I have never entered a race with any intention of placing. I always have a fear of not finishing. This week has been far less than stellar. Monday, I went out and timed myself for one lap and the results were terrible, about two minutes slower than my second lap, at last years race. I had to face the fact that I wasn't in good form, and I considered not entering. Tuesday, I go down like a bag of hammers, on the road, on my way to a group ride. Wednesday, I laid around sore and dejected, until Worm called and assured me I would be fine the next day. Thursday, night I rode with the crew and had a horrendous ride, even though the pace was SUPER SLOW! Friday and Saturday, I tipped toed around the trail, and still felt like someone was holding my rear tire. Saturday, Red Dragon called and told me I should just go as hard as I could for once, and see what happened.
"If you are not first you are last!" Red Dragon said, and then he hung up.
I have been poking Big Jim Slade with a stick, for a couple weeks, about how I was going to beat him. I have to admit when I rolled up to the line, I thought I was going to get waxed. I had only one chance, and that was to get a big lead on Slade and get away.
The race starts, and I find myself with the whole shot. I went into the woods in first place and on the first climb no one was coming around. On the last steep section, I hear a Colombian racer behind me say something in Spanish, and I figure he is going to move on me, so I got out of the saddle and attacked all the way to the first section of single track. I held the lead into Tom Brown and I thought I would never see Slade again. All I had to do was hang on, then a voice behind me said:
"That was a great start T."
I turned around in shock and horror to see Slade on my wheel. My heart literally broke. This was what I feared most: Slade riding my wheel and taking me at the end. I tried to calm down, and just ride the course, but I was rocked by the sight of him. We held the lead for the first lap and I attacked again on the climb to Cadillac. At the top of the climb, two guys from our class got by me. We were stuck in traffic on the single track, and the three guys in front of us (not in our class) were really stinking up the place. Sloppy, slow and there was three of them. I started talking to them and finally got around. I went hard to Tom Brown, but Slade burned the hill up leading to the single track and caught me. Red Dragon was yelling like a man possessed, that we were fourteen seconds off the leaders. I was gassed and Slade came around me. He could not have been nicer, and told me to let him know when I wanted to get back around, to which I replied...." Whatever." Slade increased the gap and I said out loud:
"Well that's it."
I was out of legs and unless Slade fell in front of me, I figured I would never see him again. He ran into traffic on a technical section and a guy fell in front of him causing he and another guy to step off their bikes. I was able to ride the section and I was right on top of them again. The same guy fell again, and Slade melted down on the dude. It was totally warranted, and seriously funny, but the guy wouldn't let us pass. On the next climb, he went down hard on some roots and stopped us cold. I pushed my bike by he and Slade, and once again I was in front. The only problem was now I was holding everyone up. I put a little attack on the next hill and coasted through some technical stuff to the bottom of the first big climb on Cardiac Hill. Jim came around me and really accelerated, I tried to keep him in the grass and off the one line, and we stayed side by side for most of the climb. When we crested the top, I made a little attack and pushed by him and into the gun range.
Then something strange happened: Slade started talking me through the next climb. I really wanted to give up and when he saw me sit up, he would talk me back into peddling. The guy in third (who we had passed four or five times) attacked us on the Oak Tree climb and got about a thirty yard gap. On the last climb (by the Humane Society) I attacked again, and we dove into the gully. Ice Berg caught us on the last section of single track, and told us someone from our class was closing and we needed to pick up the pace. Slade told me not to worry, he wasn't going to challenge me for the lead, and to go harder. Over and over he kept saying to me: "Your doing great....Go!"
Berg came around, we got on his wheel and he pulled us all the way to the BMX track (Thanks Bro).
We could hear everyone yelling as we sprinted up to the BMX start, and my son was at the top pointing over my shoulder at the guy in sixth. I was totally gassed but I went in as hard as I could. I could see the third place guy in front of us, but I was dying. My son ran from one bank to the next, to urge me through the BMX turns, it was the most awesome moment of the race for me. Slade caught me as we exited the track, and headed for the finish. I could hear him yelling: "G0! Go!" and we sprinted into the start finish line with me fourth, and Big Jim Slade, in fifth.
I really would have given up if Slade hadn't been behind me, and I know in my heart he gave me fourth place. Even though he will never admit it, I know the truth and I am thankful to have a friend and teammate that is that good of a guy. I don't know of anyone that would have done that in his position, and it says a lot about who he is as a person, a cyclist, a team mate and a friend. I thank you brother, I'm honored that we will have this memory, for the rest of our lives. It was my best finish, and the best race I can remember. I owe it all to Big Jim Slade. Thanks man.
The rest of the day was spent hanging out, eating, drinking, and lounging in the small city that Red Dragon, Frog Legs, and their families set up to keep the Bikechain.com Team comfy, cosy, and in the shade.
The sport and expert guys from our crew went off, and the low point of the day happened, when Big Worm broke his saddle on the first lap, and had to drop out. This is the second race in a row that he has been in the hunt, only to be sidelined by a mechanical. It really sucks because he is faster than ever and has been training hard. He's going to nail one soon though, and when he does it's going to be sweet, for him and all of us.
We took a lot of medals for Team Bikechain.com and the afternoon was great. I watched my son ride the obstacle course and having my wife see why I ride so much (instead of cleaning the pool) was really cool.
Here's the medal count for our team, as near as I can remember: (correct me in the comments if I am wrong).
Base 40-49, W.B. 4th
Base 40-49, B.J.S. 5th
Sport 30-39, Frog Legs 4th
Sport 40-49, Long Shanks 3rd
Expert Junior 15-18, Ice Berg 1st
Expert 30-39, Silk (in the best sprint finish of the day) 2nd
Expert Single Speed, Ball Zack 3rd
It was a killer day. I am still buzzed from it all. I know it's all probably funny to all that know us and have seen the bickering first hand, but today was the Chain Gangs finest hour. I will never forget it, and I plan on boring the shit out of people the rest of my life with stories about this weekend. I know I have said it before but....Thanks Fellas!