I pre-rode the course the night before - lots of sweeping fast turns, a short wooded technical section - a spiral of death.
The course: grass with frozen sections (not for long), pavement, shorted wooded tight section. NO MUD!! WOOHOOOO!!
Bike Setup - Vittoria Tubulars - 25 front/27 rear
Weather - Gorgeous sun. 4 degrees (good call Sparky!!).
So going in I felt good about this one. This is my sort of course - open course, fast, momentum is important. The night before, the course was rough. Frozen ground made it difficult to put power to the ground. Lots of bouncing and getting thrown around in frozen ruts. I was running 30'ish psi and found it too harsh. I dropped it down to 26/27 and found it much better. I dropped it a little more today, but I think I pushed it a tad too much..more on that later.
The start: fantastic. I staged on the front row.
Boom - 3rd from the right:
I found my pedal instantly....awesome, and found myself 4th going into the grass leading to the first turn. I managed to power into 3rd place by that first corner - tubulars working great over that rough grass. I hadn't seen this much light in front of me all season....keeping pace with the leading riders. However, that did't last long - I lost 2 spots after a few turns. They were tight, and I still had nerves. That's ok, I told myself, keep them in sight for now.
As the race went on, the course started to change, and I lost sight of the leaders. One the first couple of laps, corners were hard, fast, you could hit them with confidence, minimal brakes. By lap 3 or 4, the apexes of the corners became really slick. Just a thin layer of mud and moisture. One lap you could carry tons of speed, while the next, bike was sliding all over the place. It made things very interesting, and unpredictable.
I also think that I ran too little pressure today - I've found my limit. It felt like my tires were folding over in the corners. I don't know if it was the slick conditions I was feeling or the tires. But whenever I really pushed thru a corner, it felt like they'd just give way. I thought I had rolled them on a few occasions - but that Mastik/Jantex job was holding nicely. Who knows...mud or pressure...I don't know enough to tell the difference.
I had traded spots with another rider - someone who I'd been very competitive with during other races. I rode his wheel for a few laps, then switched...I knew he was right there. On the second last lap, I was tired and making mistakes. I had fallen 3 times, all on slower, slick corners. I'd also had a few run-ins with slower riders. I wasn't angry - that sorta thing comes with the territory.
I got the bell lap and I was angry. Upset that I had made so many mistakes. I decided to go all-out and not care about the fear of falling. I'd tripod thru every corner....and it worked. All those slick corners that I had delicately navigated before, I was taking with reckless aggression - sticking my inside leg out for extra stabilization. It was working perfect. I was looking back - often - to catch a glimpse of my closing adversary.
I crossed the line 4th - super stoked. No draw prize - now 2/6 - but that's cool.
1 more weekend to go...a double header. Its a tough one - a masher - not my style, but we'll see how it goes.
See you in Sussex!!