The starting grid was thirteen rows wide for maximum excitement, but somehow, there wasn't a single near-fatality in the start (we were saving that for later). I basically held my second-row position for the first minute and settled into a train of guys that was connected all the way to the front of the race... that's right... you're in 15th place but you're also in the "lead group!" Only at Canton.
|Jesse Keough with the holeshot. Kevin with the INTENSITY.|
This arrangement held up for an entire lap! Because the race ended up averaging over 18mph, so you know we did lap one at like 22, and at 22 freaking miles an hour, even scrubs like me can hang on for a good while.
That being said, "sitting in" a 22 mph in a cross race is still pretty unpleasant, when I would be just setting up for the ride-up onto the track and I could already see Big Al out of the saddle, on the track, sprinting. The whip was a'crackin', much like myself, because everyone was going ludicrous speed into the power sections, and guess what, THE WHOLE COURSE IS POWER SECTIONS, separated by like, one turn.
It was one of those situation where, had it been a group of my peers, I would have freaked out to get off the back of it. But I had already mentally decided that I couldn't hang (yeah, that's the attitude!) so I just hung out at the back, getting battered.
CJ Congrove, Nate Morse and I established our status as "the danglers" and we dangled the CRAP outta lap two, taking turns getting gapped off the back (taking the other danglers with us) and then chasing/rolling back on in the braking sections, because a 12-man lead group slows down a LOT.
And of course, the reason you're dangling is the same reason you can't STOP dangling, because you're going just a little too hard. One time the gap got a little too big, and I thought, this is it, either burn a match to get across the gap RIGHT NOW or your time in the lead group is DONE. And my legs were like... waaah. Sigh. The anticlimactic death of the dangler...
Still though, two laps in the lead group, that's the kind of thing that you could totally examine without context and convince yourself that could probably be there next week!
Post-dangling, I settled into a group with CJ, Nate, and Ben Padilla, who had missed the initial party but had bridged up with what was apparently SUPERWATTS. Sadly his inability to shred what little turns existed meant he wasn't towing us back to the leaders, but still, FREE RIDE! Yay!
Then Ben flatted and it was back to the original dangler trio.
Actually, CJ and I might have taken it to the next level and been dangling off Nate at this point.
"Luckily" our next ride was coming through, as Mark the Shark had also missed the group and was now old-man-powering his way up to the front. I eased a bit to wait for him and then became "Colin the Pilot Fish." Mark takes me back to Nate, I clean parasites off him (I think I just called CJ a parasite), everybody wins!
The plan worked great for about half a lap, right up until I had the standard "did I get a rear flat?!" series of corners. No Colin, your tire is just as inflated as it always was, but now you're fatigued and getting sloppy and it's drifting like crazy.
But by all means, get ridden off Mark's wheel because you think you have a flat and have zero confidence. Good work!
Once again the dangler trio reunited as Mark disappeared into the sunset.
We established a common enemy: a group of Masters riders (ewww, Masters riders) about 15 seconds back being driven by Mike Rowell and Keith Gauvin. My dreams of winning the 45+ race someday rested on holding them off today and then not getting ANY slower for fifteen years. Let's do this!
Nate might not have been fully on board with team beat-the-masters, probably because he was riding guys who are basically masters from his perspective. So he pulled through just in time to gap us hopping the low barriers are a zillion miles an hour (get off my lawn) and then it was just CJ and I time trialing around together.
|I thought my hops were fast, but they weren't fast enough to not end up chasing Nate on the road after this EVERY LAP|
My dreams of winning the cat 3 race RIGHT NOW also hung in the balance, which is why I was somewhat relieved when CJ crashed on a hairpin with 3 or so to go. What's up now, Cat 3 race! I have bested your champion!
Unfortunately this meant that team beat-the-masters was now down to one member, and the gap was down to like ten seconds, and all I could think about was Mike Rowell's CBTT wattage (spoiler: it's closer to 400 than 300) and how totally screwed I was.
In a remarkable display of "hardening up" I somehow managed to ride back up to Nate Morse instead of wilting like a delicate flower, although at one point I did very genuinely shout "wait up Nate!" as we passed on a hairpin.
So maybe he waited. But come on. LET ME HAVE THIS ONE!
My high school buddy and I then proceeded to cooperate VERY nicely for the rest of the race. I was taking actual, elbow-flicking pulls for him, that's how scared of Mike I was. I think Nate was probably less concerned, and sure enough, with half a lap to go he decided it was time to prove he better than this masters clown who was riding with him.
|"I will totally buy you beer if you take some pulls for me"|
I was secretly hoping to go to a sprint with him (get off my lawnnnnnnnn!) but apparently he was too smart for that. And since we'd managed to hold off Mike, I was officially COMPLACENT about it anyway.