I'm so glad the "Rapture" was delayed! The day had been marked on my calender for months. My plan was to get rid of all my prized possessions, quit my job and just hang out and wait to see if I made it through the pearly gates. I'm somewhat of a procrastinator so as the date neared I kept finding reasons to put off dealing with this. It was one thing after another..... "I really don't want to miss the bike race coming up next weekend. I'll just race this last one and then everything goes, bikes and all!" Or, "There's a new microbrewery opening up in Oregon and I'll need my car to drive down!" It was one thing after another. The next thing I knew there were only a few weeks left. Time to get serious. Crap!, the Giro and AToC were starting and I didn't want to miss any of the stages. I can't get rid of my TV and cable just yet. Well, this is a problem. The Giro runs a week past the scheduled date so I'll just watch the stage Saturday morning and then.....WAIT, the Enumclaw Stage Race was on the day of the "Rapture". I got online and found that the world wasn't supposed to end until 6:00pm on Saturday. Hey, I could still do the Stage 1 Time Trial!! I quickly got online to check Saturday's forecast. I was sure it would call for a fire and brimstone storm so when I saw that there was just a chance of rain I was pretty jazzed! The crit wasn't until 7:05pm so since I wouldn't have to worry about racing that thing in the rain....Thank God! I could rid myself of all my crap right after the Time Tria. Cool, I'm good to go.
Stage 1 - Time Trial:
10K, U-shaped course that is mainly flat with one tiny kicker.
I rolled up to line for my last ever race and thank the promoters and officials for all they had done over the years. There was still a light mist falling but the temp was actually quite comfortable. For some reason they decided to have two racers in the start gate at once. It was no big deal, just a little different. They told me which lane to get in and gave me my race instructions. 5, 4, 3...I'm off! My planned strategy was to ease into it until I hit turn one and then make myself puke.(Not that any of my TT strategies has ever put me in the record books) I quickly passed my 30 second guy before turn one. No big deal since he was on his standard road bike with zero aero gear and was riding on the hoods. I made the first turn and quickly accelerated. I was feeling F*&$ing great. I wound up and started to put myself in the hurt locker. The back part of the course is awesome. The surface was fairly new and the winding turns were fun. I came up to the little kicker and decided to gear up and get out of the saddle. I flew up the hill but was hurting when I hit the flats again. I think I should have stayed in a gear that allowed me to hold my aero position all the way up. Oh well....I passed my 1:30 man, who was also pretty much soft pedalling and then made my way through the next couple of turns. After a brief moment of extreme pain I started to feel good again. I reached the 1K mark and went all out rest of the way. This is where I finally tasted barf for the 1st time. I pedaled hard through the line, stopped my Garmin and looked down. I had taken 16seconds of last year's time! Not bad on a short couse! I was pretty happy. I was to spent to want to go home and deal with getting rid of all my stuff. Plus, who cares. I'll just hang out with my teammates and other cycling friends in town.
After finding a great place to park near the start/finish of the crit I walked over to the hotel where results were posted. When I got there I started scanning the names. Where was I? 19th??? Not as good as I thought. That's the lowest down I've finish in a TT this year. Man, guys must have really killed it!! I checked my time.... WTF!! It was 30 seconds slower then what my Garmin had. Hmmmm. Did I stop it late? No, I remember stopping right after crossing the line. Damn computers. I went back to my rig and uploaded the file to my laptop. It showed the exact course, distance and time, everything looked good, except 30 seconds faster then what was posted. Maybe I just read the results wrong. I walked bacj over to look again and this time there was a group of guys crowded around our results page. They were all saying the same thing. "My time seems to be 30 seconds slower then what I thought I posted!" They were all guys that started in the middle third of the field like I did. There were guys that started near the front and near the back of the list that thought their times were correct. A bunch of us went and protested. The officials pulled our results down and said they would try to figure it out. Soon there were facebook updates, tweets and talk in the parking lot about what happened. I was told by someone that they thought that at some point they put someone in the wrong lane and they ended up starting 30 seconds late?? I was sure it would figured out at some point. Plus, Doomsday was approching fast and it wouldn't really matter anyway, right? I grabbed lunch with the team and a couple hours later noticed that the results were not back up yet. A couple hours laters someone told me they were back up. Cool, they had worked it out.....Wrong!! For some reason they decided to add 30 seconds to everyones time! Now I was further off the leaders time. WTF! A bunch of guys who knew they got a new 30 second bonus went over to tell the officials, which I think was a stand up move. It will get sorted. I decided I was done with it and decided to take a snooze before warming up for the crit.
Stage 2 - Downtown Crit:
The afternoon crits had been a blast to watch! My teammates had done well and we had a handful holding top GC spots. I had been pretty much dry all day but sure enough, just like last year the rain finally started to fall. It wasn't hard enough to wet the roads so things were still looking good Right before the start of our race it started raining harder and the course got WET! Was this going to be a carbon copy of last year? I was not a happy camper. This course is a fairly technical 8 turn route through downtown and can be hairy when dry. There is a lot of metal on the course so it can get really get nasty when wet. Last year our race was one big crash fest. If it wasn't for me really wanting to do the road race tomorrow I might have called it quits. It was still coming down when we rolled to the start but had let up some. I was actually hoping for it to rain harder. I figured in a light rain guys might still feel somewhat confident which could cause problems. As we lined up for the start I was more nervous then usual. Based on the prior race I knew we would have some spills. Just before the start Erik announced that our TT times were re posted and we could check them after the race. We didn't really have time to care at this point.
For some reason I've never done well on this course. I've always finished somehere mid pack. My plan was to just hang with the pack, not lose any time in the GC and then try to do damage in the road race on Sunday. That is probably not a great plan on a course like this. Since there are so many corners, sitting in the back will put you in a constant state of braking and accelorating which can take a toll on the legs and lungs. If you are near the front you can pick your line and motor through the turns with out braking. Just before the start I decided to take even more pressure from my tires....Just to be sure. Here we go!!
Turn one is immediately after the start. There was a lot of shoulder bumping while everyone was trying to clip in and negotiate the turn. We went through turn two and onto the long straight section and things got going. I think guys wanted to see how the wet course felt so while we were going at a good clip, it was nothing crazy. When we started lap two I noticed I was feeling really good. I decided to ditch my normal plan and head to the front. I figured as long as I felt good it would be the best way to stay out of trouble. I hard charged passed everyone, got in front and pushed the pace. If I blew myself up then so be it. I knew I would have no trouble making it to the cut off time even if I did. I had no plans to go for any primes but would go hard enough to stay on the wheels of those that did. Usually during a crit there is at least one point in the race where I feel like shit and wonder why I do this for fun. You always just push through it, knowing that you will feel better in a couple of laps....Hopefully. We had reached the half way point and I was still feeling great! I charged to the front again on the back stretch and kicked it up a bit. We were strung out in one long line and it felt good setting the pace. During this stretch I think I was in front for three full laps. I know my teammates and wife were yelling at me to quit doing all the work and drop back and rest. As long as I was feeling good there was no reason for me to drop back. During the technical part of the course with all the turns I finally heard that nasty sound of carbon hitting the deck. I heard that only one guy went down and it was the only crash we had all night. Not bad compared to what I saw later in the Cat 3 race.
We flew by the start/finish line and finally saw the clock stopped and the lap board up telling us we had six to go. I was still feeling great and after a couple of laps sitting about eighth wheel I worked my way back up to the front. Usually I'm no where near the front at this point in this crit so strategy has never played a role. I have listened to guys that are crit crazy and knew that if I even wanted a chance I had to be positioned right near the front before we hit the final two turns. Even if there is room to move up on the last two straight sections, the pace is usually so fast on the last lap that if you are not on the front you are not going to be.
We got the bell for the last lap and as we came out of turn two I went to the front and gunned it. I knew I couldn't hold this all the way to the finish but I wanted to string out the pack and make it hard for any strong guys that were not positioned well to move up before the technical sections. I was hoping Todd G. Aaron L. or one of the strong Canadians would get jumpy and move by me but no one did. I started to panic a little but kept driving. Finally after turn five a couple of guys came through. Here we go!! We hit the next straight section and we were going balls out. I slid back a little farther then I wanted but was still sitting 5th wheel and the guys in front of me were strong. We went through the final turn and it was a shootout to the finish. I gave it everything I had and kept waiting for the rest of the field to fly by me.....No one did. I think we finished exactly as we came out of the final turn and I took 5th!!! Best I've finished in any crit, period. Once again, thanks for delaying the "Rapture".
The cat 3 race was the last of the night. I had a lot of friends in that field, guys I'd moved up the ranks with so I was not going to miss watching it. It was an insane race with a shit load of crashes. My teammate Vern managed the race brilliantly and one upped me by taking 4th!!! It was awesome.
Before leaving for the night I walked over and once again our TT results were changed. They were now back to what they were originally. There was still a lot of talk between racers and officials and they were still going to take another look at it. I was done with the whole thing.
I woke up Sunday and was surprised that my old legs were still feeling pretty good. It was to do battle on Mud Mountain road. My race was at 1:05 and when I arrived in Enumclaw at 11:00 the weather was actually pretty nice. It was about 60 degrees and overcast. It looked like it could rain at anytime but I didn't really care. I went over to the tent to get signed in and heard more talk going on about our TT results. They had changed again and it had gone back to having everyone having 30 seconds taken off their time. This was getting ridiculous. Once guys told the officials that now their times were 30 seconds faster and the talks went on. When we rolled to the start line Erik told us that they couldn't pin point where or when the problem started so this was it and they were done trying to figure it out. Well, MY time was now correct but since they added 30 seconds to everyones time I was even farther off the lead. WHATEVER!!
Stage 3 - Road Race:
I have a love/hate relationship with this course. I have done well here before, winning it two years ago but every time the the field hits that climb on every lap the pack can completely explode and if you are on the wrong end of it your day can be done.
The course is on a 14 mile loop that has a bit of everything, flat winding farm roads, a 3K climb that averages about 6%, a long downhill section back to the highway and a high speed finish.
When we rolled out I thought I felt really good. Since I was the only one on my team in this field and figured since I was only just over a minute back of the leaders there was no way they would let me go. Boy was I wrong. Right off the bat Nathan(HB)- who was sitting 4th and less than a minute back- took off. It was really early but I figured the other GC guys would give chase and the rest us would tag along. It didn't happen and we watched Nathan disappear up the road. Just before we reached the climb for the first time someone else decided to take a dig. Again, no one joined him and he got a small gap. This time we kept him in check and once he got about a 10 second gap we matched his pace. We reached the climb and for some stupid reason I moved to the front and set tempo. I was just hoping that if someone put in a real attack I would be in position to respond. No one made a move and I just kept going. The road levels out for a bit and you can jump back into your big ring for a while. I kept the pressure on but when we hit the next incline I noticed I was starting to move backwards. Everyone inched by me and as we reached the top I was struggling to hang on. I went from feeling great to shitty in a matter of minutes. I was really thinking that my race was going to be over half way into the first lap. I dug hard over the top and was the last one to hang on to the back of the pack. While everyone else was recovering I was hammering my ass off to get back on the train. I was putting myself in the hurt locker and almost sat up. I thought to myself that If I just put in one more dig I would catch on and could recover on the descent. I can't believe I made it back. By the time we got back to hwy 410 I had completely recovered and even attacked as we headed back into town. I was quickly brought back by the time we hit the farm roads for the 2nd time. I was surprised to hear that Nathan's lead had grown to well over two minutes. Now I really thought the fireworks would fly but none of the GC guys attacked.
We started up the climb for the 2nd time and I found myself sitting mid pack. I was really worried about hanging on again and this time it was worse. This time guys started falling off the back early and by the time we reached the top no one was behind me and I was now falling off the back. Crap! Once again I was pushing my limits at the top and managed to get on with Martin(2nd Ascent) and a couple other guys and we had to work our asses off. Well, at least I would be off the back with others and not suffering on my own. Somehow we managed to catch back on before the descent. That was brutal.
It seemed that Todd(United Finance) was the only one of the GC guys that wanted to work to catch Nathan, whose lead was now over three minutes. On this lap there were many attacks but none stuck and minus a few that had been popped off during lap two we entered Mud Mountain Rd as a big group. I think this is where Todd launched off the front. I think everyone waited for the GC guys to go but they didn't. I wanted to go but I knew I needed everything I had to just get over the climb alive. I was not looking forward to doing this again. Brian(NWCC) who doesn't like to climb decided this was it for him and took two or three HUGE digs to help us bridge to Todd. After the 2nd one he said he was done by then flew again yelling "One more time!!" We caught Todd right as we started climbing. It was an awesome effort.
I decided to start the climb out of the saddle this time to see if it would help my legs. To my surprise I was feeling good this time up and by the time we reached the top I was sitting near the front. YEAH!! I guess it just took me 35 miles to warm up. I was glad to be there because this time someone attacked on the flats and I'm not sure I would have been able to hook back on if I was just off the back. When we started to descend I looked back and noticed that we had dropped a bunch of guys and I was happy to still be racing. At the bottom Mark(Excel) jumped and again no one joined him. Finally, Aaron launched and I went with him. We traded pulls and got a gap. We worked hard and by the time we hit the farm roads for the start of the final lap we connected with Mark. Another guy was able to catch on as well. Here we go!! We had a gap and with four guys maybe we could make this stick. Oh, BTW, Nathan's gap was now over 5 minutes. Game over for first place. Mark saw us on his wheel and pulled over. I pulled through and pulled out. No one else came through. WTF!! We worked this hard to get up here and no one is working. Mark pulled through and it was just then me and him again. Mark finally looked over and said you and I just need to trade off pulls. Screw that. I wasn't about to do all the work and let two guys just tag along for the ride. I sat up to see if they would do something when they noticed the pack was closing but they didn't. That sucked. We reached the climb for the last time and this time up I was feeling great. I charged up right near the front and when we made the turn at the top I decided to accelerate and hopefully keep any of the stragglers from catching back on. I pulled for a while and finally gave the elbow flick for some one to take over. As I pulled off they all just followed me across the road. I didn't sit up, but did slow down my pace a bit. Finally Bikesale came by and picked up the pace...Thank You!! When we hit the hwy back to town David(Bikesale) took off. Again, no GC guys took chase and he was on his own flying down the road. I didn't think he could pull it off but by the time the GC guys finally took chase he had a pretty good lead.
The race finishes on the same downtown street as the crit and I knew positioning would be key. We made the right off the hwy and I knew that when we made the next left into town I needed to be near the front. The pack would either slow way down and play the cat and mouse game until the 200m mark in which case there would be no room on the road to move up or...Teams would really put the pressure on and keep the field strung out and it would be super hard to move up. If figured since David was just up the road it would end up being the latter. Sure enough, Garage lined up and hit it hard. I was able to jump onto Tom W.'s wheel and things would looking good. We were hauling ass when we hit the 1K marker and even though it wasn't for the win I was ready to take this sprint. Two pace lines had started and right before we hit the 90 degree turn that let us to the sprint finish someone moved out and came right into me. His pedal came right into my frame and there was a loud noise. I thought I was going to hit the deck at 30+ mph. Luckily we both kept our cool and no one went down but my momentum had been killed. I dropped from about 3rd wheel to about 10th. All I could do was put the hammer down and hope for the best. David was able to just hang on for 2nd and I ened up getting 12th. It was a bummer that I crossed paths with another racer and it definitely cost me a top 5 finish but that is just racing....unlike the stupid TT mix up. That is the last you'll hear me talk about that. I'm glad the Gods let us race the whole weekend. It was another tough but fun stage race. Frances won the GC in the Cat 4 field. Sarah, Mirna and Theresa all finished in the top ten in the Women's 3's, Tina was 4th in the 4's. We had a bunch of top 5's in each stage AND Barb showed the youngsters you're never too old to kick some serious ass - she killed the TT and was sitting 2nd in GC after the crit!! That was awesome!!
photos 1 & 2 by Denise Phillips
photo 3 by Amara Boursaw http://wheelsinfocus.com/