Gig Harbor.....my last road race of the season before heading down to Masters Nats. in Bend. We had a good crew racing in the Masters 1/2 field with Me, Mark, Tom, Nikos, David and Landon. The marine layer was still hanging over the area and it was a little cool but perfect for racing. The course is a short, 4 mile loop with a nice "kicker about 3K from the finish. We all took a warm up lap around the course and I found that my legs were not really feeling it. I was working hard to just keep up with everyone on the climb. After we finished the lap I took a couple more trips up the hill by the start but never felt quite right. Oh well......
Our plan was to keep doing what we've done all year. We were all going to take turns attacking and if we were all together at the end we would try to set up Mark for the sprint finish. As we staged I looked around and saw that we had a strong field. This could be a good one!
We rolled off neutral and were quickly let go. The course immediately goes downhill. At the bottom is takes a nice little right hander before flattening out. We were probably only a mile into the course when I decided to take a dig off the front. I mainly just wanted to take an opener to see if I could get the cobwebs out of my legs and to let other teams know that we were not going to just sit in. I didn't really attack as much as just pick up speed an roll off the front. After a couple of seconds I got on it and before I knew it I had a nice little gap. I help that pace for a short while to see if anyone was going to try to join me but no one did. This is a circuit race and we were only doing 7 laps for 28 miles so I don't think anyone could say I went too early. I decided I was going to push the pace until turn two and force the other teams to work. As I entered the turn I looked back again and still no one was making a move. I decided right then to go all in. No one could see me once I made the turn so I got out of the saddle and put myself in the red. I kept my head down and just pedaled as hard as I could through the winding road that let to the climb. The road takes a lazy right hander just before the climb and it is one place on the course where you can get a nice look and what's going on behind you......Still no one chasing. I decided to hit the hill like it was the last lap. When I got to the top I looked back and could still see the field but it didn't look like anyone was off the front trying to attack.....Shit!......Now I guess I really have to do this. I didn't let up on the downhill section after the climb and really hit it on the slight incline before the finish. As I flew by I saw the lap counter showing 6 laps to go. "This is going to hurt!" Keeiichi Otani (HB) was working the course just passed the finish and he yelled that I had a 38 second gap. I decided to ride the next lap as hard as possible and hope for the best. Once again I took the climb as hard as I could and at the top I could not see the field anywhere. I came through the finish and my gap had increased to 50 seconds. I rode the next lap at tempo and took a little off on the climb and then dug hard to the finish. I was half way done and now had about a 1:20 gap.
Now things were getting interesting. I was starting to get a lot of people standing on the course yelling for me and that helped motivate me. I still had 4 laps to go but I was feeling really good and took lap for really hard again. This time I had about 1:28 gap. It was still increasing but not as fast. Even though I was feeling good I was starting to doubt myself. Could I keep this up for 16 more miles? There was no way I was going to give up so it was all or nothing I was either going to win this thing or they'd find me in a ditch after the pack chased me down and spit me off the back.
Three laps to go and my lead was holding steady. I tried to remain focused and just keep a hard, steady pace. This time when I came through the finish I was told that I had a 1:38 gap on the field. With two to go I now felt I could pull this off unless I had a mechanical or I cramped up. I was feeling the burn but was motivated to get this done. I told myself that I would take the hill really hard this time and then if I still held my lead I'd let off on the final lap. When I came through to start the bell lap I still had a about a 1:30 gap. Even though I wanted to ease up I didn't. I didn't want to take a chance.
I reached the base of the climb for the last time and took a look back. Someone on the road yelled that there was no way I'd get caught but I still drove fairly hard up the hill. At the top there is probably a little over 1.5K to go. I sat up and pumped my fist to a few people that were standing at the top of the climb cheering me on. I pretty much soft pedaled my way to the finish and had plenty of time to celebrate the win. I ended up with a 1:04 lead on the pack.
After coming through the line I didn't waist time cooling down. I quickly turned around and got a good spot to see the rest of the field come in. Soon enough I saw the lead car coming up the slight incline before the finish. because of the angle I couldn't really see the riders behind. A few seconds later the road flattened out and I could see blown up pack flying down the road. It was an awesome site. Up front all I could see was a bunch of green helmets flying towards me! Mark came flying through the line in 2nd followed by Nikos and Tom. We took the top four places.