"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Winfield, Take Two

Jared and I drove back out to Winfield the next morning to race yet another challenging course. ABR’s championship course is straightforward rectangle, with a much shorter, therefore steeper hill ending at turn 3. Turn 4 was at high speed into a downhill sprint to the line over very rough road.

With Jared and me were Seegs, Parker, and Liam. Early, we’d marked a couple riders – a guy in a Guinness kit that Mike knew from dirtbaggin’, and the IS Corp rider who’d won our 4s race at both Quad Cities and last night at the Twilight race.

Liam said he was feeling much better, and took a couple of early fliers but there was a headwind on the hill so he came back both times. He did manage to stay off for about three laps, and the rest of us had our hands full chasing down threats. Seegs worked hard on another move, and we all stayed on that IS Corp kid like super glue.

(Liam off the front)

2 laps to go, Parker kills it up the hill, keeping it strung out all the way up and then over, then coming through turn 4 so fast he had bail out on the side walk. Coming up on the bell, Liam hits the front, barks at me, and lights the second stage of the rocket. I am on his wheel but get pinched off like a turd by a Proctor guy and maybe an unattached rider. More on him later. They were both wearing blue, that’s all I remember.

Strung out to the base with Liam still in front, the crowd grows at the first stair step. I kick it up on the outside to get around the swarm coming up inside, led by you-know-who, IS Corp. It works, pinching all those guys off. But somehow I get passed by one or two other, and now I’m 6th wheel coming down to turn 4. I curse to myself.

On the final stretch, I suck on another unattached’s wheel – this one in yellow. He dies quickly, and I come around and bridge the gap to 4 other riders…two more peel off like fighter planes from formation…I’m gaining, gaining, gaining, and finally throw hard for what I swear to God is 3rd. There’s no line – just cones, and the winner had a bike length – the unattached rider in blue.

I tell myself to immediately check the results because that placing could be dicey. I ask the official whose number he had for third, not even thinking they had scored me higher. He responds with a number that isn’t mine, and I immediately start protesting, asking to look at the film.

Standing with that official reviewing the tape, I see the first rider come by, followed by three of us. It is so close you could nearly draw a straight line through side by side hubs, but it is definitive.

“See! I’m ahead of that guy.”

“Yeah, you are. For second.”

“Oh. Well, I don’t want to protest that, then.”

(Podium FAIL...winner raises BOTH hands...we raise one hand. Seriously. Raise your hand.)

I had a couple of hours to change my number for the 3s race with Kirby and Matt, but I may as well have not raced it at all, save for the training. I was out of it mentally. It was much faster, and the riders around you also vying to control the front are so much more aggressive.

A couple of points for comparison:

Mid-race in the 4s we hit the top of the hill, with maybe six wheels in front of me. They all sit up and look at each other. I yelled a few choice words, came around and drilled it to the turn. In the 3s, it was gap city – either by me or two wheels in front at that turn every time up.

Conversely, back in the 4s, after Liam was brought back in from his flyer, I counter-attacked just as the announcer threw out a prime. I looked back and the entire field was absolutely glued to me. But in the 3s, I came to the front before turn 1 just to take the turn more safely for once – and didn’t realize I had a sizeable gap until another rider came around me and I looked back. That turned into a three rider breakaway that didn’t include me. As I got absorbed at the top of the hill, I tried to make up for my rookie blunder and chased it down.

Other than that I was nothing more than pack fodder. I was gapped at turn 4 almost every lap. All on his own, Kirby got the front with three to go and absolutely killed it for Moran – almost DFLing himself, and Moran managed 13th in a tough and aggressive field. The headwind on the hill kept things together and it was crazy at the top. I was actually right there at the end – I climbed really well, but the swarm was there, and I just said to myself, not today. I finished 24th just off the back of the sprint after another gap opened on the last turn.

But at last I am there. I’ve had two podiums and four top-10s in my last four races. I’ve been there all along physically, but the learning curve for me has been quite the hump. Quad Cities was truly the event horizon, however. Mike Sequin showed me how to get it done, and that was all I needed.

It’s now time to get my head screwed on straight for the upgrade to the 3s I now have in sight.

We stuck around to watch the finale of the P/1/2 race for all the marbles, and the jersey. A break of four got off midway through, which turned to three, and increased it's lead to a seemingly insurmountable minute plus. Yet with two laps to, the pack racing for 4th and 5th place cut into the lead at an amazing rate. As the break rounded the corner for the last time, the gap was less than 15 seconds, and ABD's Josh Carter won the sprint over Mike Sheer, and a Panther rider, Chris Uberti, I believe.

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