Yesterday was the last race of the season. Since last race, I've been fighting sickness and weather in a bad combination. If the weather was nice, I could ride through the cough. Instead I've managed about 8 hours of trainer time in 20 days. But it's the last race of the season, and considering my placing in the overall, I'm going to just race for fun.
The weather was cooperating with the FUN part, since it was about 20degrees and snowing on my drive down. The course was mostly snow covered, and all hard packed icy. The wooded sections were solid. Instead of mud, we were riding snow and ice.
I decided I'd spend all my warm up on the course instead of in the barn on the trainer. So I had about an hour to get used to the conditions. I don't really have 17 wheel sets. I've got 3 dedicated to cross, and then a couple of road sets I can convert for the season... so let's say 6 maybe? Only 4 of them were runnable this morning and I didn't bring the backup bike with the set on there. SO...
Wheel set 1: I have a set of Grifo Challenge tubbies mounted on some nice wheels. It's my #1 set. When loading the car up, I went to pump them up and the valve was stuck on the rear. It's got short valve stem on a deep V rim, so I've got the problem solver valve extenders on there... I guess there some gunk in there, because when I did get the valve open, it wouldn't close. So I left my #1 wheel set at home.
Wheel set 2: Vittoria tubbies on the backup wheels. I ran them at about 30psi... and I was getting pounded on the first warm up. So I dropped them down a bit, you know the scientific method of just hitting the valve a few times to get something reasonable.... well, I took out to much. So I bottomed out a bunch, on the next lap section I took.
Wheel set 3: The Michelin Muds I had planned on leaving in the pit. I threw them on at about 35psi, and was pleased with how they handled. Just enough gripping through the corners. Perfect.
I took the Vittorias to re-pump up, and saw I was running them at about 10psi. So I pumped them to about 25 for a pit set of wheels. I've been having wheel trouble this year. So when I got back to the pit, I decided to spin each wheel before heading out for another lap. And noticed my front mud was torn near the bead and had started to bubble out hitting the brake pad. At least it was before I lined up this time. So the choice of the day was a Vittoria up front and mud on the back. I got a bit more practice, and still didn't like the feel of the Vittoria, but I didn't have a choice.
Bill and I lined up at the back, so I figured I'd just give it all I had to finish the season. The start had us go about 100m, then loop around the barn before hitting the long straights across the field. The field was well lined out by the time we got there. I ended up near the back, and I stuck on Thom's wheel. I figured I hang on him as long as I possibly could, while goading him to go faster. If I'm on your wheel Thom, you're not racing your fastest.
Carnage on the first lap. Ray eats it huge in the field crossing. Thom and I pass Dave swearing about dropping his chain after the only barrier set. Then it's into the woods... were Thom is pretty slow. Sprinting out on the straights we're away until the hill where Thom gets a gap, and Dave re-catches me. So, I try to hang on Dave for as long as possible. 1lap down.
It's the last race of the season. So I'm constantly pushing myself to leave everything here. Dave gaps me in the fields, but I pass Ryan when he dumps it in the turns, and can't get footing to get back on the bike. Then Ray jumps around me on the headwind section.
So the universe is again put in it's proper order for this year. I'm sitting somewhere around 20th in the field. I can see Dave ahead of me, and Rick and a couple others are chasing me. I'm staying reasonably clean throughout the technical bits, and pushing the straights to maintain my gaps... as best I can. With three laps in, I'm already wishing it was over... but continue to tell myself its the last time I can race until April... so don't waste it.
Then Lynn flashes 4 to go. So I can start counting down instead. With 3 to go, a guy in blue is closing the gap to me, and Dave is opening up his.... or actually I guess I started going a bit more backwards.
2 to go, Blue guy catches me and I cannot hold his wheel. Poop. But I have 2 more laps this season, so I better leave it all behind. Maybe I can bring him back. Through the barriers and I hear some cheering for Tony. That's not good for me... I REALLY have to move if I want to stay on the lead lap.
Doesn't happen, Paul and Tony catch me at the far end of the field about 1K from the line. I do get a good seat to watch Tony sit on until Paul gunned it up the last rise on the course. Tony lost his 10 seconds in about 300m.
I came in another 20seconds back. The good news is I was totally spent. I felt worse after this race than I have all season, so at least I know I could not have gone much faster... I gave all the fitness I possibly could. So the only thing that could make me faster would have been having the right wheels... or figuring out my bike handling through the woods... or any of the other million ways I lost time that did NOT include my fitness.
So closes another season. Special thanks to the Lake Effect/Bike Authority guys for putting on another great series. Thanks for all the work you put in. It's very nice to have this series in the area, and to see it grow the way it has the last few years.
This was also my last race in the Snakebite Racing colors. I've enjoyed being on the team immensely, and am leaving with mixed emotions. Thanks for the support, and camaraderie over the last 4 years. Next year, I'll be racing for Team Spin in their cat 3 squad.Good luck to all those doing Nationals. I'll be sitting by the computer cheering everyone on.
Happy Holidays to all. My goal is to not eat to much, it's now time to start training for next year.