We came to Dixon rolling 5 deep in the 3/4's and 4 deep in the 4/5's. With numbers like that in a small race you should be able to put together a team plan that puts one of your guys on the podium. I always try to make podiums the goal. With so many of our races coming down to sprints its so hard to produce victories in this sport it takes prefect luck. However with good team tatics and attentive racing it is very realistic to expect podiums if you have the fitness.
The course was altered from the 8 corner gem of last year due to some serious construction. (it would have made for a good CX barrier). This year we had a wide open, but bumpy 6 turn course with a slight rise on the backside into a downhill final turn and a uphill sprint finish, extremely unique. The course was a blast, some technical areas, but nothing really dangerous. You could hammer through most of the turns when you felt the need.
In the 3/4's race we lined up with 5 guys. Michael Shea, Dan Pollard, Matt Riezman, Brandon Diffenderfer, and I were going to work as a unit to take a podium spot. I felt terrible most of the race, breaks attempted to get off and the pace was rather brisk, Brandon and Shea were holding strong position; Dan and I were doing my classic tail gunning act and Matt was throwing up in some dude's lawn. Panda express as your pre-race meal really?
I took a free lap due to a mechanical with about 15 laps to go. Small breaks got away but the field remained attentive and brought everything back within a couple laps. With about 5 to go a two man group was about 200 or may 300 meters off the front and I thought what the hell I hadn't done anything this race I might as well try and bridge. I attacked up the left side of the rise and I saw Shea coming up the right side. I thought if I could get a small gap he could come over the top and block while I tried my bridge. However my efforts got me on the front of the group but no further. I thought I would take a long pull and see what happened. I pulled for about a lap and tried to pull off on the rise, and that I did. Directly off the back. I chased for about two laps until the group was out of sight. When the pack goes out of sight its like a punch to the stomach, you know your day is over.
I am told on the last lap Brandon took an outside line to attack the group grabbing a 3rd place finish, Shea took the inside line and got pinched finishing a respectable 10th. Shea commented after the race how impressed he was with Brandon's abililty to read the race on the last lap. For a Cat 4 rider to get a podium while racing against some really strong 3's is really impressive!
We moved up for a few laps and then with three to go at the start finish line someone flipped the squirrelly switch and bike handling went to hell. A couple ridders tumbled into the fence, the pucker factor in the field was high. I got shuffled back and saw Bryan Cael he said "its getting nuts up there", I thought it sure is. So on the rise I attacked up the left side again. Same result, it ended at the front of the group. I saw a rider in front of us, he was chasing after his crash but I didn't know that. I got to his back wheel and he sat up. I soft peddled or two strokes and then dropped the hammer through the rise. I was trying to string out the group for a full lap to allow Brandon and Dan to spring attacks on the rise. I put everything I had through my bike and bombed each of the corners. I felt great about my lines and the pack snaked behind me. I dropped a maintained a strong tempo until we crested the rise, and then BOOM!!!!!! I blew up, and faded to the right as Brandon attacked just to the right of me and barely to the left of the curb. We grassed hands and he flew off the front of the group. I saw Dan follow from the inside and I knew my job was done. They were first two through the last two turns and we Brandon held on for 3rd in the long sprint with Dan holding his wheel for 4th. A great team effot nabs us another podium and another top 5.
chiCROSScup with a diversion for the Fall Fling and problably a rest week or two... probably not.
All photo credit to Justeen.