Barton Park is my favorite race venue, and it did not disappoint this year.
All season long, I've just wanted to improve my finish places and feel more like a bike racer out there. I've made some improvements, and for the past month, I've been hoping to crack the top 10 at this race.
But then I ran into a little hiccup. I got sick. Food poising, I reckon. I didn't ride my bike at all since the race at Hillsboro last Sunday. Not once! I had no idea what was going to happen, but I figured I'd just relax, ease into it and enjoy.
Enjoy I did. The course was really quite fast this year. The gravel sections were slippery but totally manageable. The paved sections were not as bad for me as in years past, too. The run-ups were even run-able. So after I got going, I felt pretty great out there.
I was sitting 16th or so in the second lap. I just kept at it and eventually hooked up with this guy "TJ" from Iowa. We rode well together, and having him on my wheel helped me make sure to keep the pressure on. We eventually passed a few more riders, exchanging the lead throughout several laps. As we got towards the end of the race, I just lead the whole way around. I was feeling great, leading a group of at least three guys when I got a front tire puncture. The sealant I had in there plugged the hole, but not until I was down to almost zero pressure.
I didn't realize the front tire was gone until after I passed the pit. I went through a bumpy technical section and almost crashed a few times, so I knew the front tire was gone. Then came a fast, curvy paved section, and riding that with a flat front was scary as hell. But I didn't want to loose too much so I just did whatever I could to stay upright and keep at it. I eventually made it to the pit again and Jason Pfiefer dug out my spare bike for me. I got passed by a few more guys while that happened, and I don't know if I caught any of them. But I finished the race feeling strong and ended up 17th. The two guys I was riding with got 11th and 12th, so I am pretty confident I could have at least got 11th out there. That's not top 10, so I guess it makes no difference. Oh well. Close, but it wasn't meant to be.
Now I guess it's USGP up next, followed by Nationals in Bend. I hope to keep improving. The next fields I compete against will be deeper and faster than our local scene. And from now on, the races will only be 45 minutes long (rather than the hour I'm used to). Usually, the last 15 minutes of the race are my best, so I'm going to have to ride with a little more abandon to leave it all out there on the course. It will be hard with a long break of racing in between but I will do what I can do.
Photo courtesy Dave Roth. Thanks.