Evanston is the finale for the year, it's a good race, long course and has a fun pizza party to cap it all off. It's a good time going up Friday and staying at the Vizmeg cabin and chatting with the team riders, eating and dreaming of victory on Saturday.
Saturday brings a slow start, since the race doesn't start til 11 a.m., but as the appointed time approaches there's a flurry of activity and we load up and head down the hill to set up our 'pit' and get ready to race. With the finale being a double points race there's a lot of expecations hanging on this one event and a mistake here could disrupt the season long objective of an overall podium place.
Jesse Sorenson wasn't taking any chances and was taking everything but the kitchen sink in the event that any calamity should take place. Winning, or even finishing here, would likely ensure is overall victory in his division.
I was in a similar position, holding 3rd in the points race all season behind Jay and Reed. I figured that's how it would all shake out at the end, as long as we all at least finished. I too was prepared physically and mentally for this race and determined to do well.
The race started as normal with everyone positioning and I while I started fast, couldn't hold onto Reed's wheel or Jay's, Stan's, or Todd's. At least seven guys went out and I tried to stay in contact up Sage Draw. The group was holding together pretty well and when we got to the double track I started to feel better and catching riders. The technical downhill works to my advantage and I was able to get by a few more riders and eventually only had Todd out in front of me. We hit the road and I was slowy closing the gap, the of course, Jay came from behind and passed us both pretty rapidly We were near the top and I got by Todd just in time to chase Jay up the steep climb. I noticed that the wisdom of age helped Jay and I maintain a steady pace while younger riders were burning out and dismounting frequently. I chased Jay over the boardwalk and through the downhill, not until the approach to Deadman's pass did I get by. Finally in first place I hit the backside downhill hard and cruised back up into Sage Draw with some confidence that at worst I'd be in the top 3, I just had to hold off any strong finishers.
I looked back at one point and noticed a revo jersey and thought "it couldn't be", but it was, Jim Harper had come up on me and closed the gap quite nicely. I couldn't hold him off but was determined to make him earn it. I tried to hold his wheel up the double track to Dead Man's, at the sand pit he went right and got bogged down. I was able to slide through and back into the lead, 29ers DO have an advanatge on this stuff I'm convinced. He was right behind me and all I could do was try to hold him off until the downhill. Next I'm down the technical drop on the other side and powering down the road. I caught Justin who had passed me earlier and he followed me down the fast roads back toward Sage Draw and the run in to the finish.
We were flying, hammering as fast as I could to keep a gap on Jim I was feeling pretty confident that I could push hard up Sage Draw one last time and make a race out of it. Then it happened, just before the last climb over to Sage I went from fast to crashed. Oh! I've crashed before, but its usually one of those slow speed, try to avoid an obstacle type deals, where you tip over and fall off. No this was a full on high speed wipeout. I can't even tell you what caused it. One minute I'm in first pace hammering toward the finish line and victory, in a flash I'm airborne, bike gone, the gravity takes effect and I'm tumbling over the rocks and dirt of the road.
Long story short, I fixed the bike, after a few attempts and bumming tubes, air and pump from team riders (thanks Joseph and Paul, I owe you both). Made my way in, finished 12th instead of 1st.Many bruises and scrapes, luckily none on my face. I seperated my shoulder which is both inconvienient and painful. I'm already telling Gail I want to race on Wednesday night. She just looks at me like I landed on my head.
I lost 3rd place in the overall by 3 points. Disappointing, yes, but it could be worse, so I'm just happy to have had a good season with great compeititon and made a few more friends.