After realizing my starting position, my goal for the race was simple: to move up as much as possible, aiming for a top 50 finish. During staging the reality of my back-o-the-lot position sank in; there was an endless sea of racers in front of me. And, I saw a lot of big names in there. Brian Jenson (the winner). Tige Lamb. William Gault. Kyle Bush. Suddenly I found myself thinking not about a top 50 finish but more about not getting lapped!
During warm-ups, the course was frozen and very ride-able. After two races and rising temps, it was pretty much a sloppy mess when we started. It definitely was no where as muddy and nasty as the 2007 course, but a slop fest nonetheless.
Being at the back, I worried about the dreaded start crash or the bottleneck that happens at the first hard turn. Fortunately, there wasn’t a crash during the start. I heard tires rubbing and brakes screeching, but everyone was able to keep two wheels down. We rolled off the pavement and into the grass, and as the pack rounded the first corner, a rider 5 or 6 places up washed out and hit hard. I was able to avoid him and the resulting pile up, which moved me up several places. The race was strung out enough by this point that the first-turn backup never happened. It was on-the-gas, all-out racing.
I managed to pick off a few more places before the run-up/down at the top of the hill. The section was congested but never really stopped. As we made our wayback down the hillside two or three guys in front of me washed out in different corners. I’m actually surprised more guys didn’t go down. The course was very greasy, with mud on top of frozen ground.
I managed to maintain my position and even moved up a few more places on the second lap. Then, I started moving backwards. First, I crashed out on the hard right-hand turn coming off the hillside. It was so greasy I hit the deck and slide about 20 feet. No injuries but I literally had to dig in to stop sliding. I gave up several places as a result. So much for that magic inside line!
Next, with to laps to go, I had a bizarre mechanical at the top of the run-up. Some how, my brake cable come out of the bezelon the top tube. I thought briefly about going banzai down the hill but decided I would be better off to take time to fix it. I lost several places while I stood there, struggling to stretch the cable back into the bezel. I finally got it fixed and took off.
I worked my way around the course without any other catastrophes. There were a few slips and slides here and there but nothing that caused me to loose considerable time. I got lazy and allowed a rider to pass me on the last grass section before the finish. I grabbed his wheel and used him for a lead out on the finishing drag. I was able to out sprint him at the line.
I finished in 38th place, just over 6 minutes off the winning time. Considering my starting position and the brake cable problem, I’m very happy with the results. And, I’m already thinking about next year!