Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Friday, September 30, 2011

2011 Rapha-Focus GP

After punishing myself on the StarCrossed course Saturday afternoon it was time to drag my ass out of bed and do it all over again, and by again I mean racing on the exact same course. StarCrossed and the Rapha-Focus GP shared the same venue.  We had a fast, dry course for the Saturday race but to mix things up a bit the promoters ordered up a big 'ol bucket of wet for Sunday's version.  It started raining hard at about 8:00pm Saturday night and did not let up until early Sunday morning.  By the time I had arrived at the park it had mellowed to that typical PNW precipitation that we all know and love, the famous drizzle that our out of town visitors see out the window and then ask if they can barrow a Gortex jacket and an Umbrella.  We step outside, peruse the situation and then give our guest that "Are you serious?" look.  We grab our to-go cup of coffee, and head to the car with nothing more than a fleece jacket.  They follow, arms crossed, telling us how crazy we and that they are going to catch a nasty cold followed by pneumonia from standing out this deluge all day.......I digress.  Because of the rain I saw the course crew trying to get carpet down on the Fly-Over to give it more traction. By the time my race started it was still not ready and the course was altered to avoid it.  I was hoping we could still use the Fly-Over but somehow avoid running on that frickin' beach......again!

Just like Saturday my field was jam packed with strong riders from all over the NW and beyond.  It was setup to be a another great race.   I had already ridden the course about five times during the Jonathan Page clinic on Friday, pre-rode it again before StarCrossed and then six laps of suffering during the race.  I decided NOT to pre-ride the course again. I figured that the hard rain and the beat down from two earlier races would transform the course into a muddier, slicker version of its former self.  I took a couple of laps around the grass infield by the parking lot and set my tire pressure accordingly.....I thought. 

The gun went off and unlike Saturday I got a pretty good start.  This time we started 1 1/2 minutes behind the first wave instead of the less than 30 seconds we had on Saturday.   We had open rode all the way to course entrance. 
I entered the infield sitting about 5th wheel.  I soon realized that I was slightly under inflated.  The course had actually held up and it was only slick in a few places.  My rear tire was folding slightly on the wide, fast corners.   I soon found myself right on Rocky's(W.A.R) wheel and settled in.  I was feeling a little sluggish but not too bad.  When we reached the beach for the first time we were pretty stacked up.  I tried to ride the first section but had to dismount  because of the traffic jam in front of me.  Great, now I had to run both sections!  I hate running!!  Robert T., Rocky and Mark S.(Team Type 1) seemed to be floating on the sand and got a gap on us by the end of the second sand section.  No big deal.  There was still plenty of racing left.  I just paced myself and slowly moved back up.

At the start of lap two I was still sitting about 4th.  I made it through the sand without losing(or gaining) any spots.  I decided to pick up the pace so I could be right on the leaders before we reached the mass of slower riders in the field in front of us.
Mistake #2:  After the sand there was a few turns in the woods that led us to a short paved section where you can hammer it hard to get past slower riders. Before you know it the pavement ends and you had to check up fast and negotiate a right hand transition onto muddy grass followed by an even tighter, slightly off camber left hander.  I had warned a few guys that didn't race the day before about this particular part of the course.   On Saturday I saw several guys come in too hot and over run the turn and blast through the course tape when it was completely dry. I was driving hard to get past three slower riders and came in way too hot.   I tried to check up but......both wheels went out from under me and I went down hard, taking out one of the course poles.   As I slid off the course I got rapped up in the course tape....Yeah, that was me.  It was a mess.  I pride myself on being a pretty good bike handler.  This was a total dork move.  It seemed to take forever to get untangled and back on my bike.  I lost at least six spots by the time I remounted.  Cal(Motofish) was one of the riders that blew by me.  I was able to get back up to speed and on his wheel.  There was still plenty of time to make up ground.  The only problem was that no one was slowing down to let me catch up...."Common guys!!"

During the next two laps I really put myself in the hurt locker to try to make up ground.  I was able to keep pace and move up but every time I reached sand the same guys passed me right back.  I hate running!  I was able to get right back on their wheels once back on the bike.  I came up to the barriers and after remounting my bike I looked up just in time to see a guy running with his bike.  He was veering right into my path and I yelled at him at the top of my lungs that I was on his left.  He looked back and started to move right but not fast enough.  We were going to collide.  He was still moving right so I actually just hit him on his left side.  I landed into him for balance and then had to give him a shoulder and elbow to get separated.  I managed to stay up but lost ground on the rest of the field.  My wife happened to be standing right there and got a pretty good chuckle out of it. I was constantly having to kill myself to get back into the race.  It was starting to take a toll on me.  By the end of the lap I did managed to get back on the wheels of the guys I'd been with but didn't know how much I'd have left at the finish.

I had recovered a bit by the time the last lap started.
 I knew I was going to come out of the beach having to catch up again so I wanted to get by as many of the guys beforehand.  Unfortunately we caught up to a large group of slower riders from the field in front of us.  Our pace slowed and everyone had a hard time getting through.  I arrived at the beach without moving up at all.  Because of the slower traffic I was able to make up the some ground soon after remounting.  I knew there were probably four or five guys we would never catch but hopefully I could get passed all these guys I'd been pacing with over the last few laps.  We all came up to the barriers pretty much together.  As we were approaching we found ourselves on the wheels of two single speeders and the race was on to get by them.  Everyone made it by before the barriers but yours truly.  I had a smooth run over the barriers and was ready to pass.  I decided to wait until the just after the upcoming sharp, left hand turn.  I did make it by both of them but not in exactly in typical fashion.  Just as they were making the turn they touched wheels and went down.  There was no where for me to go and I just braced myself for impact.  I went airborne and somehow both my bike and I landed in front of them, free and clear.  I was able to easily grab my bike and continue on but the damage was done.  I had lost about 10 seconds and I was on the short end of the course.  I pushed it as hard as I could but since we were close to the finish everyone else was doing the same thing. 
With about 400 meters to go I realized I was not going to catch them.  I looked back and no one was on my wheel.  I just sat up and soft pedaled my way to the finish.  After all that I really had no idea how many guys were in front of me.  I figured with that many mishaps a top 20 might still be possible.  I found out that I grabbed 11th.  I'm not sure when it happened but by the time I got back to our rig I realized that something wasn't right.  I felt a sharp pain on my right side.  Somehow I had injured my ribs.  NOT FUN!  A few rounds in the beer garden and I was feeling OK.

all photos by Denise Phillips

1 comment:

  1. Now that sounds exciting! Way to get back in it Sean. I wish I had video of you in the ribbon... :)