As excited as I was to race, I was somewhat apprehensive as well. The last 2 weekends of racing have been less than pleasing with really the last 4 races producing less than approving results in my mind. I have gone in to the last few weekends feeling fatigued more than normal and really having what i would call 'dead' legs, or no snap so to speak. So with some training adjustments over the last week thinks to friend and coach Mark Thomas, i felt a little livelier coming into this past weekends' race.
The race track at the Heartland venue is 'fast fast,.....Fast!' Jeff is able to utilize the 1/4mile dirt race track and the surrounding land around it. This allows the ability to string together some long and fast flat sections tide together with some technical 180's and high speed 90' turns in the infield, with the remainder of the race course looping around the 1/4mile track and the adjacent concession area. Just a cool spectator friendly venue with a centralized gathering area for beerdrinking and bbq eating family and friends for Jeff and the rest of his volenteers to use.
My recent upgrade has meant no more cat 3 races...officially. However, i have been racing the faster Masters' category races the last 4 weeks anyway, so no big deal. It is just more of a humbling experience, since I go from being the guy that others afe looking to to set the pace to being the guy just hanging on for dear life and battling for a top 5 when all of the 'regular' fast masters' show up. On Saturday nite, most of them did. Mark Studnicki, Andy Lucas, Steve Songer, Scott Fleming and promoter Jeff lined up. Minus a couple of other 'fast guys', it was still a good field with a total of 18 guys lined up for the Master's 'A' 40+ race. With the soundd of the official's whistle, 'fast-startin' Andy Lucas had the hole shot with Songer, Studnicki and me following from the pavement start to the first grass chicanes and onto the initial 'dirt track' section. Studnicki proceeded to takie over the pacesetting once on the track at up to 30mph with the other 3 of us in tow. Mark and his blistering pace had already created a gap for the front four of us, but i was already in danger of losing the wheel of Lucas. I had to kill myself to keep the 3 of them close. However, I was able to reattach to them once entering the 'infield' section of the oval where all the technical 180's and high speed turns. From the infiel portion we transitioned back onto the dirt to do another down and back on the other side of the track's straightaway. This led us into and 'off-camber' 180 uphill to a stairwell taking us down and out of the oval onto another grass section of 180's and hot turns. This is where i was able to keep the front 3 close again. I began to notice that Andy was getting gapped by Mark and Steve as well. The race course proceed to bomb down a grass hill and to the fence line of the speedway property and turn right to slog thru a thick grass section that was slightly uphill that pitched up at the end of this 500 meter section, from there once you climbed the chort little pitch up transitioned back on to pavement a few yards and took a hard left onto the grass to do a 90' right hand sweeper down and around a tree into a hard and fast left. Another 100 meters and the racers were back on the pavement headding towrds the 2nd dismount up a set of stairs and onto the bike heading slightly uphill and off camber into a right-hand 180 off-camber down hill into a 180 left hander that transition onto the pavement in the middle of the turn for the last 50-75 meters to the finish line. We did the 1.5 mile loop 8 times. by he end of the first lap it was me and Lucas together trailing the front 2(Songer and Studnicki) by maybe 5 seconds.
Once Andy and I got back onto the first section on the dirt, i pulled to the front to see if we could close the growing gap that was between us and the front 2. Andy didnt seem on top of his game and I felt pretty good. I found myself having to calm my excitement so as not to get careless. There were plenty of loose corners to lay it down in if I got careless or impatient. Not another 30 seconds later it was Andy on my wheel laying it down in a loose right hand turn. I looked back and figured he would recover pretty quickly and get back up to me....I even contemplated slowing a hair only to see a charging Jeff Unruh closing in on Lucas. So I did the next best thing, I stomp on the pedals and got out of the saddle and charged ahead. I immediately saw dividends in my big effort as the gap began to increase. So for the next 3 laps i was putting a gap and maintaining it on teammate Andy and Slimen racer Jeff. Starting late on lap 4 and early into lap 5 Andy had disengaged from Jeff and was closing in on me. I officially lost all my advantage when i 'brain-farted' and laid the bike down in a loose 180' turn on the dirt track. So much for a clean race, and before we entered the infield Andy was on my wheel. I didnt realize it at the time, but Andy told me later he 'killed' himself to get up to me. In hindsight, that made me feel really good. At the time, I wasnt thinking that way. I had to calm myself and ride smooth to conserve what i had left in the hopes of answering Andy's eventual attack to get away from me. Stupid me, I let him recover and sit on my wheel for almost 2 full laps. At the time I figured he was vying for the overall points lead and I had raced in a different category the previous races. So i really didnt figure myself into the overall equation. I was just thinking about Andy as a teammate. Late in the next to last lap I figured where Andy would probably make his move. On the slow grinding grass climb leading up to the concession area was where i figured Andy had the advantage. I knew it and he knew it. It was gonna take something special to stay in contact with him there. I actually was still pulling Andy leading into that section. Midway to the steep pitch he pulled in front. He didnt blaze by me, just kind of set a little higher tempo and maintained it to the top to the pavement. From there i was already 4 or 5 bike lengths back. Into the 2nd set of stairs the lead was maybe 3 or 4 seconds. Man, that doesnt sound like much, but in 'cross'....that is a definate gap. I didnt have an answer thru the finish area and the ringing for the bell lap didnt motivate any snap in my legs whatsoever. Damn.......i think i mentally gave it to him there. I didnt sit up......but I didnt dig deep either. My best race in over a month and I get that 'satisfied' feeling before i cross the finish line......THAT REALLY PISSES ME OFF! Going into the last part of the bell lap, I thought maybe Andy had started soft pedaling, so I gassed it only to finish a couple of seconds back crossing the line. Wish I had given that kind of effort at the start of the last lap to maybe get onto his wheel to put some pressure on him. Oh well......
It turned out to be a good race. I finished 4th. well ahead of a couple of guys who had been putting down some 'ass-whuppin' on me the previous couple of weeks. Payback is good. I think the tweek in the training paid off as well. I hope to continue to get or feel stronger over the next couple of weeks. The State Championships are next Sunday and I am looking forward to my first clean and uneventful cross race of the year. Cross the fingers.
360racing had a good nite with Steve taking 2nd, Andy in 3rd with me just behind in 4th. Dean Parker was 2nd in the highly competitive 50+ race and Doug Long in 4th and mtb'er Lyle Reidy racing as well. Fellow 360 teammate Shad Shreiner finished 2nd in the elite race to 'wunderkid' Joe Schmalz . Congrats to Localcyling.com racer Mark Studnicki on his 1st place effort in our 40+ race. The guy needs some competition........
Friend and teammate Ted Moore made an appearence as well. Whith the selling of his 'geared' bike, Ted lined up for the singlespeed race. He finished 2nd to teammate Steve Songer, which was his first podium of the year....Nice Racin' Ted!
till next time.....see yah!