The first installment of Steilacoom was a complete disaster for me. A back issue forced me to drop out at the start of the final lap. It seemed to be a one time thing since I haven't had any issues since that race. I was ready for a little redemption.
The weather turned out to be incredible for the beginning of November. The course was setup similar to last years State Championship race. It was run clockwise and the barriers were set in different locations. One contained three barriers on an uphill section just after a sharp right turn. With the gradient they seemed to be three feet tall. The other was right before the paved straightaway near the finish. Here is a video by maestroboomer from a race earlier in the day that will give you a view of the course
A lot of people that raced in the earlier in the day told me there were tons of crashes. I jumped on the course and took a couple of warm up laps. It seemed to be fast and not too technical but I could tell there were a couple of areas that could send your bike flying if you weren't careful.
Our field gathered for staging about five minutes before our 1:30 start time. I was feeling pretty loose but after a 15 minute delay I had time to let the anxiety set in and before I knew it I was nervous as hell. I kept thinking about the last race out here and wondered if I would have a repeat back issue. That would suck! I had finally made it back up to the front row so I was hoping a good start would settle my nerves.
The large single speed field took off and a minute later we were sent on our way. Mark, who had started just behind me, blew by on my left and I jumped on his wheel. With all the braking to set up for the right turn onto the infield I found myself in about 6th position going in. Unlike Steilacoom 1, I didn't try to force my way to the front right away. I just let the leaders set the pace. Once we made it to the first climb on the pavement I made a move and put myself in 4th by the time we crested. Mark, Chris(Audi), and Steven(Old Town) were leading the way. By the time we finished lap one we were still all bunched up in one big group. This was setting up to be a good one.
Just about the time I was wondering where Rocky was he came flying by me. By the time we reached the first climb he had taken the lead. He had forced the pace and if we didn't react quick he (based on previous races) would just ride away from us. Mark, Chris, Steven and I responded and by the time we reached the 2nd climb we had pretty much dropped the rest of the field. Todd(Collision One) and a few others we still close enough to catch back on if we started playing games with each other.
During the next lap Rocky finally warmed up and started to get a gap on us. Mark was leading the chase with Steven, Chris and I right on his wheel. We stayed wheel to wheel throughout the lap and only got separated on the fast downhill section where Mark was flying down with no fear leaving the rest of us to have to ride a little bit out of our comfort zone to stay with him.
The next couple of laps were pretty much the same. Rocky had the lead with Mark, Steven, Chris and I trying our hardest to NOT let him slip away. I think it was sometime during lap five where the four of us got a little too settled in just pacing each other. I was in a zone and didn't really notice that Rocky had increased his lead. We finally reached a section that backtracked and I could see where he was. I yelled at the others but no one seemed to want to pick up the pace. I made a move to take the lead and really poured it on. The rest jumped on my wheel and the suffer fest was on.
We started the final lap we were flying but we quickly realized we waited to long to hit the gas. Unless Rocky's bike exploded we were probably not going to catch him. The four of us were going to battle it out for 2nd place. We reached the paved climb and I jumped out of the saddle and drove as hard as I could. When I reached the top Mark and Steven had dropped off but Chris was still right on my wheel. I had a slight bobble going through the uphill barrier section and Chris ran right by me. The course goes directly downhill after that and he was able to get a gap on me. Crap!! When the course turned back uphill and had to go beyond threshold to make up the ground. By the time we reached the top I had closed by he still had a lead going into the next fast downhill section. Lucky for me Chris came up on slower riders right at a hairpin turn and had to slow and wait to pass. He made it though and I was soon on their wheels. The section is a short, wide single track and there is not a lot of room to pass. If I waited I was going to run out of course and never catch him. I made the decision to move through. I yelled "On your left!!" and both gals moved as far right as they could and I was just able to slip by. By the time we hit the infield I was right on Chris' wheel. We started winding our way through and I just sat there, completed gassed after closing the gap. I started to accept the fact that I didn't have anything left to make a move to pass him and keep it. After a few seconds I remembered that Chris has finished one spot in front of me in at least three races this year. I was going to finish either 2nd or 3rd and I might as well give it a shot. I took three or four really deep breaths and then as we started through a wide sweeping left had turn and made a move to pass. I got around him and jumped out of the saddle and drove as hard as I could. I made the right turn and headed for the last set of barriers. I took a quick look back and saw that Chris was not able to respond to my attack. I hit the paved section to the finish and sat up. Rocky got the win but Chris, Steven, Mark and I had a great battle for 2nd. Mark was able to hold on for 4th giving Garage two in the top five. It was great day.