I don't think I've been more anxious for an upcoming race all year. I was still nervous that the "back thing" would show up and ruin my day again. I had a good week on the bike but still couldn't stop thinking about it. I got to the "No Pets, No Alcohol" Park super early so I could secure a good spot for the RV. I decided to get registration out of the way and find a good spot to heckle the riders in the 9:15 race. I jumped in line and saw a good friend of mine up in front. I asked him how he was doing and he responded, "I'm out!!" He had completely trashed his rear derailleur during warm up and had no way to fix it in time for his race. He was just going to head home. I asked him if he wanted to use my pit bike. He took me up on an offer and after we switched out the pedals he was good to go. He was able to race well enough to keep his front row call-up for the next SCX race!! I was happy to have shown up at just the right time. Does that mean I'd have good karma the rest of the day???
After watching a couple of races I kitted up and did some course recon. There were some noticeable changes from last year's set up. For starters we were not doing the 180 turn around to start the race after the first sand section. We also had the whole beach to use on the way out so we had the option of riding right at the water's edge where the sand was easier to ride. The interior of the course was a little different but still held the same elements as last year. On the first warm up lap I rode high and could easily ride both sections but that was with no one in my way. During my second run through I took the water route and could easily ride both sections. It was a little dicey making the transition to and from the water's edge so I had no clue how I'd approach it during the race. Even after my horrible race last week I was still able to get a call up to the 2nd row. I was hoping to get a good start and get by a few of the front row guys before the sand.
We were sent off and I got an OK start. I didn't get by any of the front row guys but I didn't lose any spots either. We spread out as we hit the sand. My teammate Mark was first to get there and was able to forge though unmolested. I was in the trenches and was making contact with everyone around me but was still moving forward. Before I knew it I flying through the air sans bike showing off my best Superman pose. Dohhhh!! I'm not sure if I hit a wheel in front of me or just augured in on my own. Right as I hit the ground Alex(Garage) who was right on my wheel had no place to go and plowed right into me...Sorry Alex!. More guys went down and it became a tangled mess.
When I jumped up I had no idea where my bike was. I ended up having to swim upstream about 5 meters to grab it. Shit, now I had to run the whole section of the beach while watching Mark and the other leaders start to exit the sand. I was now near the back of the field.
here is a video posted by Bill Koonce that shows the start. I am in the 2nd wave. You can kind of see the pile up in the background. You can then see me in the green and black kit running for my life near the back of the field. I had a lot of catching up to do. A Day on the Beach
This was not how I pictured the start in my head. By the time was back on the bike Mark and the leaders were long gone. After the sand it was really slow going as I hit the run-up and the first barrier. I remounted and soon noticed that I could not shift my rear derailleur and was stuck in a high cadence gear. I got passed by a couple of guys while I looked down to inspect my drivetrain to try to figure out the problem. Everything looked OK so I just started pedaling like a mad man. I must have been pushing 120+ rpm. It was nice for the uphill sections but otherwise it sucked. I would just have to make it to the pits and grab my backup. I was so focused on getting my rear derailleur to shift that I don't really remember the rest of the lap. Sand must have jammed something up because when I was reached the back side of the course it started shifting normally again.
I started lap two with no idea what place I was in. I knew I was no where near the front so I figured I'd just make my own little race out of this. I decided that instead of completely killing myself for five straight laps I was going to focus on racing smart and making as few mistakes as possible. I was catching so many of the single speeders that each sand section was a mess. I was only going to ride the sand sections I knew I could make it all the way through with out dismounting.... Even though I HATE sand and running....I hate running through sand!!(Have I mentioned that before?) This actually really worked well for me. During the 2nd sand section I ran past at least 10 guys who were just trying to keep their bikes upright. As I entered the interior of the course I realized I was in a nice little zone. I was slowing moving my way back up through the field. The climbing sections were also great for me. I was easily able to overtake other riders and was recovering fast afterwards. I still didn't know what place I was in but I was having a good time.
As we started lap three I finally found myself riding next to a familiar face. Larry(Stanley), who is a strong rider somehow appeared out of no where. Was he behind me all this time?? He moved past me and was setting a good pace. I was able to pass him on the climbs but he was having a better day through the technical sections and kept passing me right back. I couldn't believe when Don(JL Velo) hooked up with us. I thought these guys were way in front of me??? He was riding like a man possessed and quickly passed both of us. The three of us continued to pick off riders during the next two laps.
We started lap five and I soon saw Chris(Audi) just ahead. Wow!!! If we are catching him we must be doing OK??. We got by Chris and he was able to pick up the pace and hold my wheel. As we headed up the hill and into the trees we caught a bunch of slower riders form the first field and Don and Larry were able to get by them before the trail tightened. By the time Chris and I made it though they had a gap on us. Chris and I pushed on and after a slight bobble on my part at one of the off camber downhill corners he passed me. I looked at my Garmin for the first time and saw we were about 40 minutes in. Is this the last lap?? I wasn't sure so I pushed as hard as I could only to see the a big "1 lap to go" on the board as we flew by the finish... Shit!!
The last lap was not fun. I was giving it all I had but Chris and I were not catching any more guys. Why didn't they slow down and wait for us? We're nice guys!....As we wound our way through the back side of the course I decided to make another move to get by him. I managed to squeak by but he passed me in the exact same place as he did on the previous lap. We climbed up the hill and I looked back and all I could see were handful of women we had just lapped. I looked back again when we hit the next set of switch backs and could see no one from my field. WTF!! I took one last look back when we came thought the last section of the course by the beach and was still confused that no one was behind us. I sat up and soft pedaled the rest of the way in. As I made my way through the last turn before the finish I saw a bunch of guys from my field, including my teammates Mark and Dave who I'd passed a couple of lap earlier standing in the infield. As I rode by Mark started laughing and yelled, "Ha, you two had to do all six laps!" Apparently Ian Mackie(What is it with guys named Ian around here?? They are all bad ass bike racers!! Here is some advise: If you are planning on having kids and one day hope to get them into bike racing, just name your son Ian and he be bound for greatness) had set a wicked pace and lapped all but 10 guys in my field. I was #10. That is why no one was behind me for the last lap. Ian and possibly a few other single speed guys had lapped them before the start of our last lap. They were done. I could have walked my bike for the whole last lap and still finished 10th! It was the happiest 10th place I've ever got since I started racing cross. I felt good and after the initial spill at the start I raced a good, solid race. Oh, and I'm still finding sand in places I didn't think it could reach.