Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, October 31, 2011

2011 MFG #4 - Magnuson Park

While most people were still trying to figure out their Halloween plans the Seattle cycling community was set.  We had our 2nd "Double Dip" racing weekend of the season. MFG put on their race Saturday at Magnuson Park followed by the SCX race in Enumclaw on Sunday.  The differences between  Saturday and Sunday were like night and day and that made for a great weekend of racing.  I sometimes wonder why the hell I put my body through the pain every weekend when I could be sitting on my couch, beer in hand, watching football.....Oh yeah, because this shit is fun!

Friday's weather was as shitty as it gets around here but by Saturday morning we were greeted with about the nicest Fall day you could asked for.  It was my wife's birthday, I was going to wear my new Garage kit for the first time and after taking a warm up lap on the course I realized it was perfect set up me.  To say I was a little amped was an understatement!  I didn't really need much of a warm up.

When I said the course was set up for me I wasn't kidding.  It was super fast.  I've never seen more long, straight, paved sections on a cross course.  There was even a little climb thrown in as well.  It was more like a road circuit course then a cross course, except........ Friday's downpour did leave the grass super wet and the tight sections on the infield an especially the area by the tennis courts were going to be slick and tricky.  Course Map 
After my less than stellar performance at Stiellacoom #1 I was still lucky enough to get a front row start and I really wanted to take advantage of it.  I normally sit back a little and let someone else set the pace on the first lap but I had no plans of sitting in today.  I definitely wanted to represent well for my new team.  I didn't end up having the greatest start but because of the long, paved straightaway I was able to recover and sprint my way back up to the front of the pack by the time we reached the infield.  Man, I still can't believe how competitive our field is!  
There was a lot of battling going on during the first set of tight turns.  We have so many strong riders who are all capable of winning and any slight mishap can cost you a podium spot.   I touched wheels, elbows and shoulders with many others as we battled for position.  By the time we reached the short straightaway the top ten positions had already changed several times and I had bounced form 3rd to 7th and finally settled into 4th when things got sorted out.  A guy did loose his grip during this section and went down.  This helped four or five of us to get a little gap as we hit the next long straightaway that led to what I thought was the trickiest section on the course......The tennis courts.  Racers come into this section hot and have to slow to a crawl to make the 90 degree turn that led you around the perimeter of the courts.  The mud was rim deep here and the best line through was to hug the tiny, paved strip next to the metal fence that lined the courts. 
There was only room for one rider at time and during the first lap we were packed in.  Some guys did try to ride the mud but that didn't seem to go well for them when they tried to make the 2nd 90 degree turn.  I managed to hold my line and made it though unscathed.  MFG added a wooden stair climb feature on the back side of the course but it wasn't as sketchy as it was at Marymoor.  After making it through the mud we flowed into the fastest section of the course.  Hell, it was the fastest section of any course I've race on.  It started on a wet, packed gravel road which transitioned to a nice little climb followed by a short descent.  After a tight left turn you are back onto the long, paved start/finish straightaway.  By the time we started lap two I had worked my way into first place.

As I pedaled my way though the first set of turns I took quick look back and saw that Larry(Stanley) was right on my wheel.  It looked like Brad(20/20 Fuel) and Mark(Two Wheeler/Specialized) were just a few meters behind.  Larry and I took advantage of our small gap we had and worked hard to get around slower riders from the first field. Every time we reached a fast, straight section we gunned it hard, hoping other might use these sections as recovery points.  By the time we started lap three I still had the lead but Larry was breathing down my neck.  His team was working the course so I think he got some motivation from all the cheering.  I was constantly hearing his name being yelled throughout the course.  By the time we were half way through lap three I realized we were both riding super strong.  Unless one of us had a mechanical or super bad mishap  it was going to be a two man race from here on out.  Sometime during the lap Larry stormed by and I settled in on his wheel.  He was riding a way better race than me technically but I was able to close on him any time the course opened up.  We started lap four with a comfortable gap on the rest of the field.  It still wasn't a shoe in as Brad and Mark were still pushing hard to catch us. 

Lap four was pretty much the same.  Larry kept the lead throughout the lap and I just focused on taking clean lines and NOT F'ing up in any way. 

The last lap started and I felt like it was still the first lap. 
I was feeling really good and quickly decided I did not want to finish 2nd.  I'm sure Larry wasn't thinking, "2nd place would be really cool,  I'll just let Sean win this one!" So......let the games begin!  There was a point while we were winding through the infield where Larry kept looking back.  I'm not sure if he was trying to figure out how I was feeling or to see if anyone else was closing.  I think he wanted me to take the lead back as he did slow up a bit.  We reached a section that allowed us to see our chasers.  The only ones I could see were Brad and Mark and it looked like Mark was putting in a huge effort to close on us.  If  Larry and I started to play "Cat and mouse" games, Mark could easily catch us.  I decided to that I would make a move on Larry before we got to the crazy tennis court section.  Bad timing......Just when I was going to make my move we closed on two women we were going to lap.  Shit!!  I eased up because Larry and I would both catch them right as we entered the mud and there wasn't room for four of us.  We were able to squeak by without incident.  We started working our way around the courts but just as we made the next 90 degree turn two riders in front of us collided and locked bars.  They didn't go down but were at a standstill right in front of us.  I yelled at them to hold their ground, which they did and luckily we both were able to get by.....Damn, this was not going to be easy.  This was as high as my heart rate got during the whole race.  We made our way to the steps and I had an unfortunate slip.  I had to put a foot down as I took the last corner leading up to the step.  Larry made it though clean and passed a couple of slower riders in the process.  We reached the gravel section and Larry had a small gap on me.  He looked back, got in the drops and gunned it. Shit!!  I geared up and gave chase.  I took a quick look back and there was Mark.  He had closed on us.  He apparently had either ran out of gas trying to catch us or just couldn't match our speed on the straights.  When we made the sharp right turn to head up the hill I was on Larry's wheel and Mark was no longer in striking distance.  Once of us was going to win!  I decided that I was going to sit on his wheel, draft off him through the first part of the long finish straight and then try to come around him at the end.  I was right on his wheel as we approached the tricky corner transitioned to the long, paved straightaway to the finish.  Larry made a nice, clean transition through....I wasn't so lucky.  I came in a little hot and almost overshot the turn.  I had to brake to keep myself on the course. 

Larry got a little gap on me.  Shit!!!  My master plan just went down the toilet.  He saw he had a gap and hit the gas.  I got in my biggest gear and started to wind up.  I actually didn't think I had a chance but about half way to the finish I realized I was flying.  A few seconds later I realized he had no chance.  With about 50 meters to go I flew by him and won going away.   
I almost felt bad about beating him.  We had an epic battle and it was too bad someone had to take 2nd in that one.  OK, wait,  I'm glad it wasn't me.  It was super cool to get a win in my first official race for Garage!!Now it was time for a great evening with Denise and hopefully recover in time for tomorrow's pain fest.

all photos by
denise phillips

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