I had to travel for work and missed out on Woodland Park and Olympia last weekend. I hadn't been on the bike for almost two weeks and I was worried how it might affect my performance. Was I going to be off my game or would time off the bike actually do me some good? Time to find out.
I have to give thanks to couple of things.......Our new RV and NOT having to race at 9:15am. It was a clear, beautiful Sunday morning but it was frikin' cold....I guess I should be thankful for a third thing.....NO rain. That would have made it miserable. Anyway when I woke up it was 29 degrees and the mercury was making no real effort to climb. Those in the early races had to deal with that so won't complain(We're not wussy's, we just haven't had the chance to acclimate yet :) When we arrived at the venue at 11:15 our thermometer showed it had reached the balmy temperature of 36. After registering I bundled up and along with Chris and Mark from Audi I headed out for a spin on the course. I must of had about 10 pounds of gear on to keep warm. The course had thawed out and was actually pretty grippy. There were some sections with rocks that could be an issue so I decided to bump up my tire pressure a little. It was looking to be another course that was right up my alley, a "roadie course" as some of my competitors would coin it. The exterior of the course was flat and fast. The interior had a couple of short beach sections, three barrier sections (two were on short run-ups) an off camber grass section and a rideable muddy uphill and downhill section. That was it, pretty straight forward but still a lot to deal with.
After a couple of recon laps Chris and I headed back and sat my RV that was comfortably heated to about 80 degrees. With about 1/2 until our start we headed out and warmed up in the parking lot. I got chilled fast. I decided I was going to be happier with a warm core so I headed back for a few more minutes in the RV. I headed over to the staging area with ski gloves and a big, warm down coat. I planned on leaving them on until just before the start.
As we staged I took a look around and noticed we had a good sized field. A few notable were absent. Rocky had finally upgraded. I heard that Larry(Stanley) had slipped a disc in is back a few weeks ago and was out. That bummed me out. He is a great guy and it is fun to battle it out with him in races. Heal up fast Larry!! My teammate Mark was also out with a nasty chest cold. I think guys knew there was a great opportunity to capitalize on the absence of three strong racers.
The start was on a fairly wide paved section but the point where we entered the infield was really tight. Getting a hole shot could be huge in this one. The whistle blew and I probably had my best start of the year. I don't like taking the lead on the first lap so for once I actually slowed up instead of having to sprint my ass off just to make it somewhere near the front. Steven(Old Town), who has been racing super strong got though first and actually got a small gap on us right away.
Brian(Stanley) was in second and I was in a group of about five others that were battling to get up on Brian's wheel. It was tight racing during the first couple of switchbacks but I was slowly able to move up. As we moved to the interior of the course I finally got by Matthew(20/20 Fuel) and Todd(Collision One) and settled in behind Brian and after a minute or so we managed to get on Steven's wheel. He was setting a good pace and before long we had a small gap on the rest of the field. On one of the switchbacks I could Chris(Audi)who had a horrible start, drilling it hard to move through the pack. The next time I was able to look back I could see they had some separation from the pack and was still working hard to close the gap.
I started lap two still sitting in 3rd. I think Brian took the lead from Steven somewhere before the first set of barriers. When I remounted after the barriers I couldn't clip in with one shoe and fell off a bit. I just stayed calm. There are a lot of places on this course where mistakes can be made and I wanted to make sure I didn't do anything to put myself further back. I pushed really hard on the flat sections on the far side of the course and was able to hook back on just before the finish line.
We still had a lot of racing left. I had worked so hard to catch back on that I needed to sit in again and catch my breath. About half way through the lap I could tell that someone was on my wheel. I looked back and there was Chris(Audi). Here we go again. The rest of the lap was the same. Brian and Steven were battling each other for position and Chris and I just did what we needed to to hang with them.
I'm not completely sure what lap we were on but I think it was with three to go. I finally made a move right before the first set of barriers and took the lead. I decided to push the pace to see if I could make some noise. After a minute or so I looked back and saw that Brian had dropped off some. Steven was still stuck to my wheel and Chris had closed the gap. Don and Brian were still in striking distance. I finished the lap in the lead but it was still anyones race.
Two laps to go. I made a couple tiny bobbles during the first part of the course but it seemed like Steven could have passed me but didn't. I think he was waiting for me to make a big mistake but I wasn't sure. I tried to focus on my on ride. If he or Chris happened to move past me it wouldn't be a bad thing. We all made it though the first run-up barrier section clean and headed down towards the first sand section. I made it through clean and as we wound our way through to the downhill section I looked back and saw that Chris was NOT on my wheel. What happened?? It turned out that he did and endo in the sand. I kept my lead until we reached the short rideable climb in the middle of the course. Just as I started up there were two slower riders right in the middle. I decided to go high and Steven went low. He blew by all of us like we were standing still. Once again I had to kick it in overdrive to get back on his wheel. By the time we made it to the finish line I had managed to get back on his wheel.
Bell Lap!! I moved by him in the same spot I did the lap before and focused on riding mistake free.
I know how I can sprint and if I was on someones wheel (except for Mark's) I can out sprint most guys on a finish like this. We reached the rideable climb again and just like the previous lap Steven made a move and took that hill like it was his. Wow!! This was turning into a two man dog fight!! I was able to get back on his wheel after the second run-up. We made our way to the back side of the course and Steven slowed up slightly. I didn't know if he was tired or just trying to force me to take the lead. I was happy to just sit there. I was just going to wait for him to make a mistake or try to take him at the finish. Unfortunately, while we were slowing up Chris and Todd were still going hard and were starting to close the gap. I yelled Steven that they were coming and that we had to get going. He didn't accelerate at all. Hmmmmmm??? I made a split second decision to attack. It happened on the flats just before the off camber grass section. This was not going to be a half-assed effort, It was going to be all or nothing. This was either going to be the move of the day or.......I dropped a couple of gears and jumped out of the saddle. I took the off camber section hard and once through jumped out of the saddled again and attacked as hard as I could with out looking back. I was in full blown suffer mode. I entered the first part of the paved section and finally took a quick look back, not knowing what to expect. Would he still be right on my wheel? Had Chris joined him? Was I going to go down in flames? To my surprosed Steven had not responded and I was able to sit up and coast the last couple hundred meters to the finish, hands raised in the air. It felt great!!
Steven pushed me to the limit and I actually felt a little bad that someone had to finish second in this one. He rolled through in 2nd with Chris right behind in third.
The win moved from 8th to 3rd in the series and next week is shaping up to be an epic battle. Todd is still the one to beat and the early forecast looks like it might be his kind of day, a rainy, muddy mess on a technical course. See you next week!!
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