Back to the race before last, Round 14, Cross Trails - I didn't really want to post up too much about it because I didn't want to jinx myself, so I'll fill this round in now. The promoter allowed a pre-ride this race, so I drove up Saturday morning to camp. This was also the weekend of the storm Sandy, so everyone was wondering how that would play out. As it turns out, Sandy missed the race venue in central VA, just cloudy skies, and some wind on Sunday, but Saturday was good. Instead of bringing the tent, I got some walls for my EZ-Up and threw down a piece of astroturf for a floor and made that my home away from home:
I really liked Saturday's practice, I like that idea a lot and always try to take advantage of it when it is offered. I think it makes the race a lot more safe since you've seen everything once before, and also it gives the promoter a dry run of the course and any issues can be resolved before the actual race. In this case, at least one slick bridge got covered with chain link fencing for traction which ended up biting a number of people during the practice lap and likely prevented a lot of accidents and potential injuries on race day.
There was also an MX section, and the pre-ride allowed us non-MX'ers a few laps to get comfortable on the jumps.
Going into this race I was really only worried about one thing, and that was finishing in front of Jim, my 5th place competition in the series. I was still 5th, but with only a 5 point cushion. So I really wanted to stay within a position of him, in front if possible, but if he did beat me, I at least didn't want anyone in between us to take more points away.
So we lined up next to each other, wished each other luck, fist bump, and all that and when the flag dropped I saw he got a really good start, meanwhile I got a very average mid-pack to back 3rd start. Dammit, I thought, there goes my points cushion, if not more.
But I kept on the gas, and made a few good passes during the first lap. The leaves were mostly off the trees so visibility through the woods was pretty good and that allowed me to look farther ahead when behind slower riders and find alternates around them quicker.
Each lap was 12.5 miles which is pretty long for our races, and that translated to about a 45 minute lap time for us, which meant we'd only get to run two laps. At any rate, by the end of the first lap, I was warmed up and loose and I was feeling really good, and actually felt the best I had all season. I was hitting every turn and rut perfectly, I felt like I was on rails and somehow couldn't do anything wrong. I was in the zone, and riding really well. Even so, I figured Jim had long since checked out with the good start he had. I later learned that he led the whole first lap and only just before scoring did he get passed and went through scoring in 2nd place. So that was a great lap for him.
Meanwhile it's lap 2 for me, and I'm assuming the worst about my finish position relative to Jim, but I keep on the gas and am riding good. I keep thinking to myself it's a long race and anything can happen. So late in lap 2, maybe 3/4 through, I spot him up ahead of me. I can't believe it. I thought he was long gone, but somehow I had managed to overcome the gap. It was like a gift. I end up closing the remaining gap between us very quickly and suddenly I'm on his rear tire. I let out a few hoots, and say, "Let's go, Jim, let's move it, pick it up!" Mainly to let him know it was me behind him, and not some random person from another class which might cause him to pull over, not that I would have minded that
, but that needs to be his decision and not a result of any trickery on my part. And he didn't.
So I ride behind for a little while, and taking advantage of the leaves off the trees, I spot what looks like a good line to go around to the right, and take it, hard on the gas with a little clutch for the surge, and then dive back in just in front of him and make the pass. I pull a bit of a gap and come upon my friend Landon in the row in front of us. A few hoots later and I'm past him and build another small gap.
Still feeling on top of the world, I can do no wrong, I'm hitting avery turn perfectly, railing everything, I exit the woods into a short field section that parallels the woods. There's a little dip in the field in a pretty fast section and somehow, I still don't know how, my front wheel washes out and everything is a blur around me. I distinctly remember barely missing some board or something on the way to the ground that might have been ugly had I hit it, but luck was with me and all I got was a bit disoriented as my bike went tumbling end over end. I jump up to my feet and do a quick check of myself, nothing hurting, so I must be Ok. I start to run to my bike, which is now facing the completely wrong direction and here comes Landon through between me and my bike, so I hold up and wave him by to let him know I'm Ok and he continues on. Then here comes Jim, my 5th place competition. I see him pause briefly in recognition of what just unfolded, and I wave him on, I'm ok.
Meanwhile I start picking up my bike, and way slower than I would like I manage to get it turned around in the right direction, bent subframe and all, and I finally going again. I can't help but thinking what a gift I had gotten by being able to catch Jim and pass him, and then to just throw it all away like that. Dammit. I as mad at myself, but push that aside, I had to focus, get my heart rate under control, and breathe.
I get back on and start again and I come upon Landon first this time, so Jim had already gotten around him. I worked my way by him for the 2nd time and before too long, I'm back on Jim's rear tire. My heart is racing about a hundred mph as I start looking for a way around again. On a down hill section that looked like a good idea at the time, I started to pass him on the left, but as I got up beside him of off the trail in the chop and it really seemed pretty sketchy, so I backed off and decided not to push it. If we finish up this way, that's still Ok, I'd still have a 4 point lead going into the final race. But if I could find a way around I would take it for sure.
So we get to the MX track and we are still wheel to wheel, and trying as hard as I can to keep my 350 4st within striking distance and him on his 300 2st. I'm hitting the jumps as fast and as hard as I can, thank god for the pre-ride we know that all the jumps are pretty tame and safe. We get to about the end of the MX portion and I'm still not around him, I know I have to make the pass here because once we enter the woods for last time and about 1/2 mile left, the passing opportunities will be non-existent. So at the last jump I hold my throttle wide open and gain just enough on him give me a slight edge on the straight leading up to the entrance to the woods, and I don't let off until I get a wheel on him and then hard on the brakes entering the trees, just enough to maintain control. And from there, I manage to stay in front until scoring about a half mile later where we finished 6th and 7th, only 4 seconds apart.
So that gave me a 6 point lead going into round 15 instead of 4 points, the last and final round of the series. Those 2 extra points turned out to be the deciding factor at the end of the next race.
Here's the only photo I can find of me in this race, I think this is the at the end of the MX section and just before we entered the woods, probably lap 1 since my subframe is still reasonably straight, lol: