Monday, March 17, 2008
Wow. What a fast race. These races are turning what are normally time trials into some real deal racing. It is awesome. After getting some rest and a little advice from The Little Muscle (what my buddy Eddie used to call EP), I was planning on finding out what kind of form all this base training has got me into. To be honest, I was really happy with the way I rode on Sunday an it definitely was a glimpse of some real form to come. Too bad I didn't have just a little more of it, but I actually finished right where I thought I would so I feel reassured that I am on the right track.
There were some heavy hitters lining up. Chris, Wes, TK, Nate Rice and two semi pros from IN to say the least. Brad Nelson is an 18 year old SM who podiums the overalls in the DINO series. To give you an idea of how hard these races are, sometimes EP even gets smoked. Nate is a guy who is thinking about UCI cross races and is just out to get some racing in, but if he was showing up to these in November shape he would be riding away from us. Chris had a helmet cam on, not very PRO, but his performance made up for it.
The race started out as expected and I just stayed up in the top 5 or so and out of the wind. Things were going well until Scott Ogilvie made a move right before the downhill to get in front, and then got on his brakes when he realized that maybe a CX bike wasn't such a good idea on loose descents at 30+ mph. Instantly CP, TK and one of the guys from IN (IN from now on) got a little gap. Scott made up for it on the climb and we all were strung out the whole way up, Big Ringing it like it was pavement. By the time we were close to the top I was actually feeling pretty good and knew that most people were hurting... Right before we started the descent SO made another move to get behind the top three riders, found himself going too fast again and hit the brakes. TK sensed this and him, CP and IN took off across the bridge and the door opened up. As soon as we got across the bridge I passed SO right behind Aaron and we started to put it down, all the while knowing that if they hit the long gravel backside alone they were gone. I was surprised at how fast we opened up a huge gap on Scott, Wes, and Furhman, not to mention the rest of the field. We got closest right before the cedars, but TK, no rookie, pushed that extra % and opened it right back up. Aaron started to bog down in the mud going through the cedars, so I made my move and dropped him fast on the descent.
I had the winning selection in my sights, about 75 meters away, when I hit the gravel but they weren't slowing down for me to catch on. I slayed myself and was amazed at the type of riding I was doing. I knew I was moving because around each turn the three guys in front of me weren't much further away and I was opening up a big gap on the guys behind me. I let up a little bit before ducking around the left hander, with no followers in sight down the long stretch of gravel behind me, and took a few pedal strokes to recover before I dove back into the single track.
Sitting in 4 th place behind two strong semi pros and the Legend TK, I was feeling pretty good and started to talk myself along as I so often did in endurance races. Stay smooth, eat, stay smooth, push a little harder gear, don't look back, stay smooth, drink... you can do it. That kinda stuff. As I crossed the line after the first lap I was told I was only about 30 seconds down and I looked behind me and there was no one. I was worried what the climb would do to me, but after I crested the steep section I started turning over the big meat and feeling pretty good. I rode the next single track section clean and fast and was very focused. They were nowhere in sight in front, or behind me at this point. I hit the double track again, worried about the wind and knowing I was led by a group of three who had been working together, and was being chased by an even more cohesive trio of motivated riders. I had a gel figuring it would kick in on the last lap and pushed.
They started to close the door on me on the gravel but somehow I still managed to hold them off. I wasn't trying to yo-yo them but I would guess that Wes was taking real pulls, Aaron didn't have enough gearing to stay on the gas and Dan F was soft pedaling...
I started to really feel it at the top of the steep section on the last lap and Fuhrman made a move to get across to me. When he got to me I chatted with him a bit and got the "oh man I'm so freakin' spent I can't pull at all" and actually believed him. I'd consider him a friend after a couple years of riding and racing at the same places and would have expected him to just man up and just tell me to suck it, but he didn't and I pulled for the glory. We had about 100 meters on Wes and AAron and thought that if we could just make it hard enough for them and work together a little on the long gravel section we would be home free. I was pulling my little brains out with Furhman on my wheel and as we began to crest the final riser, he attacked. Fucker. Bahhaaaaahaaa. He likes sheep too, I bet. I put in a good 10 second effort but the legs locked up and I had to sit back down. He got away.
I was able to hold off Wes and Aaron until about midway through the double track section before I gave up. The legs were gone. If all the motivational speakers in the world were holding a conference in my little head, it wouldn't have made a difference. I was cooked and started to think about survival. 4th place had seemed so close and now I was worried about 5th, 6th, or 7th. This was some bad ass racing going on.
I think Wes knew I was pretty cooked and didn't give me shit for not pulling. I sat on churning over the big meat and trying to convince myself that I could make it come down to a sprint. We went into the narrow trail and Aaron took off. Wes followed and I surrendered. Almost. I started to catch Wes again and managed to stay on his wheel when he made a little push before we started the last long descent in the woods. In his own head General Lee was still telling him to attack , he had a chance at winning one more minor battle and catching Aaron. General Lee had me thinking about drinking sweet tea on a nice porch...
As Wes and I rolled up through the field on the way to the finish he stomped on it again and somehow I caught him again, this time I told him I wasn't going to even try but he could still see Aaron and told me he wanted to catch him. His strong will broke mine and I down shifted to my middle ring and he pushed on for the final 500 meters. As I passed my buddy Rich Pierce who smiled and said hello two other guys were yelling at me to finish strong. I was too tired to punch them in the face. Insult + Injury
4th to 7th isn't so awesome, but how many XC races do you do that come down to crit like finishes? What an unreal series this is shaping up to be! The legs are coming around as planned and the voices in my head are starting to make sense.