… First off, my race was made about 5 minutes before the start. Thinking it would be a roadie-style opening, I set up on the right side of the line, figuring the inside would push out the left as we hit the grass. I should have known when all the fast guys lined up to the left! D’oh!
It was made more difficult when they called up the top 10 series points leaders, and all of a sudden I was second row. We got the “Go!,” and sure enough, the left side blasted out and we on the right were left hanging. I was clean, but stuck, and by the time we hit the trees I think I was pretty much last place.
Up and around, grab a place here and there, and then full-bore left-hander into the screaming downhill barriers. As I unclipped, I could see massive carnage on either side, a bike flying through the air, and my only thought was “OK, Cole, through the smoke. You can do it!”
I made it clean, had a rough remount, and by the time I got to the fence I could see Mike stopping with a rolled front tire. I wasn’t dead last, but close to it, and the front group was already halfway through the spiral. I crapped on the off-camber 180, going way too slow and way too low, before managing to make up a few spots on the long downhill/fast turn at the bottom of the course. We hit the stairs and Lou was right in front of me … I followed him down off the hill, he went right on the pavement as I hopped the grass and told him “next time, this is the line!” Then it was through the finish and down the hill …
I survived the climb and the beer pavilion, which that early was comparatively sedate. I led out the long drag, and as we crested into the trees Dewey Dickey jumped past me as I heard Jim’s voice, “That’s Dewey! Get on his wheel!” Jim jumped past me on the left, I elevated for about 3 seconds, and that was it. We came around to the barriers, I think I got passed by one or two others, and I was on my own with the race up the road.
I think there was one more lap in there, and then I saw 4 to go. As I struggled up the climb every lap, I became aware of a presence behind me … with the glasses and style, it was unmistakable – Ronsta was on the hunt. Oh, crap. He beat me at Cam-Rock. He’s a semi-pro. I CAN’T LET HIM BEAT ME THIS TIME!!!
Each lap he reeled me in a little bit at a time – I would increase the distance on any straightaways, he would bring me back on any technical sections. I seemed to be running faster than him, so the barriers and the stairs were good, but he was definitely out-climbing and out-descending me every time. The beer pavilion kept getting louder and louder, my left ear going completely deaf with three to go, especially (as I learned later) since Ronsta was pulling wheelies through there as he chased me down!
Finally, with two to go, Ron had pushed me hard enough for me to close the gap on 12th place. I can’t remember where I caught him, but I used him for about 30 seconds in the wind before surging and kicking it up a notch. As I did so, I realized that I wasn’t completely dead – just close – so I began actually attacking the course instead of letting it come to me. Every place I could, I stood and hammered, and every straightaway was an opportunity to go into time-trial mode. He may be a semi-pro mountain biker with technical skills, but I used to be a TT expert!
I still struggled on the uphill, but my last lap and half were easily my fastest as I dialed in the off-camber stuff and flew through the course-bottom turn. Before I knew it, 11th place was just seconds in front of me, and I seemed to be closing … but there was no more real estate, and as I turned into the finish stretch he was just crossing the line, barely 5 seconds separating us in the end. Ron managed to kick it up a notch as well, passing at least one guy to finish right behind me.
I made a couple of important breakthroughs in this race, even if the results aren’t quite stellar. As Dewey passed me, I pushed it just a bit, and in hindsight may have been able to dig deeper. Then, I let up a notch as I came out of the spiral – that was the first time I have been consciously aware that I wasn’t going hard enough. All other times, it just sort of happens. I realized in the beer garden with 2 to go that I couldn’t breathe, but I also realized that I could keep the legs going as long as I wasn’t completely blind. I figured out that I need to be better about looking forward, not at the ground. And most of all, as with every other year at Angell Park, I remembered just how much fun it is to race ‘cross!
Thanks to Kim for the pics!
ONLY 24 DAYS TO NATZ!!