If there was ever a time to use that opening line it was for this race. It wasn't that it was the storm of the century or anything like that but it was pretty nasty and it wasn't supposed to end anytime soon. We would be racing in this *$%# down at Pacific Raceways on a brand new course.
When I got up this morning, as expected, the weather was still as nasty as ever. Most people probably looked out the window and then grabbed the Sunday paper to check the start time for the Hawks game and got ready for a Sunday of couch potato heaven...,..Not me and the ton of other cx racers who made the trek to Auburn. Our heaven called for cold temperatures, gusty winds, torrential downpours and yes, lots of mud.
I rose early to head down to Pacific Raceways to check out this new, secret course. I don't think anyone had a clue what to really expect. Not only was it a regular race on the MFG schedule but also the "Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships", which would surely bring out the craziest of the crazies from around the PNW. With the combination of the organizer's imagination and the elements it was sure to be an epic day no matter what the course looked like. When Denise and I arrived it was still raining a Texas-style rain and there were already a ton of people filling the parking lot. I quickly checked in and headed out to a look at the course. The first thing I noticed was a large wooden fly-over that had been erected right in the middle of the infield. This would be a new obstacle for me to negotiate! We not only were riding over it but also under it. As I navigated my way though the beginning of the course I started to notice that they had not yet finished setting up. I came up to a dead end and couldn't figure out where to go. I decided to turn around and check out the fly-over. It was pretty steep with a short, flat top. It was easy to get over at speed but I could tell that if you approached it in traffic or behind someone that had a mishap there could be issues. Walking up it was not easy. Once over, I hit another roped off area and again, couldn't figure out where to go. I rode the same short section again and then decided I needed to get out of my warm up gear and get ready to race. It was still raining really hard and quite chilly. I didn't feel like getting wet, muddy and cold before the race so I decided not to warm up on the course and stayed in the warm car as long as I could. I was worried I might not get in a good warm up but it was hard to want to escape the 80 degrees of my SUV.
Since I get a call up I wasn't in a hurry to get to the start line. I headed to the staging area at what I thought was the last second but the course was not quite finished so our start was delayed. It was just enough time for me to start to get cold. After about ten minutes of standing around waiting we were ready to go.
My field was the 2nd wave to go in the first race. I watched as the first field went off down the paved straight away and into a hairpin that transitioned to the muddy infield. They were all bunched up and had to squeeze in to go under the fly-over. It caused a huge bottleneck. Only the front guys were able to maintain their speed. I looked over at Brian (Stanley) and told him we needed to really bust it to make sure we didn't get in the same situation.
A minute later we were racing and Brian and I did get to the turn first and were able to get though easily. From there we wound our way through the extremely muddy infield which quickly brought us to the only run up of the day. It was short and it quickly u-turned right back down. When we got there we had already caught the slower racers from the first field. I was right on Brian's wheel but as we were running past the slower riders someones handle bars got caught in my front wheel. He didn't know what was going on and kept trying to pull his bike up the hill. I couldn't get separated and started yelling at him to stop. Once he did we were able to disconnect and get moving. It took only a few seconds but it was enough for Brian to get a little gap on me. Since we were already in traffic I couldn't afford to let him get by too many other guys. I hit the gas and started to pick my way though slower riders. The going was tough in the mud but I was feeling pretty comfortable and was having no problems. We finally came to the fly-over and I had no issues with it. By the time we reached the last 1/4 of the course I was back on his wheel. We hit the BMX part of the course that was a series of "whoops" that were a kick to fly through. It was about that time that I realized that there were no barriers on the course....interesting. It was a long course and I figured we wouldn't do more than three laps but you never know until they start flashing the lap board at you. I didn't notice it as we started lap 2 and soon wasn't really sure what lap we were on. Things were going well but I could tell that Brian was in a groove and it was going to take a solid ride with no mistakes to beat him. This time after the run we took a few more turn and WHAT......BARRIERS??? Did they alter our course while we were racing??? It turned out it might have slipped their minds with all the work they had going on and they had to run over during our race to place them. A little excitement never hurt anyone! As I passed the pits Ed told me Brian had about a 5 second gap. I was still in striking distance. I glanced back to see if anyone was on my wheel but it was hard to tell since we had passed so many from the first field. Luckily Barry(First Rate) was in his blue and bright red kit and could see him back there. He would be ready to pounce if I made a mistake. After a few more turns I all of a sudden found myself right on Brian's wheel. He looked back and told me he had dropped his chain. A little luck never hurts. Things were going really well and I was keeping pace with Brian. Barry was still lurking not far behind us. We came up to a tight, left hand turn and was slightly off camber. Brian had just picked his way though a hand full of riders and in my haste to do the same I came into the turn way too hot and flew right into the ropes. I had to dismount to untangle myself and Barry was right there. I quickly jumped back on and put it in overdrive. I think Barry spun out right after that because I was able to get a small gap on him right away. I was in the red again and figured unless Brian made a big mistake the race for me would be for 2nd. His gap had grown to about 10 seconds so it wasn't impossible but would now be more diffecult . I went by the pits and Ed told me I was closing and to put the hammer down. He was within reach and I thought that if I could get on his wheel before the sprint finish on the pavement I might have a chance. We got to the fly over for the last time and I was about six bike lengths or so back. There were two slower racers between us when he hit it. All of a sudden one of them decided at the last second to dismount and run over it. She was walking up the right side with her bike on her left, almost in middle of the platform. The guy behind her went left to pass her. I was going way faster than he was and I had no place to go. I had to slow up and time it so I would hit the base just as he was on top. I was a little nervous because I was going to hit it full speed and if either of them faltered at all I would have no place to go. I was just able to squeak by. This really cost me some time. I hit the gas on the other side and threw caution to the wind. I was making some risky moves to get by slower riders. I was starting to come up on him again but ran out of course. Brian rode a solid race to take the victory. I looked back and realized Barry wasn't going to catch me and I sat up and coasted across the line for 2nd. It was a great course and a lot of fun to race. Time to wash off the 100 pounds of mud I took from the course and go watch the rest of the day's festivities.
all photos by Denise Phillips