The course on the banks of scenic Vancouver (WA) Lake was flat. There were a few mounds which were used to their fullest potential. And there was the beach. Getting on was a grass to soft sand transition which a volunteer raked periodically throughout the races to prevent a worn groove from forming. Then it was a balls out packed section at the water’s edge for a hundred yards or so. Then soft sand to get off — so soft that no one came close to riding it back to the hard pack. And to top it off, there was a long (like quarter mile or more) section of crushed gravel that was *fast*. So I decided on the 18t.
I felt crappy before the race but that’s nothing new. It’s all psychological and it generally disappears when the whistle blows. I got a call up and slotted in the second row behind one of the big engines. I was hoping to hang on for the drag race by getting all the help I could in the draft. Single speeds went before B’s this week which meant no slower traffic for a while, maybe the whole race. The whistle blew and we were off. The first couple hundred yards went okay but after that, I started losing ground, unable to keep pace with the big guns. The good news was that a small group coalesced around me and we were able to hang together through the first bit.
By the turn onto the grass, our little group was 10-20 yards behind the lead bunch. And that was that. Scott Barker, John Lin, some guy I don’t know because he was always in the back, and I formed a compact group that stayed together for a little over two laps. John and Scott drove the pace early on. Every time I would stick my nose in the wind, it seemed like one of them would come around me to push things a little harder. i think it was less about me dropping pace at the front and more about the way they race — they feed off of the wheel in front and always want to get around it.
A few laps in, maybe three, Scott was starting to fade a little bit and the fourth dude was having trouble staying too. John and I got a small gap coming off the beach and I drilled it on the road to keep the gap up. Pretty soon John came around me and we flew down the straight. Scott was permanently adrift. John and I were by ourselves.
Just before three to go, the B leader passed us on the straight and John and I jumped on his wheel. We took the ride all the way through the speedway sections and past the finish. Just hanging on to the wheel was putting the hurt on me and once we started the twisties, I got gapped. It was just a little but I could not quite get back on.I stayed 10-20 yards behind John and the B leader for the rest of the lap. Back on the straight, John and I both passed the B leader. I was rather surprised about that since he had gears and we didn’t. He should have been hauling ass relative to us. He didn’t pass us again and no other B racers made up the 30 second stagger to pass us.
I spent the penultimate lap maintaining. The gap to John didn’t grow and the two of us picked off a couple of single speeders who blew from the initial pace. Coming around the speedway before the bell, it looked like I made up a few seconds on John so I made it my mission to pass him before the finish. When we took the bell, he was still 5-6 seconds ahead. I hit the beach perfectly and made up some time there and I drilled it along the shore. When we remounted after the sand, we were close. I rode the final mound better than him all race and the last time through was no different. I hit the speedway 2-3 seconds behind him and went as hard as I could to make the catch.
When I tucked in behind, I hoped to catch a breather in his draft and make another push on the super bumpy grass to get around him. Unfortunately John had other ideas. He saw me on his wheel and upped the pace. I’d spent all my matches making the catch and had nothing left to hang on. I drifted back. And then a little more. By the line, he had pushed his advantage back to 5-6 seconds. I still got 9th in a field with more than a couple fast guys at the front.