Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Every Second Counts....

After 4 solid months of training, 6 months of racing, 8 tough XC mountain bike races, a tie for points out of the best five finishes from those races, a who beat who the most, to a who beat who last race of the series finale.... It all came down to 1 second to decide who would be the USAC Michigan XC Mountain Bike Series State Champion for Sport Men 30-34.

So here we are again. Adam and I. Trying to figure out who is going to finally crack, who is going to crash, flat, or just not show up. Wouldn't that be nice? I'm sure we were both playing out the race in the past 2 weeks in our heads. Should I go out fast? Sit on his wheel for the entire race? Try to attack early or late? It went on and on. But we were finally here. At Stony Creek to see who would be crowned the XC State Champ. It has been a great year for both of us. We have battled each other in every race. Most to the bitter end. And have traded top results back and forth. Hell, we have even helped each other during races to plot against other racers. And through it all, I the best thing we both have gained is a lot of respect for each other and a friendship that will last a long time. But for this day it was still racing!

We lined up at the start. My heart was pounding just waiting to go. Normally we line up next to each other to chat and laugh before the start to ease the nerves. But not today. I don't know if we even made eye contact at the line. Going into the race, my strategy was going to be go out as fast as I can and hop on Brian Crook's wheel. This has worked all season against Adam so why would it fail now right? Well the whistle blew and we were off. DAMN IT! I can't clip in. I look up and sure enough, Brian is off like a rocket! And there is Adam on his wheel. OH SHIT! I gotta boogy! Adam was pushing like I never seen him push before at a start of a race. Later I found out that he figured I would hop on Brian's wheel and go so he would do the same. Well, the pace was high but I was bringing him back on the flats. By the time we got to the "Pines" I was about 25 yards back. Then he crashed just before the rock garden. It was a bad one too. He dropped his bottle and glasses. But one problem his bike was laying across the trail just before the edge of the rock garden. So me and about 2 other riders were forced to take the longer bypass. By the time we made it back the the primary trail, Adam had regrouped and was back on his bike. But now we were racing side by side. I jumped on his wheel and let him continue to set the pace. I could see he was shaken and in a lot of pain from the crash. At one point his pace even slowed a bit so I pulled up along side and made sure he was OK. He said he was but was in alot of pain, so I told him to hop on and I would pace to get his mind off his injury. We then took a few turns to set the pace throughout the race. On the last lap just after the 1st half of the "roller coaster", Adam was pulling and I got my front wheel caught up in a rut sending me off the trail. This set me back about 200 yrds. So now I had to work again. Adam looked back once to see where I was, and began to pick up the pace. As I was reeling him back, he started sprinting up the hill on the double track into the "pines". This was a good move because in front of me were 2 slower beginner riders. I recognized what he was trying to do so I made my move to get back to him here. There was no way I was going to allow 2 slower riders to separate us in the single track after what happened at Pontiac Lake. So right before the beginning of the "pines" I was on his wheel again. He was surprised. We pushed through the pines again and were back on the single track. Before the 2nd half of the roller coaster, Adam said, "OK how about you take a turn?" with about 3 1/2 miles to go. Well it was my turn. I said, "I see what your up to". But I went up front and pulled. The last thing I wanted to do was go into a sprint at the end in first position. But this is what was going to happen and I knew it. But I was feeling good and was ready for the challenge. We climbed the last big hill of the day and with about 1-11/2 miles to go, I used my back up strategy. I began to push the last mile in the big ring as fast as I could hoping to put him in the red zone and create a gap before the final sprint if I was going to be in first position. I felt great. Feeding off the adrenaline, I pushed faster and faster. I could not hear him behind me anymore, but I could not look behind me either. I popped out of the woods and all the spectators seen us coming. A lot of folks knew what they were about to see and were screaming and cheering as loud as they could. THAT WAS AWESOME! With a few small corners to negotiate, I could see the finish line. I was listening for the clicking of gears to let me know if an attack was coming from behind. Adam had the prime position going into the final sprint if he was on my wheel. Then out the corner of my left eye - there he was standing and popping gears. He attacked with about 60 feet to go. I tried to counter but he had at least 2 full pedal strokes in the standing position before I could get out of the saddle. He barley pulled ahead and I began to reel him back again... it was too late....

Adam 1:38:34.223

Me 1:38:35.006

The series was decided by 1 second. Adam is the 2008 XC State Champ.

Adam was so spent he jumped off his bike with out stopping and fell to the ground holding his legs in absolute pain. I walked over to him, he looked up and put his hand out. I opened both my arms and gave him a big man hug. What I just witnessed was awesome and to be apart of it was almost as good as winning myself. Congratulations Adam, you deserve it.

As for me, Not all was lost. This is my 2nd year taking 2nd in the series. I was crowned the time trial series Champ so together, we spilt the 2 series. I took a few first place finishes for the first time in Sport, and I beat personal best times at almost ever race. And finally, I gained some great friendships.

So now it is off to cyclocross. A little break and then the building process begins for a few more podium finishes.


Todd Shorkey said...

John - That is just awesome dude! Reading your write up of the race made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Congratulations on a truly fantastic USA-C season. I have said this before, but you really are an inspiration. Way to go John. Keep tearing 'em up the rest of 2008!

TP said...

Your best write up of the year!!!

I love it. CONGRATS on the season!

Paynful said...

Great write up!! I felt like I was there riding your wheel!

Great season!!

Good luck with CX... You may see me lining up next to you later this year!