The running joke around here is that summer doesn't really start in the Pacific Northwest until July 5th. I remember many a 4th of July that provided some sort of drama because of the rain and cool temps. I know it's only a week away but I can't take it anymore. I knew that it would probably rain at some point during our race but wasn't expecting the "dogs & cats" thing. It started raining just north of Tacoma and by the time we arrived it had become a 53 degree, torrential down pour. 53 degrees isn't that cold.....for April! John, Mark, Denise and I sat in our RV just watching the rain hammer the windshield. I didn't even want to get out of the car to register. With about 45 minutes until our start we finally donned our "Deadliest Catch" gear, wondered over to registration and actually paid someone for the right to race in this shit!. Why drive all this way to just turn around and go home, right? We were now committed.....or soon will be if we have to keep racing in this type of weather.I headed to the staging area with a whole 2 miles of pre-race warmup in my legs, not nearly what I needed for a fast, hilly, 45 mile race. Before the race I had complained that 45 miles was too short. Now I was wishing it was only 10. Enough bitching.....Time to race.
I rolled over to the start with teammates Mark, Neil, Kevin and Jason. I was pleasently surprised by the size of our field and the level of competition that showed up. I'm not sure it would have looked this way if it wasn't the State Championship race. This was going to be a battle!
Right from the start one of the Fanatic guys attacked. I soon realized that my legs were not happy with my 2 mile warm up. I was slow to respond to the pack surges and couldn't get in a good rhythm. I just stayed with the pack and hoped I would make it over the big climb w/out getting dropped.
We arrived at the climb and I wasn't able to attack but I was able to sit in pace myself up with the field. Just as I settled into a nice rhythm somonw right in front of me got out of the saddle, lost his wheel and hit the deck. I somehow avoided plowing right into him but the surge that I had to put in to stay with those in front of the crash was not fun. I made it over the climb near the front of the pack immediately moved to cover an attack. I'm not sure if it was because of the crash or just the pace up the hill but I noticed that a handful of guys were already off the back. This wasn't going to get any easier.
I was in my own little world for during the first lap and I'm not exactly sure when my teammate Jason jumped off the front. I think one of the Fanatic guys may have gone with him but I'm not sure. I do remember that Greg(Farestart) was trying to bridge but was caught in no man's land. Right as we passed the Start/Finish Todd(HSP) jumped hard to bridge. I knew Todd would make it up and I really wanted to go with him but I didn't want to bring anyone else with me. I decided not to go. Ryan(Farestart) and one other did decide to give help control the rest of the field. I think soon after Martin(Farestart) took off as well. I saw Brad(HSP) go so I jumped with him to help bring back the chasers that were trying to bridge to Todd. We chased them down and in the end none of them were able to bridge across except Todd. The two of them slowly disappeared up the road and all was good
We rolled through the start/finish line and I almost pulled off and quit. Since Jason was in the break I decided to HTFU and kept pedaling. The only goal I had was to get my ass over the big climb with the pack. It's amazing the difference in a week makes. Last week I finished third in GC in a stage race and now I felt like I couldn't finish a 45 mile race. We started up the climb and it wasn't until we were half way up that I realized that my legs were finally warmed up and feeling good. I guess it just took getting some miles in my legs.. I made it to the top with the front of the pack and my motivation level shot through the roof!
The pace slowed a little for lap three and I was surprised that there were no big attacks from the rest of the field. There were some individual attacks but our guys and HSP didn't let them get far.
We came through for the start of the final lap and now I was feeling great. To think, a couple of laps ago I wanted to quit. Just as we finished the slight uphil section after the start/finish line we had another crash. Again, I don't know how I missed avoiding the carnage, others weren't so lucky. Two of my teammates were caught in the mess and didn't make it back on. Just as we were recovering from that Greg, who was leading the way through the hard, left hand turn, lost his grip on the wet chipseal and went down. This was getting a little crazy!
We sat up and waited for those that were caught in the crashes. When we were satified that we had all that could get back on the paced picked back up. Just then one of our follow cars rolled up and just flash five fingers out the window. I don't think most of the guys saw it but I did and knew that Jason and Todd were not going to get caught. I decided to attack! Richie (Starbucks) jumped on and we soon got a nice little gap. I was hoping that if we could get over the bib climb before getting caught we might have a chance to get away for good. I think Richie was a little gassed so I did most of the work up to the base of the climb. Unfortunately we did get caught near the top of the climb but at least I was at the front of the pack. Right after that Aaron(Pederson Cycles) and a few others took off. I was gassed from our attack and couldn't go with them. We gave chase and I told Jeff (Starbucks) that the others with us wouldn't do any work because they had guys in that group. He took charge and took a long, hard pull. After he dropped off I put in a big effort and by the time we got to the next climb we had closed on them.
As we made our way up the last hard climb I looked back and noticed there were only about 12 or so of us left. I had no teammates left so I decided I was just going try to sit on Aaron's wheel, get lucky and get around him at the finish. We made our way around the sharp left hand turn....safely and things were looking good. A minute or so later there was a surge and when I got out of the saddle I noticed something wasn't quite right. I wasn't accelerating like I should have. Was I blowing up??? My legs felt fine???? I put in another bit effort and hooked back on. WTF?? I looked down and saw that my rear tire was flatting. Mother F$%#L#!! It didn't go all the way flat. If we were just cruising down I would have been fine. When going hard I was bobbing up and down and was worried I'd take someone out if I tried to dig again. I started to drop off. The wheel car came by but I waved him off. I still had some air in my tubie and decided a wheel change wouldn't help. I was pissed!! This happened at the first race of the season down in Oregon when I was in a two man break for 50 miles. We had a 2 minute gap with under 1K to go. It was in the bag. I flatted but a fast wheel change would have still allowed me to finish 2nd. The wheel car had jumped ahead of us before the climb for some reason and I was left standing on the road with no where to go. I digress....
I coasted across the line almost a minute behind the pack and was really bummed until I found out that Jason had outlasted Todd for the victory and shortly after we saw John come in solo to take the 35-39 crown. I was really happy for John. It was his last WSBA race before moving to Alaska and his parents were there to see him win. I was also happy to see my former teammates Jeff and Richie finish strong in 5th and 7th respectively. I would have loved to have been up there to mix it up with them but that's racing.....It was a hard race and 1/3 of our field didn't finish. Oh.......... and to add to the fun while we were camping after the race I decided to pump up the tire and figure out where the hole was. It was only my second race on the tires and I was pissed that they flatted already. I soon figured out that it was my own frickin' fault. I had put brand new valve extenders on when I glued them last week and I guess I didn't get it tightened properly
and air had been slowly leaking out. There was no hole in my tire. The leak was SUPER slow and I was probably losing air since the start of the race....IDIOT!!
It was another great weekend for the team. Victory beers were had!
photos by denise phillips