Day 1: Steilacoom
The Northwest has seen an unusual amount of rain so far this month but the sun came out late in the week and the weather was shaping up to be dry — possibly until the conclusion of the Hillsboro races. Terry picked me up for the drive from Portland to Tacoma around 8am and we had a very pleasent and quick drive. We had plenty of time to register, pee, preride a couple laps, and warm up for the race.
The course was fast in most places. Lots of buffed trail (rain packed sandy earth) and pavement. The run-up looked to be as hard as advertised. The 35+ 1/2/3 race staging was very civilized with callups for all. My row consisted of Terry, Martin Baker, and internet pals Dave and Anthony. The gun was quick and we were off. The first lap was a scrum. On the run-up, wheels were whacking everywhere and I was just looking to make progress. Terry was a couple wheels up the road and I tried to keep him close.
Going through the barriers for the second lap, I was startled to find that I didn’t unclip my left foot and stacked it up. My left shifter had rotated 45 degrees and I had the option of trying to rotate it back or just getting the very short distance to the pit for the other bike. I decided to stick with the race bike and stood to the side and twisted the sifter back to an approprite location. Meanwhile about ten guys went by.
And that was that. I raced with three or four guys for the rest of the race and every lap on the switchbacks, Terry came by at the same spot. I wasn’t losing time on his group but I sure wasn’t gaining any time. There was quite a crowd toward the top of the run-up and they were making quite a racket cheering on everyone. It was awsome and I kept going as hard as I could every lap on that run so as to not let down the crowd.
It was a great day of racing and I had a blast. It was great to meet Dave and Anthony in person and the company on the drive was stellar. I was stoked to get to race at Steilacoom and understand what the hype is all about. It was a great place for a race. Sure I had a costly mistake but that’s cross racing.
Day 2: Hillsboro
What a difference a day makes. The weather report claimed that rain would start in the afternoon. Well, it was raining when I woke up at 6:00. I will admit that I was a bit bummed that it was raining. I wasn’t looking forward to warming up in the rain and I figured the course would be a quagmire. Oh well, I had paid my money and I was going to race regardless.
I found Terry right away after pulling up — I snagged a parking spot close to his. It took me some time to figure out that registration was in the Stadium and not down in the tent village. I hooked up with my teammates (a couple of whom raced earlier in the day) who had snagged a primo viewing spot near the pits. The course snaked by our two easy-ups twice for double your pleasure viewing. There was a fire going and I could have stayed there drinking beer, socializing, and watching racing all day. Oh well, gotta race instead.
I’ve done Hillsboro a few times so I elected not to take a preride. There were a couple new wrinkles like the stadium stairs (very cool) and some minor rerouting but the flavor of the course was largely the same as what I was used to. I ran into Anthony soon after I had registered and he was about to preride since he hadn’t raced Hillsboro before. I headed out to attempt to get some sort of warmup. It was raining and there was some wind and I was getting pretty wet but at some point, something clicked and I was ready to race.
Again, the staging for the 35+ 1/2/3 race had callups for all. Terry and I were right next to each other. As we were filling up the grid, it started raining hard. We had all shed our extra clothing and everyone was getting cold. Terry reminded me that in a few minutes we’d be warming up just fine. Erik Voldengen was right in front of us I and I remarked about his Stan’s setup. The three of us were chatting about it when the gun went off.
Immediately, I latched onto Terry’s wheel and stuck there pretty good through the early going. The first five minutes or so was a madhouse. The starting pavement gave way to packed gravel service road and then dumped into the mud. Guys were all over the pace once we hit the soup. I elected to run large portions of the hummock section (and continued to run them on later laps) and either made time or didn’t lose time to guys who tried to ride stuff. Once we were off the hummock, Terry went into the pits and I was on my own.
The first couple laps, I tried to hold my place. Guys came by me but then I would pass some others, generally staying in about the same place overall. In the early going, I traded places a few times with Bill Crane. I was surprised to see John Wilson just up the road and I worked a bit harder to try to pull him in. Whether it was shifting up to the big ring on the pavement/hard pack or griding away in the slop, I forced my legs to keep churning. I passed John Wilson when he took a bike change but then he got me right back. But before long, I got around him for good. I’d also shed Bill Crane as well. Dave Divinney kept coming by me and then he’d have a world of trouble in the mud and I’d pass him back. I used Dave a couple times on the hardtop for a draft but his superior fitness eventually won over my superior mud handling and he finished about 30 seconds up on me.
I kept going hard to the finish (54 minutes after starting) — I almost caught a guy at the line and held off a hard charging Chris Alling. Earlier in the season, I won a race before being upgraded to Masters A but this was much more satisfying. It was my best race of the year. The conditions were hard and I never quit motoring. I had something to give to the very end. Crossing the line was such an awsome feeling since I felt that I really had such a great race. It was the last race of the year for me and I’m ecstatic that I wrapped on such a high note (last year was just the opposite).
I’m not in the posted results — I found that my number was dangling by one pin after I finished so I guess they couldn’t score me. Based on the results of the guys I finished in front of, I was in the mid 30’s. Whoot!
And now I’d like to take a moment to share some thanks …
* Terry, thanks for the ride up to Steilacoom and the continuing encouragement throught the season.
* Bill Gotitski, thanks for giving so much for our team — you are great.
* The team and Ted and Pam, thanks for screaming at me every lap — I dug harder every time. Having you guys on that little power rise that sapped so many riders gave me extra motivation every lap. And thanks to the couple who cheered for me at Steilacoom — I can’t recall your names right now.
Dave and Anthony, it was great to meet you guys. Anthony, you had a really good race at Hillsboro. You started at the back and worked up quite a ways.
Bill Crane, Chris Sautter, Erik Voldengen, Martin Baker, John Wilson … it was great racing with and against you guys all year.