Even though I'm a crusty old man and mostly line up in the Masters field I always race category for several races throughout the WSBA calendar. Ravensdale is one of them. This was the first race I ever did as a newly scared shitless Cat 2 and I always race category for this one no matter what. Mike was the only other teammate lining up with me for this one. Pre-reg for this one was pretty small so I wasn't sure who would be showing up from other teams. Once again I thought the weather was going to be somewhat nice for this one but it rained pretty hard on the drive over and although it wasn't when I got to the venue we all sat around wondering how we were going to dress. Again my choice was to prepare for the worst. As we lined up I saw that we had a good sized field with a lot of strong teams and several local pros. Let the games begin. Wait, hold that thought.....
As we lined up Rory and our chief official gave us the normal pre race speeches and we were set to go. Then Rory got word that something was blocking the road and we needed to delay the start for 10 minutes. Time to take another quick bathroom break. I got back and we heard that there was crash near the finish line and an emergency vehicle was on site. We didn't know if it was still from an earlier race or some rec riders. We were told we would be about another 20 minutes so a bunch of us took a little spin up the road. When we lined up again Rory told us that because of permits and such they were going to have to cut a lap out of our race. So now were only racing six laps for a total of 50 something miles. I wasn't happy about that. This course isn't that tough and the shorter mileage could keep more guys in the mix. Oh well, that how it goes sometimes.
We only rolled neutral for a few hundred meters before being sent off. Right away about four or five guys jumped. Here we go. The start is about 5K from the finish so we actually take the one hill on seven times. I had been riding well and felt I should be in this break too but when we lined up for the 2nd time I was sitting pretty far back in the pack and with the narrow road I had no way of moving up to make a move. When we reached the climb we got spread out a bit and I took off hard up the hill. Jeff(Starbucks) and I got a small gap on the field and closed in on the break. At the top of the climb I soon realized that with the 40 minute delay, no warm up and now bad timing with pre race nutrition my legs slapped me in the face. The rest of the pack quickly closed the gap and as we came through the finish line telling us we had six laps to go I was having trouble just hanging on to the back of the pack. I looked back and there were only a few guys behind me. I tried to move up but couldn't. Shit! I might get dropped on the first lap! It was weird. I tried to stay calm and not get frustrated. I didn't try to move up and just tried to ride this shit out. When we neared the climb at the end of the first lap I pretty much prayed that I could just somehow manage to hang on. To my surprise my legs had finally warmed up and I was able to climb up with no issues near the front of the pack.
As we crossed the finish line with five to go I noticed there was no lead car in front of us. I was so busy just trying to recover and hang on that I had no idea someone had jumped off the front. How many, who were they? I was told that Will Teal(HSP), Eric Cockrell(HSP) and Steve Wilssens(Audi) were up the road. I actually didn't really care at that point. I was still trying to get my head back in the race and wasn't about to help work to chase them down.
After finishing lap two I was feeling really good and started to move towards the front of the pack. The break away group had over a minute on us and even though we were moving at a good clip we were not cutting into their gap. Besides HSP, KR had the biggest team out there and I was wondering if/when they might move to the front and start working together to pull this thing back. I think it was sometime during lap four when they did start to organize. I watched them work for a while and then decided I wasn't just going to sit in all day and watch the race happen. Jeff Reed(Starbucks) and I, along with a few from Bikesale, Olympia Ortho and TAR jumped in to help. I think we had a 16 man double pace line going with HSP and Audi tail gunning on the back in. Pretty soon we started to slowly cut into the gap. I wasn't yet sure if we would actually bring them back but at least I was helping in the cause.
During all this the weather was about as schizo as it gets. It would rain on the back side and then the sun would show itself near the finish. Since I was dressed for it I was actually hoping it would just start pouring......Not really.
This all kept up for a couple of lap. As we near the end of lap four we started up the hill again. I was near the front and for some reason a few guys started acting jumpy. I wasn't sure what was going on. We crested the hill and with about 1K to the finish guys stopped pulling through. I was on the front and no one came around me. I let this go for a few seconds before looking back an sitting up. One of the Oly guys yelled for everyone to keep working. I moved to the back of the pace line and jumped back in. Still, several guys were looking around and while not pulling through they were also not getting out of line. All of a sudden with 200m to go Mike(Bikesale) and one other guy jumped hard. What were they doing? I decided that they were going to try to bridge up so I and one other took off after them. Mike was going full tilt and I couldn't figure out why. I wasn't going to go that hard to close on him so I looked back and then sat up. He and the other guy crossed the line and he pumped his fist. WTF!!! It turned out he thought we were on the final lap and was going for the sprint for the finish. When he heard the bell ring for the final lap he just sat up and pulled to the side. I felt bad for him and hoped he would be able to jump back in. Several guys came flying by laughing. I guess in the confusion of shortening our race some guys weren't completely clear on how many laps we were doing. Watch the lap board!
I moved back into the rotation and when I looked up I saw that the three in the break were taking turn one not far in front of us. We were going to catch them. A few guys dropped out of the rotation but I decided to stay in thinking that it would be the easiest way to stay near the front if someone attacked or if things slowed down. These roads are super narrow and if things got bunched up before the climb there might not be room to move up. At this point there were about eight of us still in the rotation and I could tell that the three off the front were starting to lose it. Things were about to get real.
As we made our way down the fast section towards the sharp right hander that let to the climb HSP finally stopped tail gunning and moved to the front. It's no secret what they were doing. I simply looked for Richter's wheel and marked him. We reached the hill and it started to get crazy. We flew up and once we crested the steep section I took a look back. A lot of guys had already sat up. I was right on Dave's wheel with Benny(Cal Giant) and Jeff(Audi) both competing with me for it. With 1K it didn't seem like we were going that fast but HSP was doing their job keeping things strung out. Carson(Jamis/HB) had jumped hard off the front and were trying to get away. Even though I felt good I resisted the temptation to go. I just sat behind Dave. With about 275m or so to go a couple of guys moved out and kind of started to go. "Don't do it Sean!" I figured Dave would wait another few......Jesus!! He shot off earlier than I thought and caught me slightly off guard. I was in the gear I wanted to be in and started my sprint. Benny was over on my right and Nick(KR) on my left. I decided to ease up and get on Nick's wheel. I knew I wouldn't catch Richter but anything else was possible......even getting completely swallowed up by the pack. I didn't look back and just went as hard as I could. I was getting ready to swing left around Nick when he got caught in between gears and lunged forward. The rear end of his bike started to come out from under him and I though he was going down. If he did there was no way for me to miss him. I had to move out further to my left just to make sure. He recovered nicely and kept going. I'd slowed up just slightly and now really thought everyone would blow by me. I saw Ryan Short to my right move up next to me and just waited for more. Where is the f'ing finish line. All of a sudden we were there and no on else came. Shit. This old man just sprinted for 5th place and a podium spot! I'll take it. I was pretty stoked to have mixed it up with the super fast Richter and these young bucks. What started out to be a day when I thought I might not finish turned into a super great race for me. Meanwhile my teammate Dave took the win in the Master's field with Nikos taking third.