Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, June 10, 2013

2013 Mutual of Enumclaw Stage Race

I've been counting down the days for this race since, well, the day after the last stage of last year's race.  Why????  because last year Enumclaw was one of my 'A' races. I was in great racing shape and ready to do damage.  I put in a ton of time on the TT bike, trained hard in the mountains of Issaquah and was racing with great teammates.  The only problem was that my bikes obviously didn't share this enthusiastic, race ready feeling I had.  It started out bad and got worse.  You can read last year's blog if you want to share my pain but the short of it was.......I had a mechanical minuetes into the start of the TT and couldn't finish.  I had to take the last place time.  I started the stage 2 in DLF.  No worries, that gave me the ability to really throw down and help my teammates that were contending for the GC.  The crit went fine but then I double flatted in the road race.  I was able to catch back on after the first flat but not after the second.  It was on the last lap and I was half way through so turning around made no sense.  I made the wet, lonely, ride back to the finish cursing the whole way.  I think the locals are still talking about it. 

So, how would things go this year.  After my little chain jumping problem at Ravensdale I double and triple check all my bikes days before.  You never know what's going to happen but there is no f'ing way it could be worse than last year, right?

I decided to take the RV out to the campground next to the start of the TT the night before.  I got in a quick ride on the course and then gave my bike a quick pep talk.  Not long after it began to rain.  Then it began to pour.  The forecast for Saturday did not look good and I just mentally prepared to race the TT and crit in the rain.  Fun times ahead, right?  My problem this year wasn't with my bikes, it was with me not remembering where I put the keys to my bike rack the night before.  I knew (hoped) that they were somewhere inside the RV but for the life of me I couldn't find them.  I called my wife and told her to bring backup and planned on getting a hacksaw and just cutting the bar attached to my TT bike.  I was going insane but did manage to find them.  My warm up time was cut to almost nothing and when I rolled to the start my HR was already at 150.  Nice. I don't think I noticed that it had stopped raining, the roads were dry and the wind was barely blowing.

Stage 1 - Time Trial:
10k Horseshoe shaped course with one really short kicker half way in.
I've had a great year racing TT's and been really able to gage my efforts and have had a few wins.  I think because of the self induced adrenalin rush I went out way too hard.  I closed in on my 30 second man fast and then realized I was not in control.  My breathing wasn't right and my whole body was as tight as a spring.  After making the first right hand corner I started to feel a little better.  When I reached the little kicker I got into a big gear and pushed over it way too hard.  It took me 30 seconds or so to get things back in control. Before the next right hander I had to ease off a little.  With about 2K to go I noticed that I was no longer putting time on Ryan and started to feel like shit.  I have not felt this way in any of the TT's I've done this year.  I eased up again and with 1K to go just let loose and really put myself in the hurt locker.  I made the final turn to the finish and wanted to sit up.  I really had to force myself to put my head down and drive hard.  I was pretty sure that the way I raced I was going to be way down in the GC.  I was super happy to find out I finished in 7th and was only 24 seconds back.  I'm sure I could have had a better time but was not going to dwell on it.....much.  Tom finished five seconds in front of me and was in 5th and Alex, had another TT mechanical in a race he usually does really well in.  He still managed to grab 10th place and was only 33 seconds out.

Tom came back to the campground and hung out with me all day.  Our crit wasn't until 7:10 so we had plenty of time to do absolutely nothing.   It started raining again and I kept looking at the hourly forecast and between 3:00pm to 5:00pm it showed 0% chance of rain at at 6:00pm it jumped to 70%.  Great, racing the MOE crit in the rain.....FUN!  They course is crazy enough under dry conditions.  We into downtown early so we could park the RV right by the finish line.  We put the awning and watched it rain.  I can't remember what time it was but when the Masters 4/5 guys were getting ready to race it began to really pour.  I was not in a very good mood.  I decided to take another look at the weather and hey, it showed that it was moving through faster than earlier predictions and it would be dry by 6:00pm.....yeah right.  Sure enough it stopped raining and by the time the Pro/1/2 field jumped on the course it was mostly dry.  Even in dry conditions their race was a crash fest.  Guys were sliding out on what seemed to be every other lap.  Granted, they were 90 strong and had a lot of talented, fast pros in the field.  That and constant $200 primes and you know that shit can happen.

Stage 2 - Criterium:
The course was completely dry when we rolled up but it still looked like rain could fall at any minute. We really wanted to get the win in this one and we planned to do anything we could to accomplish that.  We would constantly attack and if we were all together at the end we would force the pace on the last few laps.  Things were looking good early on.  We'd taken a couple of cash/merchandise primes and were waiting for the first time bonus prime.  The bell rang and it was game on.  As we flew through corner two we started hearing people yelling at us to go neutral.  What!!!  Most of us sat up but a handful of guys kept driving.   Gary(Tete de la Course) was yelling at them to sit up but they didn't.  We decided we couldn't just let them go and hit the gas.  We caught them and then as we approached the finish we saw the officials in the street and they told us to slow up due to a crash in turn 3.  WTF!!  I didn't see or hear anyone go down.  Who was it?  We rolled through turn three slowly and I saw Nathan(Tete de la Course) lying on the pavement.  My heart sank.  He wasn't moving and they were calling for an ambulance.  We rolled through another lap slowly and this time he gave us the thumbs up while being placed on a backboard.  That didn't calm my nerves.  We got to the finish and we were told to stop and there would be a restart.  We sat there for 20 long minutes while the ambulance was on the course. We found out later it was mainly for precautionary measures and that Nathan ended up just being cut and bruised, no broken bones or head injury...Yeah!

It was getting to the point where we were going to start cutting into the Cat 3's race and we were wondering what they would do.  They finally announced that we were going to restart and have eight laps.  Then they told us told us that we still had six primes, two of them being the time bonus primes.  Oh, We'll give you one lap to get your legs going before calling a prime and at least two before the first time bonus prime.  I started to do the math and realized that of the eight laps we would have six primes followed by the final lap to the finish.  Holy hell, this was going to be insane!  It started off fast and got faster.  The bell rang every lap and there was no time to catch a breather.  With two to go I was worried that with all the fresh legs it was going to be super sketchy.  Luckily I think Joe(Tete de la Course) jumped hard and got the pack strung out.  Another teammate and took up the pace making after that.  As we made our way through the course I pushed hard and found myself sitting about 5th wheel.  Nikos was right in front of me and things looked good.  When we charged through the final turn I was in pretty good position.  With about 50 to go I got boxed in a little on the right and started to move left.  I saw Nikos there and decided to stay out of the way and just kept going forward.  He was narrowly edged out for the win by Brad(HSP) and I had to settle for 7th.  We all moved up in the GC after that race.  Unfortunately it was because Nathan had been in third.   A short time later the Cat 3 field suffered the same fate and ended up have to call the race after only twelve minutes due to darkness and they just kept the same spots in GC they had after the TT.  Some of us hung out for post race grub and beers in town before heading home or in my case the 3 mile trek back to the campground.

I headed over to get a good spot for the RV around 11:00 Sunday morning.  The weather showed that it would be sunny and 60+ degrees......Not so much.  It wasn't raining so that was good but it didn't look promising.  No worries.  I had prayed for a dry crit and we got that so what ever happens today happens.

Stage 3 - Road Race:
The course is roughly a 15 mile loop that starts right in the middle of downtown.  After winding through flat farm roads it heads up Mud Mountain Rd. for 3K.  There is a false flat that gradually works it way to a fast descent down hwy 410.  Successful attacks can happen anywhere on this course but as the race wears on the Mud Mountain climb can be a soul (and leg) crusher.

Since we really only raced for about 45 minutes and maybe 20 miles (at the most) yesterday I figured most guys would be coming in with pretty fresh legs.  Tom was sitting 3rd.  I was virtually tied for 5th, Alex was in 9th and Nikos and Doug were just outside the top 10, just 58 seconds back.  Are main goal was to protect our current placings but if we could find a a way to launch someone into first or second then that would be great.  Nikos and Alex could possible get off the front with the right group and force Brad and Rob to work.  Will see how it plays out.

 After rolling neutral out to the fair grounds we were let go and John(KR) moved to the front and got us strung out.  A few other guys moved up to keep the pace going but no real attacks were made.  When we made reached the climb for the first time my first thought was, "Please no flats this year!"  The next thought was, "I hope I have good legs today!"  The pace was steady but not too intense.  I think a few guys did drop off but for the most part we were still all together at the top.  As soon as we started on that long, straightaway at the top we were startled by the blaring sound of the officials horn.  He moved up and told us there was a breakaway group in the 3's that was catching us.  While we started out riding complacent they hit it hard from the start.  The only problem was that once the break reached the top of the climb they slowed up and the the rest of their field caught up.  It took forever for them to get to us and anyone we dropped was able to hook back on.   Then when the 3's finally passed us they kept us neutral while everyone they dropped was able to go by us.  We were neutral from just after we reached the top of the climb until we were almost into town.  We basically had a neutral lap.  Anyway, once we were let go again a couple of Canadian rolled off the front.  They were over a minute back so we didn't think much of it at the time.  We just watched Brad and Rob to see if they had any concern. 

The 2nd time up Mud Mountain was a little different.  They pace was a lot higher.  Tom, Nikos and I were able to stay up near the front.  I think gaps formed but most of the stragglers were able to work together and managed to hook back on by the time we reached town.  Things were about to get interesting. 

I don't think we received any information on how much of a gap the two Canadians had.  Audi decided it was time to get the chase really going and assembled their guys at the front.  For the moment we decided to watch Brad.  Brad rolled back to me and told me he wasn't going to do anything.  After a bit we talked and Alex told Tom and I to stay out of the wind while he, Kevin and Landon rolled to the front to help Audi.  We kept Nikos back with us in case we needed him on the climb.  The pace really escalated through the farm roads and Tom and I just hung on for the ride.  When we reached the climb we, along with Nikos move to the front and it was game on.  This is what we were waiting for.  The talking stopped and it was time to see who had the legs.  It was tough going but the three of us were right up front as we rode through the feed zone.  Once through I attacked hard and got a small gap.  I was soon joined by a few others and we worked hard so that guys wouldn't be able to catch back on.  We soon found out that the leaders had a two minute gap on us.  Shit,  I figured a minute but we shouldn't have even let it go that far.  Time to go!  Nikos attacked and then I did a short time later.   Brad was always right there on us.  By the time we reached the bottom of the hill a few guys were able to hook back on but we definitely made the field smaller.  

One to go and now it was really game on.  Audi pressed hard all the way to the base of the climb.  This time up it was an all out slug fest.  By the time we reached the top I think there were down to only 12 guys.  We kept the pressure on at the top.  Not only did we still need to pull back the leaders but we didn't want anyone to be able to hook back on.  Just before the descent Vincent(Focus Bikes) jumped off the front.  This gave me cause for concern because he was the guy I was virtually tied with in GC.  Joe yelled at us to not let him go because he did have the engine to solo to the finish.  I jumped to the front and led the chase.  About half way down Ryan jumped to the front and we started to pull Vincent back.  When we made the lazy left back towards town Vincent still had a gap on us.  Brad jumped to the front and gave a monster pull.  I soon took over but no one else was coming forward.   Finally Nikos moved up and after that I pulled through again.  Time was running out and we still not only needed to get him back but we had to pull the leaders to under a minute (wasn't thinking about the time bonuses).  Vincent was still holding us off so I decided to jump hard to see if I could bridge up to him.  Maybe the two of us could work together.  When I was about half way across Brad hit it hard and by the time we made the right turn into town the 12 of us were back together.  We were not going to catch the leaders so we focused on seeing if we could at least get third.  The run in was super fast and crazy.  The final turn is just 200m from the finish and I knew only the first few through would have a chance.  Everyone else knew that too.  I was sitting on the yellow but it seemed that everyone was moving that direction as well.  I made  the decision to move to the far right and found myself right on Ryan's(Audi) wheel.   He was holding his position and I yelled at him to push forward.  He did and we were in perfect position.  Right before the corner I jumped hard on the right.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw Rob(Audi) jump hard on the inside.  He had a slight lead on me so instead of trying to drag race him I swung hard left and got on his wheel.  I tried to come around him at the line but couldn't quite do it.  Rob finished third and I rolled in for 4th.  After crossing the line I saw that Vincent finished right behind me.  Shit, he was still going to be ahead of me by  a few tenths of seconds. 

Now it was time to wait and see what the finish gap was.  It turned out that we had finished 46 seconds in front of us but with time bonuses were able to move into 2nd and 4th, keeping Brad in first but moving Rob to third and the rest of us down two spots. I then noticed that they gave Rob and I a one second advantage over the guys in our group so I was able to move up on Vincent.  Tom ended up 5th, I was 7th.  It was not the outcome we wanted but I think we raced well and fought a hard battle.

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