We had some rain on Friday and a lot of rain on Saturday night so the course was wet. The venue is a county gravel pit right next to a park on the banks of the scenic Clakamus River. It being a gravel pit and all, there was a lot of, well, gravel. There were plenty of hardpack flats to keep things fast. There were plenty muddy sections to keep things sketchy. And there was one slog-a-bog which happened to be on the first transition from the starting (fast) straight. The trasition had lots of churned up rocks mixed in thick mud (think babyheads) to keep things interesting. And there was a singletrack chute that was steep and loose and had a number of riders off the bike running down the hill. The Barton V-slot ditch had standing water in the bottom and looked gnarly this year so my cost benefit analysis came out on the side of run over ride.
I raced Masters 35+ B. Two of the fast guys had just been upgraded (one took 4th in Masters A) and lots of riders don’t like the Barton Park course so I figured this was my chance to win a race. Unlike every race I have entered in the last three years, I lined up intending to win. I got a front row spot on the left side so as to be lined up for the one smooth bead through the gravel road starting straight.
I got off great — hole shot. I was cranking hard and held the bead but had a spot of bother at a slight right bend in the road that was a tad gravelly. I held it under control and started thinking that maybe leading everyone out could perhaps have been left to someone else. I eased off and hit the transition and bog. Zoom, three guys went past including my teammate Bill. I hang on to Bill’s wheel but the other two get a pretty good gap. It turns out Terry (RBR member kajukembo) is right behind me. He’s on my tail down the chute and I come across his front wheel. I had no idea but heard the ohhs and ahhs from the crowd gathered at the bottom as Terry held on and made it down without incident.
The guys out front aren’t getting any farther away and right past the finish line, Bill bobbled through some gravel and I fly by him on a sidehill descent replete with small rocks. I keep reeling in the leaders on the front half of the second lap and catch Mike Masessa on the rise before the chute. Then I catch Bob Jacobs through the woods and I’m in front. Bill is still close behind me.
I have no idea how to ride with the lead. Bill never managed to hang on to me. Sometimes he would be right there but then I’d open a gap. It would have been better if we could have found some way to race together but it didn’t happen. As I crested the dike leading to the finish line for the bell, I looked back and saw David Grant looked be be making a very strong late charge and figured he would be trouble. Bill did what he could to block but David was not to be denied. I think David passed Bill on the run-up leading to the finish and as I came around the 180 at the finish, I looked at Bill and he nodded as if saying “Take care of busniess.” I had perhaps a five second lead.
I railed down the sidehill and burned through the rock barrier. I wasn’t looking back. There was an almost rideable uphill to the top of the dike that I had riden the pervious lap. I wanted to hit it this lap to keep my advantage. Instead, I stalled at the top and fell over. David caught me there. He paced me down the doubletrack and up the pavement to the start straight. I slowed to make him come around and drafted him down the gravel road. I think he was really pushing to try to drop me but I was right on his wheel.
He got a gap through the bog but I was reeling him in on the hardpack. At the 180 above the chute, he overcooked the corner and went down. Score! That’s what I was looking for and I went right around him and hit the chute. I got a gap through the trees but then felt my rear tire get really soft (Tufo tubular clincher with sealant). I just hoped it would last me to the line.
Going into the V-slot ditch, there were two juniors running side by side. The previous laps I had remounted for the brief section before the dike run-up but I didn’t want to risk it this time with the soft rear tire. I used the juniors to block David and I hit the top of the dike just ahead of him. I remounted and bang, bang, bang went my rim as it bottomed out on each pedal stroke, bouncing me all around. David came around me and got a gap. Coming down a sidehill off camber to a short boggy section right before the final run-up, I thought I might have a chance but he was just much faster than I was running the hill. I pushed my bike across the line in second but the announcer credited me with the win.
Since victory was tantalizingly close, I of course am second guessing myself. Should I have backed off and let Bill bridge to me so we could work together? That might have worked early on in the race. It would have been nice to have had some help on the long start straight during the middle laps. Perhaps my biggest mistake was not taking a bike exchange on the final lap. My pit bike was ten feet away from me as I crested the dike when David passed me for the final time. Maybe a good rear tire lets me power along the dike. Maybe that attack proves decisive. Dunno. That’s what racing is about — getting experience.
Result = 3/53