So I raced twice this weekend, as usual. I went a little too hard and too long on my blowout friday, at 2.5hrs, so I wasn't feeling my best during Saturday's race. It happens. I worked for the team, initiated breaks, pulled back breaks, and set up our leadout train. Covered my registration fee despite not being in the money. Gotta love it when a team plan comes together.
I arrived, on time, signed up, got my number on, warmed up. When I pumped up my tires, 10min before the start of the race, my valve stem came off the tube and my tire went flat in a heart beat. Crap. So, I threw in a new tube as quickly as I could, and still had time to hit the course once again before the start of the race.
Get the pre-race instructions, course is closed, one sharp corner with gravel in the outside, yada yada yada. We start, a pretty small field. Well, two laps in, I noticed that my cornering had been a little sketchy. I'm usually one to throw the bike around like Steve Tilford, so that was a little disconcerting. My pump is prone to getting the valve stop jammed when I'm pumping in a hurry, so there was a distinct possibility of the pressure in the hose being much greater than that in the actual tire. So, I pull off at the wheel pit, take my spare, put it on, and jump back in with the push of a helpful official.
But wait. What the hell. Two of the usual Cat 3 suspects are missing. Well, apparently while I was trailing the field before hitting the pit, they had jumped off the front, and I missed them when they came around again. So, the two of the guys that I was most concerned about are alone up the road, and I'm in the field with the rest of their huge teams, and no teammates to speak of myself. F*** this. I try to motivate the others on the smaller teams to help me pull them back. I yell, plead, cajole, take more than my share of turns at the front, for too long, and too hard.
Another two guys from the big teams jumps off the front on the big hill after I take a big pull on the flat leading to it. This is getting worse and worse. So there are now 4 guys up the road, three from the two biggest teams in the area, and another from a smaller team. Luckily, one of them blows up going up the hill a couple laps later, and we catch him shortly thereafter. I'm stuck between attacking off the front in an effort to bridge, let someone else attack and pull me across, or let the last two laps come and make my move then. Luckily, I hear the time gap from someone as we go by the start/finish with 5 minutes to go, with 2 laps to follow after time expires. Nah, not closing that, so I'll wait for someone on the big teams to get greedy.
Sure enough, they try to get 3 in the top 4 by sending their remaining riders to the front at the start of the last lap, drilling it on the flat, and towing the guy designated to launch up hill as far as they can go before they crack. Well, everyone else fades but the two teammates and myself, and it's just the three of us with 100m to go to the top of the hill. Then a long, fast, downhill with a set of sweeping turns and an uphill before the last turn and downhill to the finish. They attack, and I do my best to stay calm. One drops off, perhaps in an attempt to back me off of his teammate, and it kind of works. I come around him, but am 15m behind his teammate at the start of the descent. 3/4ths of a mile to go.
I jam it down in the bottom of my cluster, hit the 53, get in the drops, and let it rip. Going 40mph downhill, no brakes in the corners. Scary as hell. I'm 5m behind the guy in front of me, right at the start of the last uphill section, still going 30ish. Power up the climb as hard as I can go, basically run right up into his draft, pull around him right before contact, and fly by like he was standing still. Around 300m to go to the line, and there are 4 guys in hot pursuit. One last corner, hit the brakes a little too hard, slide through it, and gun it home with 10m to spare. 4th place, and another couple of upgrade points in the bag. Decent money, too.