I haven't raced Mason Lake #2 in a few years. It might have been due to extremely shitty weather or the fact that it was on the same weekend as the first Sequim race and I didn't feel like doubling up. I didn't have those excuses this year. The early predicted forecast looked great but not so much as race day approached. Friday and Saturday were insanely nice but I don't think we're allowed to have three straight days like that in early March soooooooooo.
Five of us piled into Mark's Suburban and as we headed South on I-5 it was pouring. I kept checking the weather map and I looked like the system might pass through Shelton by the time we arrived (Fingers crossed). I think it finally stopped raining about the time we drove through Belfair. It looked like it could piss rain at any minute but the roads were dry and we were happy. With the chance of rain and the chill in the air I ended up dressing for the worse case scenario.
We had talked strategy during the drive and decided to wait for other teams to make the first move. We had eight in the field so we knew we could counter and/or chase down anything thrown at us.....hopefully. We waited......for about a minute before Dave launched, then Alex, Mark, Nikos, etc. The only constant was that John(HSP) seemed to be motivated to get in a break and was the one guy that made an effort to respond to all these attacks. Soon enough I launched my first attack. I was gobbled up pretty fast and dropped back in to take a breather. I think it was Mark who went next and this time the only one to jump on was John....again. Nikos and Matt were able to grab his wheel and they soon developed a small gap. I waited for guys from other teams to try to bridge but no one did. There they go. Nice, three Garage guys and one from HSP. You gotta like those numbers! After a minute or so other teams did finally get nervous and I think Cucina and Fischer put in a big effort to bring everything back but they weren't quite able to make it. For a minute or so the break just dangled off the front and If someone else would have put in another big effort we would of had to start all over again. That didn't happen and they slowly started to move away again.
We reached another small rise in the road and I decided to launch hard from mid pack to see if I could bridge up. If anyone jumped on I would sit up. I put it in overdrive and flew up the the yellow line and was able to catch everyone off guard. No one gave chase. Shit, now I have to try and do this. It took me about 30 seconds or so of leg burning effort but I reached them just before they started downhill. Mark had dropped off near the top of the hill but with a big effort he was able to get back on. Now we had a four on one thing going and soon I knew it was going to be hard to take us down. No repeat of last week dammit! We had numbers in the pack that would help us out.
I was wondering what John was thinking. On one hand he had to be loving the fact he got in the break, especially since he was the only guy from his team in the field. On the other hand, what the hell would he do being isolated with four guys from the same team. He was working super hard, trading big pulls with each of us. I know he wanted to help make sure we would not get caught but should he have let us do all the work? It was a hard spot to be in but better than the alternative.
I think we had almost a two minute gap by the time we finished lap one and I could tell everyone was feeling good. At this point we had no plans of attacking John and just focused on helping us increase our lead.
Mark had been traveling a lot for work and hadn't got in the training miles he wanted. He was struggling up the climbs but Matt told him to just sit on the back and enjoy the ride up. As soon as we crested he would jump back into the rotation and pull hard. That dude can suffer like no one else I know. John was still working hard as we took the turn down the backstretch for the second time. We were about 2K from the finish when Matt sprinted up and yelled, "John's dropped!" I looked back and sure enough he was now dangling in no man's land. We put the hammer down and when we started lap three I knew he was not going to be able to catch back on. Now it was just the four of us. This was different. We reached the short climb and pushed hard all the way up. At the top Matt told us that we couldn't relax at all. We needed to stay focused and keep driving. Man, we weren't even half way done with this thing yet. This is going to hurt! Not long after we saw the cat three field just ahead. I wasn't that amped about catching them. Last year the same thing happened and it turned into a huge cluster f*$K. After we went by they picked up thee pace and few minutes later they neutralized us. Once they got by they sat up agian and we neutralized them. It happened several times before the officials finally made them wait while we got a sizable lead. I digress...... We flew by them and this time we were able to disappear up the road with no issues.
We were hopping to finish this thing before is started to pour but it didn't look promising. We reached the start/finish for the start of lap four and asked for a time gap. Dave just stretched his arms wide and yelled "Huge!! I don't know what that translates to in minutes but I was sure that meant we were not going to get caught. Two more laps of suffering to go.
Lap four was kind of weird. We pretty much knew we wouldn't get caught and we didn't have to try to figure out how we were going to win the race. For some reason that lap seemed to take forever. We slowed up a bit but still kept a nice rotation going. I think we just wanted to get this thing over with. The mood changed when we came by the finish to start the final lap. Matt slowed up and asked Dave what our gap was. Dave just yelled out "Duuuuuuuuuuude!" I'm guessing that bigger than huge. We kept pushing all the way up the first climb and then took a minute to talk about what we should do for the finish. We wanted to make sure we swept the series podium so Matt suggested that he finish 1st, Nikos 2nd, me 3rd and Mark 4th. We all nodded in agreement and then got back into our rotation. With about 4K to go we realized that we didn't need to keep racing and basically sat up. We shook hands and congratulated each other. We were happy campers. It was super weird when we saw the 1K to go sign for the last time. with the downhill and left hand turn it can be a tense sprint finish. Not this time. We were just talking and laughing it up. We got to the 200 meter marker and I swung out wide into the other lane. We were completely spread out across the road. As we neared the line, doing about 15 mph, we all posted up and basically crossed the line at the same time. The next rider came in 12:39 later. It was a great day of racing.
photos by Tawny Strong