Doing it all the hard way...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SCX Season Finale 2011

You gotta read it, I'm not giving anything away..

It looks like I have another arm coming out of my chest doesn't it?

Rain, rain, rain, rain dominated the days leading up to the climatic Cyclocross season finale at Monroe. My brake pads were shot so I replaced them in anticipation of a muddy, gritty secession. A couple spins up and down the street and I would be good for the race that was still a couple days away.

I did math and tried to figure out what would have to happen for me to get on the podium. You drop your lowest finish and the final was worth double points. If you took out the low races, I was fourth with 302 points and there was a guy with 301 and another with 300. Scott, who was nine points ahead of me was traveling and wasn’t sure if he would make it back. The guy with 300 points had been first or second in every race and even though he was two points behind me (he missed two races and was still in the hunt), if he showed up, he’d beat me and thereby pass me on points. I made a list of predicted finishes and I expected to end up fifth in the series.

I pumped up the mud tires, but didn’t put them on the bike. I had managed to end up with the team tent last week, so I was bringing most of the team gear and the car looked like Hottie and I were refugees.

Loaded for bear..

I hadn’t set any specific goals about trying to follow any particular rider, or make sure and beat that guy. I just wanted to race, have fun and be done. Tim and Sam showed up to cheer for Dave F and myself, which was nice. Tim was convinced I could podium. He is as much of a numbers geek as I am and he made it sound simple, “You just have to beat those guys.” I tried to argue but he would not be deterred.

I put on the mud tires and did the pre-ride. It confirmed the course was to my liking. I did grab the brakes on the screaming downhill only to realize the mud tires had narrower rims and my brakes were almost useless until I tightened the cables.

We had set up the tent and now it was raining harder and harder. Something that perplexed me last year was what to wear in hard, cold rain. If you layer under your jersey the cold water wicks through the layers in milliseconds. I pondered this all summer long and never came up with an answer.

I put on my team vest over the unitard and slathered embrocation on my legs. I selected my socks based on their being thin and wool, so they wouldn’t hold much water, thereby not adding pounds to my feet when soaked. The vest turned out to be perfect for the conditions and a question I had been asking since last December was finally answered.

At the start line I peeled off at the last minute and my teammate Tim, gathered up our muddy layers and I looked around. No spinner John. Scott was there, I wished him luck and meant it. He said he drove sixteen hours on Friday to be here to race on Sunday. There was a river of water on the right side of the starting straight away, so I took a slot on the left.

I got a decent start and hit the first sharp corner fifth or so. On the long power straight I lost some places and when we turned and began the grass climb I was about tenth.

“I gotta move up,” I said to myself and got out of the saddle. I passed riders with ease and had moved up to about forth as we hit the venue trademark down, and up off camber.

Evo running instead of crashing

I had decided to run it and dismounted early and cut it high and tight. I found myself second after that section. After a stretch of road we had a stupid steep climb and then we were in a mud bath. I was still sitting second and then we went into the mud pit of despair. There were no good lines and we were again in a bunch of five when we hit the sand.

I used my Portland riding experience and took the line where the water was. Once the ground is saturated, the water pools on top, but the surface under the water is stable and you can ride faster through those lines. I shot ahead and found myself in first. I wasn’t about to do all the work and so I just tried to ride good lines and see what happened.


We crossed the finish line on the first lap and I was still in first. I wasn’t cooked, so I didn’t panic. I pushed on the long straight and waited for someone to come around. Nobody did.

On the grass climb four riders shot past me and I tried to catch the wheel of rider number four. He got a little gap, but I kept drilling it. We had a huge gap on everyone else.

When we completed the second lap the announcer said I was fourth, but I hadn’t passed anyone that I remembered. We were catching some lapped riders, but generally had clear sailing on the course.

I was ahead of Alex who was Mr. 301 and Scott was behind him. I didn’t know who was in front of me, but I was going about as fast as I could imagine. I figured the third lap was where I would either succeed or fail. I got out of the saddle after sharp turns as much for speed as to try and discourage anyone chasing me. I tried to ride smart lines and could see the riders in front of me, and those chasing me.

At the end of lap three they said I was fourth, but I still figured I was fifth.

Cyclocross can be.... Refreshing

After the grass climb I could see Alex, Scott and Dave F coming after me. I still had a gap and was pushing. I thought that if I managed to stay ahead of these guys a by-product might be catching the rider in fourth (since I was sure I was fifth).

Tim and Sam were yelling for me and it helped. I saw a Cucina rider in front of me and while I thought there had been two Cucina riders in the group of four that passed me this guy was gassed and I figured he was a lapped rider and I tried to catch him.

Cresting the run up !

I got closer and closer and then when we hit the mud pit of despair I stayed close, but kept my own line in case he crashed or stalled. After the mud I was close and then we hit the double barriers on the asphalt and I was right on him. He cut me off when he remounted and I sat behind him as we entered the sand. I had his wheel on the corner and then I exploded and passed him and kept going. There was no reaction so I assumed he was a lapped rider. I kept on it and as I approached the line they said I was third.

Slip sliding to third !

I really was third. It was my highest finish ever in a Seattle Cyclocross race. Scott finished sixth. My teammate Dave F was seventh and Alex was eighth. We all shook hands and posed for a picture or two.

I made it back to the tent and Tim told me there were showers at the restroom and I grabbed my bag and headed off to get some warmth in my bones. I was about to take off my shoes when I changed my mind and walked into the shower in full muddy kit and shoes. I undressed and dried and was getting dressed when Tim burst in and told me I had finished third in the series. I made the podium !!

I'm gonna need a bigger helmet !

I managed to beat Scott by three points. If I hadn’t beaten the last Cucina rider I would have been fourth by one point. Scott congratulated me. I told him I had been racing in this category for seven years and it was about time I got some bling. He was almost as happy for me as I was.

I made it to the podium with two minutes to spare and when they called my name I was jumping up and down like a caffeinated contestant from The Price is Right. I got a bronze colored cowbell for third (gold and silver for first and second). I also get two free races next year.

Spinner John’s teammate Alex came up to me after the race. He had clobbered me early in the season and battled me in the middle and I beat him in the last few races. He commented on my improvement and asked me what I did to make such a difference. I told him the absolute truth, “I have no idea.”

Hottie and I stuck around all day while she took pictures of the races. I had a celebratory Brat and it was okay. A while later I had a second one and that wasn’t such a good idea. It was easy to follow me that day as I kept the cowbell around my neck.

The next morning I went to spin class on a Monday for the first time in many months. I was in full team kit, which I have never done. Spinner John didn’t say a word to me as I walked in. Finally as we were warming up he asked if I had ridden the day before.

I whipped out the cowbell which had been tucked into my jersey.

“Third place on the day and third place in the series,” I shouted.

I rang the cowbell and the class clapped. Spinner John was stunned.

It was fun to get on the podium. I can think of a hundred things that are more important, or mean more, but it was fun. For a season that started under such strange circumstances, it sure ended on a high note.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dry and Tough

We had a fine Thanksgiving at the Casa de Evo. One of the highlights of the day came when I cooked some squash, Acorn and Butternut for anyone keeping score, on the barbecue. There was some sugar involved, and sugar crystalizes with extreme heat, so some of the squash looked more "done" than other ones.

My dear mum always volunteers to take the burned one when given a choice. For some reason this time it hit me funny, and I questioned her on this odd sounding preference.

"Dry and Tough," she offered. "That's how I like 'em."

Dry and tough. Those aren't usually word used in marketing food. We all questioned my mom and she didn't back off.

Some of the questions from my childhood were answered at that moment.

What drives a person to splash around in mud when the days are short and the suffering is long? I guess the motivation to do things the hard way starts at an early age. How can one adapt to challenges even as a child?

Dry and Tough.

Monday, November 21, 2011

SCX #6 2011 Race Report doubling down in Spanaway

Note the one gloved hand. It's like I'm freakin' Michael Jackson..

It was twenty-six degrees and as dark as midnight when I looked at the thermometer Sunday morning. Our team had course clean up, so I knew would be around for the duration. The high was supposed to be in the thirties, so there was no need to pack cargo shorts.

My mum and Tim were in tow and we picked up Dave F on the way. We had tent duty and I had Mr. Heater packed as well. We arrived and secured a spot for the tent and soon were signed in and ready for the pre-ride.

The course was wonderfully different than prior years. Long straights followed by sharp turns meant lots of accelerating and brief breaking. There is really only one hill and we managed to climb it five different ways. More on the course later.

Despite the cold temps I dared to ride in what has come to be known in my house as the “unitard.” I did add knee warmers and a hearty long sleeve undergarment and a beanie along with full finger gloves.

Tim agreed to gather clothes for Dave F and myself at the start and we both had front row call ups. We peeled down and Dave realized his number was on the wrong side.

“The timing chip on your helmet is what matters, don’t worry about it,” I offered with the sincere belief it would be just fine. For a moment Dave acted as if he was my mother and didn’t hear a word I said and began unpinning his number. I pulled off a glove and helped him. Soon his number was off and in my hands as the starter, Marshall Will, made his way back to the front.

“Ten seconds,” he shouted with authority. We usually get two or more minutes notice, but not this time. I told Dave not to move and I tired to pin a second pin on his number. Once again channelling my mother Dave kept moving and I felt like an idiot trying to pin him as he fiddled with his other number.

“Davo, grab your bars,” I heard in a calm tone from Scott who was lined up behind me. My internal clock told me it was about time to hear the words, “racers ready.” Instead I heard the whistle and I had both feet firmly on the ground (not clipped in like I should be) and forty-five guys wanting to get in front of me. Most of them would succeed, at least for a while.

I went about one hundred and fifty yards before I was even clipped in. I was about thirty riders back when we hit the first one-eighty corner. The glove for my right hand was still gripped in my teeth. This cluster would have been funny if it had been someone else. If it hadn’t happened in real time it would have been upsetting, but it just was...what it was; Cyclocross.

While I have been an absolute non factor in both my US Cycling Nationals Cyclocross races, if there is one thing I learned it from the experience, it was that you can pass just about anywhere. I worked through riders and on a straight I took my glove from my teeth and stuffed it down the front of my jersey (actually, the ‘tard for you careful readers).

At one of the corners after a long straight everyone slowed for the single-file turn. I usually get a good enough start that I’m not in a lot of traffic, so it was a different experience for me. The fast guys don’t tend to bunch up as much either, so I felt some of the energy I expended on the straight was wasted.

Just past the first sand pit, Evo would ride out of the picture and come back for the pit in the foreground..

The course had barriers on a run up and there was a lot of traffic there so I had to choose my line wisely. A short downhill led into a sand pit. “Power on Evo,” I said to myself as I let the bike kind of go where it wanted. Arguments with sand are always won by the sand.

I kept moving up and I was just outside the top ten at the end of the first lap. On a short road section I pulled my glove out of my jersey and stuffed my hand into it. I had thought I would toss it to Hottie, but my hand was getting cold and I needed the warmth.

I tried to settle down and ride smart. I grabbed a wheel and hung on for a while. When I saw a chance I took it and moved up. The course went past a big climbing structure on a series of easy grassy turns. The grass just past here was a mush of frozen grass and dirt that was getting slower and slower each lap. A pair of barriers in the middle of two one-eighty turns kept your legs burning and your brakes squealing. Then some dirt trail and more grass. A series of switchbacks precedes the hill, and then it is into the sand.

Evo on the Orange Crusher chasing Dave F and the rest of the old men

After the sand a series of sweeping dirt turns leads back up the same hill and then a downhill that I took without fear every time. Another barrier infested climb and a long gradual downhill that got us moving again. More grass led to a long power section that had a single line that was smooth with bumps on either side, so passing here was a high stakes affair.

A wicked off camber led to some sweepers and then around a baseball field and then it was pave to the line. After the third lap I heard the bell and I thought I was in about eighth.

I had two races where I opted not to pass at a given point on the last lap only to never get a second chance. My promise to myself was that on the last lap, I would take any opportunity that came to me. I moved up and was behind a SCCA rider and closed on him and when we hit the long power section we were both out of the saddle and the guy I had just passed was on my tail as well.

I buried myself and drilled the pavement and made the last chicane and then was across the line. The announcer said I was sixth, which I thought was an error, but I was indeed, sixth. By the way, it is awesome to hear your name over the loudspeakers when you’re riding.

Spinner John ended up eighteenth and was spewing excuses like a fire hydrant. It doesn’t mean a lot to me, but he seems to have to justify finishing behind me as if it matters. It does not. Dave F grabbed 13th and was content considering the calamity that had befallen us.

I was sixth in the race and now I am fifth in the series. If you drop your worst race (which you get to do in this series) I’m fourth. If I geek out and project finishes in the double point finale, I still think I’ll end up fifth or so, but we’ll see. There was a race in 2007 where the guys faster than me didn’t show up and I scored my one and only win. Maybe that will happen and I’ll podium. Fun to dream.

Because I was sticking around, and just because I thought it would be fun, I raced up with the faster old guys two and a half hours later.

That was a six-lap affair where I started dead last with Dave F. I just worked my way past a few guys and hung on. When I watch this race from the sidelines it seems to be a confusing mess with riders getting lapped and stringing out so you can’t tell where anyone really is. There are four different races and it gets crazy. From inside the race I knew where I was and I kept passing a rider or two each lap.

I settled in with a group of five or six guys. We jockeyed for position for the third, fourth and fifth lap. My “plan” was to hang with these guys and gas it on the last lap. It seems that was everyone else’s plan as well. When we heard the one to go bell I was at the back of the group and the pace was picking up.

I picked it up as well and took advantage of a bobble and took a spot. Then I poached a rider on a long straight. One of the riders had a chain come off, and while it might have been nice to stop, I just kept going. This was when I would make good on my promise to show no patience or mercy on the last lap.

After the sand I was on a rider and passed in the dirt. Then I took another spot on the post hill downhill. I was chasing a wheel as we began the long power section and the two of us passed a rider and then I passed the wheel and hit the baseball field in front of my group. I was in the drops and picking good lines. I was in a big gear and downshifted as we approached the final corner. I took it smart and drilled it to the line wondering why nobody came around me.

It turns out six guys came in at one second intervals behind me. I was 27th out of 42 old fast guys, which I was pleased with. I rode back to the team tent and put on a jacket right away.

My face was cold and my legs were burning. My teeth hurt, which reminded me of hard runs in cold weather in my youth.

In no time the last race was over and we were taking down barricades and rolling up course tape. I was wearing a ton of clothes and hungry like a hippo.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Woodland Park MFG Race Report

Note the muddy legs, face and bike...THIS is Cyclocross

This weekend the race was the final in the MFG series. Almost down the street at Woodland Park it took less then thirty minutes from driveway to parking lot.

Joining Hottie once more was my dear mum who has been there each week and must surely be dreading the looming conclusion of Cyclocross for 2011. Joining us was my son Tim who came to cheer and observe the spectacle.

I didn’t sign up until late in the week as the MFG series is not my primary objective this year. It may well be my focus in 2012, but I’m all about SCX in 2011. I wondered if I should even bring my pit bike, the red single speed Fetish (brand) that I made from eBay deals and scrounged parts.

It bombed rain in the days leading up to the race and I was expecting a muddy mess. I put the Limus’ on the orange crusher and opted to go ahead and bring the pit bike. I knew Spinner John would get a call up and I would have to wade through riders to catch him. I was pretty confident I could beat him again and once I dropped my $20 I was all in.

I pre-rode the course and did the things you are supposed to do. I had trouble with a section and I got off my bike and walked back and did it again and again until I got it right. I also pulled off the Limus’ and went back to my Grifo-Fango combination that has worked for me so often.

The course was a perfect Cyclocross course with grassy sections, slippery muddy sections, a long power climb, twisty technical sections and off cambers. “Tires and brakes,” I told my teammate Dave, when he asked about the course.

The start was on an off camber that sloped down to the right. I was on the extreme left, so I was on the uphill side. This was by chance, but proved to be a godsend. After call-ups (which did not include Evo), they called us up by last digit in our race numbers. I was in the middle batch and slithered up an extra row. At the whistle, I took advantage of the high ground and moved up well. I was sitting just outside of the top ten and had Spinner John in my sights. I decided to just sit on him a while.

The first turn was in a greasy pile of fallen leaves. The yellows, orange and gold would have been beautiful if it weren’t for the riders with misbehaving rear wheels. I was in a group and if someone passed me, I generally passed them back to try and hold my spot.

A slippery off camber that had been a death trap in years past had some grass on it, so it was much more readable than in years past. On later laps riders, including Evo, would have rear wheels slide downhill. I kept it upright, but others did not.

I took the lap to follow the advice I had read in CX magazine, and watched where John struggled and where he did well. He was fine on the power sections, though not as strong as I expected. He fought the corners and technical sections and I knew that was where I would make my move.

Near the end of the first lap we were catching riders from the 35+ group. At a particularly slippery corner a fallen rider got up and swung his bike into my path and I found myself cartwheeling with my bike. I completed the roll like a stunt skier and was up and on in no time and in less than a minute was back on Spinner John’s wheel.

I chased him through the power sections and moved past slower 35+ riders with ease. I was on his wheel as we hit the barriers. The steep down hill that followed led to a slick left hand corner that he had slipped on during the first lap. He cut to the apex and I came in wide and took the inside as his line took him wide.

“I didn’t know you were here,” he blurted out with a tone of panic that I must confess pleased me. I moved past some women riders as the road narrowed and we approached a single file section. “Coming through,” I heard him shout behind me, followed milliseconds later by “Oh Shit…….Sorry.” His apologies continued and I worked to build a gap. At the stairs I had an Old Town rider start at the far right and end up at the far left (the course went right so I’m not sure if he was trying to chop me or was just hypoxic). I heard John grunting a fair distance behind me and I kept the gas on.

Another run up and then a long climb where, if John was going to catch me, that was the place. Going up the long climb it is a gravel road with two lines. On the left side a rider was on a mountain bike and was swerving side-to-side so much that when I passed him he hit me from the side. “Hey,” was his response. “Hold your line,” was mine. I wouldn't have gone if I had thought I couldn't fit. Unscathed I pushed on and blasted the down hill. Grabbing my brakes at the bottom I powered up the ensuing wet, leafy off camber. I could tell I was nailing the technical sections.

Being able to ride fast and brake late was a key on this course. The muddy sections between the downhill and the finish line was where riders were dropping like bricks. I kept my eyes looking ahead and rode around carnage every lap (except when I was taken down on the first lap.)

Past the finish line I started the third lap feeling strong and riding smart. I had distanced John and was ahead of the Old Town rider who would end up ninth. I rode the technical sections fast. I wasn’t following any rider in my category, but was passing riders from other groups. Blitz the road, slow for the turn.

I could hear my mom cheering. “Tear the legs off those pussys,” someone screamed. I’m not sure if that was my mom or not, but I thought that a bit vicious for a Masters race. Alas, speculation is not my gift.

I hit the stairs well and passed riders on them and the run up that followed. On the downhill that followed I tapped my brakes and my rear brake felt soft. On the pavement I looked back and my straddle cable was flying free. It must have come unhooked I thought to myself.

I considered my options and realized that I needed both brakes on the course and the best time to fix it was before the climb that was about ten seconds away. I pulled to the outside (don’t you wish everybody did?) and dismounted, grabbed the cable and and realized the cable was free because the slot it hooked into on the brake arm was missing. My brake was broke.

Riders I had passed zinged by as I stared at my bike. I was frozen. Then I got on and soft-pedaled trying to decide what to do. It was a full thirty seconds before I remembered I had a pit bike. During that time my mind had considered stopping, riding to the finish, and all manner of panicked thoughts. Why had I forgotten the pit bike?

The downhill was a different story with only a front brake. The slippery muddy turns were likewise a different adventure rear-brakeless. I hit the pit and as I approached a guy grabbed a set of wheels that weren’t mine and said, “what do you need?” “Prop my bike,” I said as I dropped the orange crusher and grabbed my single speed.

The higher pressure of the tires on the single speed was apparent as soon as I swung my leg over and pedaled. Around the corner was the finish line and I heard one to go. I had to throttle back on the corners and the rough stuff was, well, rough.

Grinding it out on the one gear wonder...

Switching from a geared bike to a single speed mid race was a shock to my quads. I tried to brake on straights and accelerating was harder when you only have one gear. I was still racing, so as Jens says, “shut up legs.”

Nobody else passed me and I clawed my way through 35+ and women riders who were getting lapped. I spotted a rider with a number from my category and I chased him and squeezed past. On a loose downhill he blitzed by and I chased him through the muddy turns and he went down just before the pits and I went around him.

Knowing he would be doing all he could to catch me I took the last corner conservatively and then raced a 35+ on the final climb as my single speed spun like crazy on the gradual uphill sprint to the line.

I figured I would have ended up eighth, and expected to be somewhere in the mid twenties as I figure I lost a good two minutes with my mechanical. To my surprise I was 16th and Spinner John ended up 11th. Dave F had crashed and rode a conservative race and finished a couple places behind me.

I didn’t see Spinner John after the race, but he did talk to Hottie. She he reported he was surprised I caught and passed him as he figured that without a call up I was doomed. He also confessed he was frustrated he couldn’t keep up with me on the technical sections.

I put my single speed on the roof rack and went back and collected my fallen orange warrior. I stopped by the SRAM tent and the SRAM rep told me the part that broke off (or just disappeared..) wasn’t one that was supposed to come off and therefore they didn’t sell replacements. He suggested I go to my local SRAM dealer and that they would warranty it. I stopped by Gregg’s Greenlake Bike shop and a few minutes later I walked out with a new rear brake and a smile as my bike would be fixed and my wallet was unscathed. Good job SRAM and great job Gregg’s.

I had two muddy bikes and six muddy wheels to clean when I got home. Tim was impressed by the whole event and we reminisced about mountain biking down Mt. Pillar in Kodiak Alaska this summer.

Ride down this when it's wet..

After cleaning my bike and eating dinner I was so tired I did something I almost never do. I went to be early. Way early. I went to bed at seven and got up nearly twelve hours later.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

SCX #5 2011 Race Report Steilacoom part deux

The spectacle that is Northwest Cyclocross..

Friday afternoon I sent a text to Hottie saying, “I need to sleep in tomorrow.” A busy week at work and some ambitions training had left me pretty knackered. I did the full meal deal of weights on Monday, bike commute on Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesday I ran in the morning (sans Tux this time as it was COLD), and I did a spin class on Friday harder than I meant to.

I got my wish and slept well Friday night, and last night I took full advantage of the extra hour of sleep the end of daylight savings granted me.

My motivation was waning, but at my age, good and bad habits are hard to break. Accordingly, I loaded up the war wagon and Hottie and I made the pilgrimage to the south end of Tacoma where one of my favorite courses, Steilacoom, can be found. My mum was once again in tow, and her voice would later pierce the cowbell infused din during my race.

My nemesis, spinner John, had an illness in the family and my teammate, Dave F, couldn’t make the race so I felt like I had nothing to lose. It was cold but dry (aside from some frost) so I was armed with file treads on the front of my machine. The sun was bright, so despite temperatures in the thirties, I was going with long sleeves, bare legs and even skipped the embrocation.

The top two guys in our category were upgraded during the week, so if I repeated my placing from last week, I’d squeak into the top ten. The venue was the same, but the course was different than it was a few weeks ago when I had my last top ten finish (same course, just backwards - but the same amount of climbing and intimidating descents).

With the top two guys (and Dave F) out, I got a front row call up. This time the course had a hundred and fifty meters of asphalt, so I wanted to get a fast start to avoid any “incidents.”

Evo hitting the first corner..

At the whistle, I drilled it to the first corner and was sitting about fifth, then some jockeying through some grassy turns and I lost, and then picked up positions. A loose gravel corner took us onto a long paved climb. I felt good, but tried to keep it real as this was supposed to be a four-lap race. Some single-track rollers and then three barriers on an uphill and I was still sitting about sixth or seventh. I tried to keep my feet moving fast and gained some ground.

This year; for the first time in my Cyclocross life, I have my brakes dialed in. The other change this year is bar top brakes. These gave me the confidence to pedal hard and bomb down the loose dirt downhill. More loose gravel led to a series of S-curves under monster oak trees where we made our way through the fallen leaves.

A long climb on loose gravel had just one line unless you really wanted to increase your workload. I held my spot and passed a guy as we turned at the top. We went around a water tower and began a curvy downhill that tests your nerve, your bike handling and your brakes, in that order. I pushed again and on the final curve grabbed my brakes and began the long flat trail back to the grasslands. Two guys nabbed me and when we entered the grass section there were five leaders and I was one of two chasers, with a big gap to everyone else.

Lap one, this is how we were...

I tried to ride the grass smart and took wide lines to keep my speed; I kept my weight low and was in the drops pushing it. We heard two laps to go, so our race would be three laps. Hmmm.

I picked up a spot before the paved climb and held it to the top. I was sitting sixth and passed a guy for fifth on the loose descent. As we hit the grass I was in sight of the first four and the guy I had passed was on my wheel. I heard the announcer say we would AGAIN hear two to go and tried to readjust my head to do two more laps instead of one more.

We passed the finish line and I heard my name as sitting fifth. Way to go Evo!

“Ride Smart Evo,” I told myself. Ride good turns, relaxed shoulders, and breath deep, keep it together. I heard my name and smiled as I realized that a lot of these folks know me and were cheering me on. As we closed on the fourth place rider, a Blue Rooster rider who always beats me, he slid out and we went around him. I expected him to catch back on, but we weren’t going to wait.

On the climb we put more space between us and the rest of the field. I had faded in a couple races earlier this year and was determined to try hard to hold my spot. I tried something different and remounted and rode just past the uphill barriers rather than running the fifty meters to the highpoint. I took that speed into the downhill and was well through the oak tree chicane when I saw places six and on.

I was trading places with a rider named Earl Zimmerman and with one lap to go he had about three seconds on me.

Evo stalking Earl..

We were catching riders and if I had been thinking, I would have thought about where passing would be a challenge and adjusted my effort accordingly. As it was, each time we entered a tricky single-rider-wide section, Earl was just ahead of a lapped rider and I was behind that same rider. I lost time before the uphill barriers. I worked the downhill and final climb and made up a lot on the downhill. Then a section of single track leading to the grass and I was behind (and cheering on) a lapped woman who offered me an inside line when it became available.

At the first grassy hairpin, I was a good five seconds down, but when I was on the other side, I realized I had an even bigger gap on the sixth place rider. I kept pushing but so did Earl. Over the last barrier and onto the asphalt finishing straightaway I was in the drops drilling it; taking no chances. Earl rode it to the line and so did I. He got me by four seconds, and I had over twenty on the sixth place rider; the Blue Rooster guy that I hadn’t beaten before.

Fifth place. I’ll be hard to live with all week.