ohh crap Toby just crashed on my line [ from ryank ]
A lot of stuff happened between the end of my race Saturday and the start of my race Sunday. It highlighted how awesome most people on the cross scene are, you know, that thing you take for granted?
So, one snapped SRAM Rival shifter. The good news was, Joe from Joe's Garage was in the pit, and he had a right shifter to sell me. The bad news was, it was SRAM Red. Get out your checkbook. Wait, good news, he sold it to me at cost (PEOPLE ARE AWESOME)! Bad news, SRAM Red at cost is still $170. Wow.
So I went over to Meg and JD's house, our awesome hosts for the night. Dinner was given to me. Breakfast was given to me. Extra brake and shift cables were given to me, which was really important after I kinked the everloving crap out of one and had to disassemble my new shifter to fix it.
During my disturbingly lengthy shifter installation I discovered my derailleur hanger was bent in and hitting the spokes. A quick email later, as-pro-as-it-gets mechanic Dave Drumm said he had a Park Tool hanger straightener (oddly enough, I haven't got around to buying one of these just yet), and after a few minutes of magic in the morning I was back to PRO shifting and my spokes were safe.
Of course, I wasn't done leaning on other people's generosity just yet, I still had to borrow a front tubular from Matt because I'm a spoiled brat who can't possibly be expected to compete on a mud2.
I'm just trying to say, you people are great.
After all that, I had a lot of people and equipment to not let down in the race. I just barely snuck into the last spot on the front row -- down to 8th in overall, one point ahead of Hunter and two points ahead of Todd. This one-point difference turned out to have huge consequences.
Just like the day before I drilled the clip-in, only to have someone else hit it even better and take the holeshot. This time it was "Slim" Patterson from UVM.
It turns out that Slim was 2nd in the Semi-Pro DH Race at Mt Snow Nationals this year. I remember watching that race and thinking "these guys have amazing skills and no fear." And now I was going to have to stay on the wheel of one of "those guys."
Unlike when I took the lead yesterday, Slim went full afterburners from the first corner. He wasn't just trying to get to the front, he was committed to riding off it. I got on his wheel and hung on for dear life.
I thought I was good at riding bikes around corners. I was wrong. We hit every single corner faster that I thought was rideable. I leaned as hard as I dared and followed his line, and was shocked to stay upright.
We got off the front incredibly fast. At the sandpit, two minutes in, someone told me we had eight seconds on third already. I came around on the straightaway, let him know we had a big gap and I was willing to work, and we got down to the business of trying to pull a fast one on the field. Two technical specialists in front of a herd of raging roadies, this could be so cool.
I actually led through a few turns, letting it all hang out, but it wasn't fast enough for Slim so he came back around. I narrowly avoided sliding out heading into the rideup and ended up slightly overgeared, getting gapped just a bit over the top...going into the looser, dirt corners. The corners that might remind a semi-pro downhiller of what he does all summer.
One minute later, I was gapped for good and thoroughly schooled. It was time to go into time trial mode and see who would catch me first.
Actually, a few more words about that lap. It turned my world upside down. To know that one can corner that much faster than I usually do -- now that I've done it once, all I can think about is doing it again. I'm going to go to a park one of these days, put down some cones, and corner until I fall. The traction limit on grass is even further away than I thought.
Oh, and he was running a Mud2 front/Jet rear tire setup. Everyone out there who thinks you need tubulars to fly on corners -- and I'm including myself, here -- think about that the next time you decide you have to buy speed.
Alright. Patterson-worship aside, there was still a race to run. The whole second lap I was riding solo in second place, until eventual winner Dylan McNicholas solo'ed past me. Knowing he was probably going to win, I didn't even try to up the pace to stay on his wheel -- just kept it steady to see how it would play out.
Eventually, on lap three, the rest of the race caught up, a large chase group led by Brian and Toby. I was content to slip back into the group for a bit, and next thing I know Brian is riding away from us. Stuck in traffic, I didn't have an opportunity to try to chase him down, and I doubt I had the legs to anyway. Still, it was a bummer to watch him ride off with authority, and third place.
I thought I was still sitting pretty in the fourth-place group, though, at least until I looked back on the start straight with three to go -- we had what must have been a 10-rider conga line going on. Winner gets fourth -- loser gets 13th. That's a big difference. Too big. From who I can remember, we had Pronovost, Tosca, Rumsey, Wells, Mannion, Goguen, Bernhard, and myself, and a few more (Todd R? Cary? Cort?) dangling near the back.
We responded to this situation with some of the ugliest laps of racing I've ever been part of. The whip was cracking mercilessly on the hairpins, we were spitting guys out the back every turn and they were clawing back on just in time for the next corner. It was tough sitting fourth wheel, it must have been murder at the tail end.
Understandably, no one wanted to be at the back, so we kicked it up a notch on the rideup. Tosca made a questionable decision to attack to try to hit it first and Jon Bernhard made the even sketchier decision to follow his wheel. We went in with two sets of people riding two abreast and the shit hit the fan. Tosca tangled with Goguen, Goguen dropped his chain, Bernhard and someone else came together and Bernhard's derailler got torn off. Somehow I pushed through the carnage to stay on the bike, but the group was detonated.
A rare, carnage-free trip up the rideup [from kris]Pat Goguen fought his way back up to us and the group was down to five -- Me, Toby, Tosca, Rumsey and Goguen. As fatigue set in the sand got riskier and riskier. This time through I elected to ride and ended up bracketed by runners, throwing elbows while I churned, trying to keep them from closing my line down.
Ride or run, it's ugly either way [from Soups]
Back up top, the laps were ticking down and the ante was going up. Last time through the barriers Toby had picked up some places so this time, we were all pushing harder. With that many bikes in such a small space, disaster was bound to happen -- and sure enough, poor Pat got screwed yet again as he made contact with Toby during the dismount, smashing his bike into the second barrier, dragging his bike over by a brake hood as he fell.
Unsurprisingly, this took the wind out of his sails pretty badly, so we were down to four, although he did valiantly chase for most of the lap (thanks, seat cam!). We were pretty well resigned to a sprint finish, but given the accordion coming off the 180 turn into the finish, positioning was going to be crucial.
This meant yet another insane attack on the barriers, which came 45 seconds before the finish. Whoever was fourth after the barriers was basically out of contention, and we all knew it. This might be the first time I've ever sprinted it off a corner into barriers.
We came in going PRO speed with B skills, and you won't believe it, but someone wrecked. This time it was Ryan Rumsey losing it, all I saw was his bike flying past me in the air, I don't know if there was contact or what, I had bigger things to worry about, like a HR of 195 and the fact that I had just taken the lead.
On the bike path before the last sprint Toby came around, and I wasn't about to fight him for it on a narrow, twisting strip of pavement. I figured 1st position and 2nd position were just about equal in terms of win probability anyway. Tosca was third, so he was going to have to fight the full slinky effect to win.
Toby hit it hard off the corner and got a good gap, putting me a quick two or three bike lengths down. I thought he might have it, but it's a long finish. Even at two bike lengths there's a draft, so I just kept fighting and shifting up while staying in line with him. Finally I closed to one bike length, the slipstream picked up exponentially, and I went shooting by just barely before the line to snag 4th.
Without question, that was the hardest fought race I've ever been part of. Might be the most fun I've ever had, too. Fun after the fact, of course.
Post-race on a Sunday is always great because there's no reason to be nice to your body. The beer tent was down to $1 a beer and I had $4 in my pockets, enough to get drunk twice over with 140-lb-cyclist-tolerance. After 40 more minutes of running around being an overbearing boyfriend, er, cheering squad, yelling at Linnea ("shift up! corner! pass! draft! attack! dance, puppet, dance!") on her way to 11th, it was beer garden time. I hooked up Ryan K with the beer feed only seconds before Jamie Driscoll lapped him, almost got John Peterson to take a feed by screaming "RIDE FASTER OR DRINK BEER," and watched everyone's favorite ebay-auction-villain take a feed while in contention for 25th (that's a paying place!) and promptly drop out.
Drinking and watching a UCI race is as good as life gets.
[Seat Cam coming soon... well, pretty soon. It's a lot of footage!]