one more person I would attack. Just then, Chad made his only mistake of the day and went down hard on a dicey corner. He had been riding so solid that it completely caught me off guard and I barely avoided missing him. I got around him and it was game on. Time to put the hammer down and see what happens!! I wanted to go hard but also didn't want to take too many unnecessary risk. Then, a few moments later I made my big mistake. I came into a turn too hot and completely over shot it. I went thought the course tape. I was wrapped up in it and thought I was going to have to get off my bike to untangle myself. With just over one lap to go that would be costly. I turned back onto the course and tried to shed the tape. NO GO. Just when I was getting ready to dismount I tried one more time to push it away from my chest. It somehow caught my front wheel, rolled completely under my bike and I was free and clear. There should have been no way out of it. A little luck never hurts. The little lead I had built on Chad and Brian was gone. We had one lap to go and it was up for grab. I really hit the gas hard on the track and tried to get though as many slower riders as I could. Both of them kept pace. We hit the climb and this time I took it as hard as I could. It was really hard but when I got to the top I had a tiny gap. Now all I had to to was ride smart. Easier said then done. If I didn't make a mistake I could take this thing. I came though the tricky downhill section. This time it was tough. There were slow, tired racers everywhere and getting though them was brutal. I was yelling at the top of my lungs, "Race Leaders, On your left!!" Most moved to the right fast and got out of my way but some veered left and I almost took out a few. Right before the short climb I got stuck behind a jr. I yelled that I was coming though but he didn't move. We hit the climb and he didn't make it up and had to dismount. I thought I was toast but I was just able to squeak by. I still had my small gap. I got my composure back and kept driving. As we got near the finish there was a large group of woman and I couldn't get around them smoothly. Chad and Brian were closing. Crap!! "Stay calm!" I was able to get by most of them right before the last turn to the finish. I had it!! I threw my hands in air and coasted across the line, muddy and happy. Both Chad and Brian made the race tough and either one of them could have taken it. I found out later that Brian was having an issue with his achilles and the run up was killing him. He is one tough customer.
All photos by Denise Phillips - Veloshots