As much of the internet has noted, day two was a drier, faster, and totally different course than anything most of us have seen at Gloucester. With legions of Cat 4s and masters sacrificing themselves to dry out and pack down the prior day's mudbath, the course was getting faster by the hour. Don't believe me? My lap times would have been good enough to win the Cat 3 race by over two minutes. Er, I mean, of course I could dominate Cat 3 like that. I'm a Cat 2, after all!
Anyway, with the course getting fast and my file tread thirst unquenched by Saturday, I hit up Gabe again, to get my hands on some carbon fiber hotness. I think I might have a problem.
Right-o. So the seat cam was in full effect, as you've already seen. Ryan, ever the camera whore, went into his usual routine of lining up a row behind me and saying the stupidest things he could think of while we waited for the start. Then he blew the clip-in and was never seen again. Wait, did I write that sentence about the last race too? Almost.
I've noticed holeshots are much less intense when 50% of the people in the race are way better than me. 20 seconds in, I'm behind Shawn Milne and come on, should I really pass him? That's like one step away from being the guy who registers first and finishes last. So I thought about it for a while, went around, got passed back soon after, and settled in with the rest of the Cat 2s where I belong. PVB made his required lap one seat cam appearance.
One of the unique features to this Gloucester course was the sketchy, bumpy off-camber directly after the finish line. Matt helped me out with some prerace line selection that paid off pretty much every time through. After the prologue loop Wheels and some friends came in high and hot, so I took Matt's slow and low line to pass them all back after then overshot the apex while bouncing around wildly.
[ I got some flak for hanging the leg here. What can I say, sometimes uglier is faster. From Kate ]Alright, enough about how awesome I am. As always, Corey Lowe and Wayne Bray were directly in front of me and laying down the roadie power, so with the exception of slick off-camber passes I spent most of the first two laps wondering if I could possibly hang on to this pace for sixty minutes of racing.
I remember back when I was a wee up-n-coming B racer (story time, kids! gather 'round grandpa/first-year-elite-rider) and I started having decent races. I remember when I was 16th at Northampton in 2007, after two laps I saw the leaders go by and thinking, for the first time ever -- holy crap, they're only a few turns ahead of me! I'm having a good race! I think I belong here!
Yeah, well a UCI elite race with Tim, John, Jeremy and Jamey is NOTHING LIKE THAT. I was racing as hard as I could, clinging to wheels, slaying that stupid barrier runup (thanks, crowd), and then I saw Jonathan Page and the cxworld train going the other direction. Just like Noho two years ago, I briefly thought, "hey, I'm pretty close to the front still!"
Then I realized what part of the course they were on -- the new Gloucester course was incredibly circuitous -- and nevermind, I'm already almost half a lap down. Lap times were nearly nine minutes and I was still going to be cutting it close. Dude, pro cyclists are fast.
Well anyway. It's kind of nice to have a mutual goal of "lead lap" to share with everyone else back in 40th place. Much more civilized then fighting them to the death for first place. On the lead lap, we're all winners!
I know, it's thoughts like that that make America's youth weak and pathetic, but how else do you explain Pete Smith not attacking the group when he rolled through it on lap four? We were already cruising at what I consider max velocity when Pete caught the back of the train, went through it, and lifted the pace ever-so-slightly at the front. Just enough to make me answer the question "can I hurt more than this?" Maybe Alex's cheers are right. Much to my surprise I hung on.
[ Pete, dude, nice wheels. Please slow down now. From Uri ]Soon after, the party train started falling apart. First a Canuck on my wheel took a serious soil sample (near the end of the Lap 3 video), then Pete sliced a tubular on the off-camber, then Corey busted... something... that left him running to a DNF. John Burns remembered that he's better than me and Todd Wheelden remembered that he didn't race Saturday, and Wayne remembered that he's got a jillion more watts than me, and just like that I was all alone.
All alone, riding a desperate time trial to stay on the lead lap, I might add.
You might think that having Rich Fries' announcing booming all over the park might make it easy to keep track of where Tim Johnson is. You'd be wrong. Rich likes to mention how many laps the leader is going to get next time through the finish line a lot, regardless of how close to the finish line he actually is. I'm sure it all makes sense if you're spectating, but no sooner had I come through with two to go than I hear Rich start going off about Tim getting the bell lap.
Crap! My whole goal this year was to be on the lead lap of one of the BIGBIG races and here I am blowing it. Panicky, I gasped "am I going to get lapped??" at Matt as I rode the sandpit. The tone of his "no" in response made some things clear: 1) I am not getting lapped. 2) He thinks I'm an idiot for asking. 3) He thinks it's funny that this means I'll be racing for almost 70 minutes.
Fair enough, you can verbally abuse me all you want when I'm on the lead lap. I gave the penultimate lap everything I had, just to make sure, and then rode what felt like a victory lap around a suddenly-vacant course. I rolled in to 37th place, eight minutes behind Tim, with the crowd gone, sun setting, and the course already being broken down, and you know what? I felt like I'd won the goddamn race.