Yesterday’s race almost didn’t happy for me. I talked to Elliston Sat evening and the plan was that he’d be at my place at 6:30am, to be on the road and down to Mullica by 8:30am. I went to bed Sat night and set my alarm for 6:00am. As is typical when I know I have to be up, I didn’t sleep all that well; I woke up several times wondering what time it was and hoping I hadn’t over-slept. I got up to go to the bathroom at one point and noted it was still pitch black out, so I was ok. Then I heard my wife say those words: what time is it? I opened my eyes and it was light out.
Mother f***ker. It was 6:38am. I jumped out of bed, ran downstairs, and opened the garage door. Bill was waiting, got out of his car, realized what happened and was laughing at me. I threw him my car keys so he could be it out of the garage and get the bikes loaded, while I got ready. 7 minutes later I was dressed and out the door, with a little help from my awesome wife who made me breakfast and put it in a Tupperware to go. This, folks, is why you always pack your race bag the night before. After some laughing and me standing on it most of the way down there, we made it only 10 minutes later than planned.
We found a good parking spot and got out to register. Our field was full before prereg even closed, and yet there were some notable day-off people that showed up that were not on the prereg list, such as Dave Chauner and Tom Soladay. All good though, they would surely make for good racing. That along with a few of the AXA guys, Evan Fader, and all of the strong PA and NJ guys meant it would be a good race. The weather was sunny and warm, with an increasing wind that would also be a factor.
The first lap got started pretty easily, but didn’t take long for Chauner to make the first attack with Elliston in tow. I saw the move and got right on. We didn’t get too far, and a few more catches and counters had the field a little stunned. That’s when the group rolled off – Minturn, Whitman, Fader, Ward, Maurice from Van Dessel, and a handful of others got a gap and were quickly up the road. All said I think the group ended up with 13, and coming through lap 2 they already had 1:20 on the group. Game over.
Just as we started lap 3 and out of the first turn, the chase began in earnest. Chauner and Soladay led the charge, with a small group rotating at the front into the headwind section of the course. Still, after all the work was done we still didn’t have them anywhere close to being in sight. Lap 4 came and the group rolled a good tempo, biding its time for the finish even though all the money was up the road.
Coming into the final lap I knew positioning would be important; the course was basically pancake flat and a triangle shape, with two corner and the “third” actually being two quick turns pretty close together. Going into turn two on the last lap, the field began to swing left to make the right turn when some panic hit: a car was in the turn making a left into us. The marshals couldn’t stop him, and to make matters worse a group of motorcycles was coming onto the course in the direction we were turning. Disaster adverted, we rolled on. I knew the name of the game would be getting into position before the final corners, to be in a good spot to float for the long final stretch.
That’s just what I did, I was top 20 going into those corners and out of the last corner it was still some 3 miles to the finish. I stayed left, to give myself room to float and because the wind was coming from the right side. I stayed attentive, held my ground, moved up a bit and looked at the Garmin; still 2 miles to go. Sh*t this is a long finish. About 500m to go, I heard the dreaded sound of bikes on pavement. I did not see it but it went down on the right side, and I made it clear through it. Shortly after Woitas attacked with a teammate, but they were reeled in quickly. Then I saw the move; Durso went to the front with a steady roll of the throttle. I got on his wheel and looked back; we were leading this thing out with a little leash. Durso realized it was lead it out scenario for him, so he ramped it up and finally started his sprint. I sat behind him as long as I could, with the finish slightly uphill and the wind I knew I didn’t want to be out a long time in the sprint. I made my jump and came around him to take the field sprint so assuming the break was 13 then I would have been 14th?. We didn’t stick around because results were taking a while, and they were only paying 10 deep (though the flyer said 20 deep and we had a more than full field?). I know it wasn’t for much, but it felt good to put in a good sprint and pull down a top 15 in the first real race of the year. It was a confidence boost that I needed; affirmation that those long cold miles through the bitter winter will indeed pay dividends this season.
I’m told that Minturn won, countering an attack by Maurice shortly out of last turn and he went solo. His teammate Whitman took the sprint, so AXA went 1-2 on the day. Good on those guys. I haven’t seen the official results posted yet so that’s all I know.