Monday, November 26, 2007

Always the bridesmaid….

It’s always good to find an outlet to work off the Tofurkey and Thanksgiving beer. Amazingly, sitting on the couch watching football for two days really doesn’t seem to cut it. What a shame. Luckily, we were provided with an early showing of the Kruger’s Crossing Cyclocross race on Sauvie Island to make amends.

Being on an island that is really no more than a series of wetlands in the Willamette River flood plain that have been turned into farms, it doesn’t take too much rain to turn the place into a bog, and it takes awhile for it dry out. So even with no rain in the previous week, there was still ample mud. And it was the sticky peanut butter type of mud. It was hard to get a good feel for the course as it continued to change throughout the day. In the morning it was firm but getting nastier as the ground thawed. Yet as the day progressed and the sun came out, things began to dry up. After my first pre-ride, when my front wheel pretty much stopped spinning from all the mud, I had been planning to ride the pit bike with the Project 2 fork for increased mud clearance, but once I switched the wheels over and walked around a bit, I realized things were drying nicely, so I switched back to my A bike.

I know, life with two bikes is tough, ain’t it?

I lined up in the Master’s A again, I had thought about doing the Sr A race, but since my family was there to watch I kinda wanted a better shot a good race. It’s never nice to get your butt kicked in front of kin. Not that I was taking candy from a baby in the Master’s field either. While some of the regular bruisers in the master A field were racing in the Sr A (Bravard, McCaferty, Leithiser) there were still a lot of fast guys, and it looked like some new guys, in the Master field.

I got myself in the front row and had a great start, right to the front. Martin Baker got around me on the second corner, a nasty mud hole that I rode horribly, and then I was passed by Brooke Hoyer, but I quickly jumped back in front and rode my butt off trying to separate myself. I kept on digging in and I eventually dropped the rest of the race by opening a 15 second gap. For a second there I thought I was going to ride away with it... a fleeting second. From seemingly nowhere I noticed somebody gaining on me. I was Steve somebody (Yenne?) according to the fans. After having my lead swallowed up in a lap’s time, he got around me, at the same time Mike Benno caught up as well. Mike went around both of us and I jumped on their wheels. We rotated leads for a lap or so. After Barton, I was determined not to do all the work, so I made sure to ride their wheels and rest, and took some pulls too. It was fun being in a more strategic position, and the crowds were great. Although I did tell Margi to “settle down” at one point as she was enthusiastically cheering me along. Ooops. After a lap or so of this cat and mouse, Benno went down in front of me entering the corn maze, and while I tried to avoid him I heard Yenne(?) get tangled in a corn stalk, so I attacked in the maze and through the muddy parking lot section. Benno must have gotten up quick as he was right there, but we had gapped Yenne(?). At that point we worked together to open a big gap on the rest of the field. A lap later it was just us playing cat and mouse. I had made the mistake of mentioning to him that the corners after the finish line were giving problems all race, and that’s right where he attacked at the start of the bell lap. I knew it was coming, and was prepared, and managed to keep with him, even slipping past him before the last corner to slow him back up. We duked it out a bit on the remainder of the last lap. I made a move right before a corner on the back side, but he attacked right back on the last straight before the barn, got past me, and I ran out of room to get back. Mike got the win by 50 feet.

I found out later that he got tangled up with Mitchem at the start and was back in 12th in the first lap and came back from there. That’s impressive.

I was psyched with my form in the race, I felt good, and feel like I raced smarter than normal. And even though I was 2nd, I can’t help but replay the last couple laps and wonder “what if?”. Like should I have attacked earlier on the “start climb” or some of the straights to see how he responded? I think I may have been a bit quicker in the upper tree section so attacking right before then may have been a good plan too.

Hindsight is too unforgiving.

At least I know I am feeling good going into the final weekend.