Saturday's race started off with just a few drops of rain in the air. The course was already chewed up and the races before mine made sure the track was ridden from tape to tape. It is funny to listen to first timers at an event like this comment on how much the course gets torn up. When one category features as many racers as we'll get at a full day of racing in MI, the courses take a beating.
I had a great starting spot which landed me next to John Osgood on the front row. Sure enough though, in typical fashion, five racers were given a starting spot in row ZERO (that's right, in FRONT of the grid...) based on OVCX points. You're telling me they forgot to do that when assigning numbers? Whatever, I'm sure they'll fix it for Sunday (they didn't). Anyway, fortunately all five of them lined up on the opposite side of the starting grid which gave me a clear lane for the hole shot. BANG and I was off, finding a gap in front of 107 racers like nobody's business.
Into the first few turns the course was slippy and I was happy to be out front. Shortly after the start (400m-ish) we hit the first set of planks. I chose a line on the left which proved to be a bit slower in the run to the barriers. Two guys passed on the right. We're off our bikes, flying over the barriers, when I hear the distinctive sound of someone having difficulty with the planks. Out of the corner of my eye I see the guy in fourth place start to lose it just as I'm setting my bike back down for a remount. Then it happened - RAD RACING dude caught his balance by placing his foot THROUGH my rear wheel, instantly toasting it.
I've wrecked wheels before and know when it is time to figure a quick fix versus just starting to run. This was the latter situation, so I took off with the bike on my shoulder. Heading into the pits I had to be in last place, but the Wiz was there with my new Tricross Singlespeed. Fortunately the Sram guys put a wheel in for me and I was able to change again later on, but the damage had been done. 3rd to 107th in an instant, but that is 'cross. I ended up catching half of the field ending up 50th. Not a great day...
Sunday I was hoping for a better race overall. I had a spare set of clinchers with me but the wind and sun had significantly dried things out from Saturday. I decided to swap my green Michelin Mud for Osgood's Challenge Griffo clincher. It's funny how sometimes decisions get made that you never think will come back to haunt you, but this was one of them. Had I just stayed with the Muds who knows what would have happened...
So the start was similar to Saturday's. One main difference was that I hadn't exactly pre-ridden the course, so the first few turns were blind to me. Whoops. Anyway, Osgood and I stacked the right side of the starting row in awesome position, and the promoters left the OVCX guys back in the pack (no row ZERO this time). The whistle blew and it took me a second to get on top of my gear, but once I did I opened a gap instantly on the field. Going into the first barrier set I was all alone - nobody to step on my wheel. I ended up getting caught by the eventual winner about 3/4 of the way in that lap and finished the lap in 2nd place. That effort was good and bad - it got me out of trouble but required a bit of settling in. After the HR normalized I found myself in 7th with two to go. Ok just keep rolling...keep rolling.
Going into the Green Monster (which blows the Flying Rhinover out of the water...) you didn't have to brake whatsoever. No different on this lap, and I hit it with enough speed to carry me up the first four steps. I set my bike down on the top and once again felt that horrible feeling of my bike stopping in its tracks. PANIC MODE. What happened? I must have popped the wheel out of the drops. NO. I wrecked the rim?? NO. Then I saw it, a bulging tire jammed in my brakes bad enough that I couldn't free it. I stood on top of the Green Monster for what felt like an hour (but was probably closer to 5 seconds). Screw it, start running. Down the Monster, through the start, over the barriers, through the sand, and finally to the pits. When it was all said and done, once again I dropped from being in contention to DFL. I think I ended up 76th on the day.
The only good news is on the last lap, running with my bike on my shoulder, a bunch of guys were screaming that there was money in the mud pit. Of course I stopped and found a dollar - what else was I going to do?? To top it off, a short while later a High Life was held out in front of me, so I couldn't be rude and deny it, right? Ahh...
So what started out bad for me ended up with two good learning experiences and the knowledge that my fitness was indeed coming around (FINALLY). Not coming around enough to go jump in with the lead pack next weekend at Vet's, but coming around in smaller terms. We'll see.
One thing I confirmed this weekend was how FAST Michigan's masters are compared with everyone else. Wiz, Weinert, and Moncel rocked this weekend as did a few of the 45's. It was great to see Curt Potocki and John Osgood hit up their first USGP experience. Mark Caffyn, Mark Dettman, and Mark Wolowick all made the trip as well. Anne Swartz was representing in the elites while Kelly from the Wolverines rocked in the Master's category with two WINS.
One thing is for sure, I can't wait for next year.