This blog was dead all week because I was busying working my butt off and living out of a suitcase, and any time I got a spare second I was trying to catch up on sleep in the (possibly vain) hope of peaking for this weekend. Sorry!
The rain/snow Friday afternoon hardened up the Stedman course, but with the temp nearing 45 things were softening fast in the sun. The early races happened on bulletproof dirt track, the late races on a tacky mud one. Right in the middle were B men, with the greasy mud on top of frozen dirt I think we had the hardest conditions of the day, exactly what I was hoping for. A super long, uphill paved section gave the roadies plenty of space to turn on the jets, so I was happy to see that putting the power down elsewhere required plenty of finesse.
I ended up on the start line next to Rosey, so when the whistle blew I immediately went left before he could crash me. Up the start hill I was pretty boxed in around 30th place, everyone was hauling in a typical B men's start, but then the road flattened out after 30 seconds and everyone was strangely content to sit in. It was bizarre, I was hammering up the left side, just holding my place in the start, and then all of the sudden I'm passing people... passing more people... I can see the front of the pack...holy crap I better stop sprinting so I don't get the holeshot.
I sat up and braked and hit the grass up in 12th or so, I don't know why it was so easy and now I'm wondering if I'm gonna blow up. But the field is greasy and packed with some tight turns, so I get plenty of recovery time as we tiptoe around the trees to a chorus of poorly-trued brakes. There's a nasty right-hand off camber turn that is absolute chaos, I end up going low and then getting ridden into the tape by a guy on the high line. Soon after on the left-into-right exit from the field people are all over the place and someone breaks the tape on the 180 right turn, and then everyone cuts it completely... classy guys. Despite all the drama I somehow remain around 15th through the first lap.
There's some real autobahn-type road sections so I'm expecting a stream of angry roadies to swarm me at some point, but there's a too many technical turns stringing out the field so instead the powerhouses like Rowell and Dunn come by one at a time, and I can hang with them for a while. Somewhere on what I think was lap two the alpha singlespeeder himself comes by, but it's a slow pass and I can actually get his wheel for a bit, a refreshing change from the last Verge race.
Nearing the end of lap two, on the pavement, I stand up to sprint and something goes horribly, horribly wrong. At the time I thought I blew my chain off the rings -- in retrospect I think I pulled out of a pedal due to sand -- but in any case I somehow fall straight off the pedals onto the pavement with both feet at 20 or so mph. Through some miracle of metal toe picks and metal cleats on pavement my feet end up sliding, and I Fred Flinstone for quite a ways before slowing enough to get a foot back on the pedals.
It costs me 5 or 10 seconds and removes me from the group I was with, but more importantly the anaerobic muscle spasms that come with a close call send me straight to the hurt box for a while. I dropped some places on the rest of the lap, I think Chris Bagg got by me here if he wasn't already ahead, and Cary F caught me here too. They both had super rocket legs on the pavement but I was able to hang on a wheel all the way up the finish straight and stay in contact. Cary was working really hard on the road and I think we pulled back Thom P here as well.
We rode in a fun group for a while after that, Cary and Chris had the raw power but Thom and I were cornering better, so they blocked us and then we sucked their wheels. Someone told us we were 13th, which made me totally psyched, but man were there a lot of people close behind -- I think on the results there ended up being 13 people in the 35 seconds behind us. So I was alternately terrified and elated, but luckily we were down to one lap to go.
Coming up the paved hill one last time, we caught PvB who inexplicably decided to bury himself to lead out Cary, the pace was so damn fast that John Peterson (coming back from a mechanical) actually ended up sitting in the group for a good 25 seconds before attacking it when PvB finally ran out of gas. Cary tried to go with him, which might have worked if he wasn't John f-ing Peterson, so Cary quickly took 20 bike lengths on us and we quickly pulled him back after Peterson dropped him.
Somehow I snuck my way to the front of the group heading into the sand run and I was actually far enough ahead that I was thinking I might have a gap I could take to the finish -- but just kidding, my dismount was terrible and I ended up dragging my bike on its side for a ways through the sand, and then next thing I know Cary runs right up next to me. Whoops.
But, I beat him to the next corner and held the lead, when we hit the backstretch Chris Bagg went tearing by me and I stayed in the general vicinity of his wheel. Then, in the distance, I saw the holy grail of 2/3 cross racing.
The Mountain Man.
And he was hurting. In fact, Chris Bagg had already passed him, and on the climb off the pavement he was right in front of me. I felt like Captain Ahab. I did what I had to do.
There was no time for celebration because there was still a train of mud and gears (and single speeds) hot on my heels. I clawed my way back to Chris Bagg's wheel on the slick corners and then passed him on the last off-camber, opening up just enough of a gap that he couldn't bring me back on the final paved stretch.
End result: 12th place.
Finally got my #^@&*% Verge points.
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