What a weekend. It was a pretty big change going form the sunny hot races at the US Grand Prix finals in San Francisco, to the snowy freezing temperatures of the east coast. The GP final was a pretty big weekend for me, and I took the following weekend to recover from the efforts and contemplate the remainder of the season. I have ten races left this year, all culminating with the World Championships in Zeddam, Netherlands on January 28th, 2006.
The week after the GP’s I headed back to Oregon for thanksgiving with the family and some cold weather acclimation. Being in California has made me a bit soft, and I needed to toughen up for my trip out east and then on to Belgium. The weather was my ally in this, as the high for the week in Oregon never got over 40. It was a good week of training and eating and freezing though and I looked forward to my trip out east.
The weather reports had it clear and cold in Boston for my arrival the weekend before nationals. Saturdays race was in Warrick Rhode Islands. Held on the grounds of a middle school the track was twisty, fast and fun, with one run up and one set of barriers. Unfortunately the legs were a bit blocked up form my weekend off and after a good start I faded back to the second group and cruised in for a disappointing 8th place finish. I was not to worried about it though as I had put little emphasis on the weekend and it was good to go out and blow the legs out a bit.
Over night snow changed to freezing rain as we drove further south into Rhode Island for day two. The course was thankfully mostly in the trees and sheltered form the wind and rain, but as I warmed up on the trainer wearing every piece of clothing I had brought with me ice began forming on my bars and top tube. I wore leg warmers, a thermal jersey and a skin suit and thick gloves and barley stayed above hypothermic temperature. This race went better. I got my customary fast start and then settled into a front group of three with Tim and Mark, until an untimely collision with the course tape on the beach section got my caught up for a good 20 seconds. Erik and Adam ought up to me and for the remainder of the race Tonkin and I beat up on the fat kid, attacking the beach runs and dropping him, only to have him bridge back up through the icy turns. Finally on the last lap we rally started givin’er and I fell victim to the final turn game of chicken and hit the deck. Tonkin held of Adam for 3rd and I cruised in for 5th.
The rest of the week was spent riding in the snow and trying to stay warm as we prepped for nationals. Ryan arrived on Tuesday and was feeling good about the races coming up.
Thursday we arrived in Providence under sunny skies and 33 degree temperatures. After driving around for 30 minutes in the park we finally found the track. White course tap and snow make for a very stealthy location and the lack of sign indicating were the race was to be held did not help. The course was in awesome shape, fast turney and not to technical. The small amount of snow remaining was very grippy and Ryan and I were looking forward to Saturdays race.
Friday came and everything went to hell. Light morning snows gave way to rain, then sideways rain and gale force winds, then sideways freezing rain and finally a full fledged blizzard dumping 6 inches of snow in 4 hours. Just before sunset the storm broke, but the damage had been done. Hypothermic conditions and decimation of the course led to cancellation of the races scheduled for late Friday and a complete change of course conditions for the race on Saturday.
We arrived at the venue about 3 hours before the race to get a good look at the course. Hundreds of racers and slightly above freezing temperatures had turned it into a mucky mess. 2 inches of sloppy wet mud on top of frozen snow and ice made for less than ideal racing conditions. There was a single line along the entire course that was rideable, and the rest of the course was frozen ruts going in all directions threatening to send you into the crowd in you dared to wander off line. The start stretch was not much better, with half of the road covered in ice and snow and half dry pavement. No start grid existed and it was pure anarchy as we lined up and fought for a clean patch of pavement. At the start it was full gas to the first turn over a curb into a downhill ice section. Total chaos and I think the only way I managed o stay up right was by bouncing off all the people around me. After about half a lap the front group had extracted themselves form the chaos and it was down to six racers. I was sitting about 4th, right behind Page, with Trebon and Wells about 5 seconds up the road. I was feeling ok, not awesome and did my best to stay on Johns wheel as we started lap two. My infamous towering physic would prove to be my undoing on this day as I proceeded to bobble and slide and crash my way back to sixth and rode out the day by myself to the finish.
I was pretty disappointed in how the race went, but not everything goes as planned and at least I have the GP series over all to look back on. Ryan rode a solid race, not his best by his own admission and was more than disappointed at finished second for the second year in a row. Todd Wells finally reclaimed his title from 2002 and page finished a distant 3rd after a stomach bug knocked him out of contention of Friday.
Disappointments behind me I now focus my efforts of the European campaign and the World Championships, and hope to eradicate my demons over there.
The women raced well, With Ann finishing 2nd, Georgia 7th and Heavy D finally winning his national championship in the masters category. A sweet after party hosted by Crank Brothers brought a close to the weekend and finally a win for me as I showed my talents and won the dance contest and a free t-shirt and special care package form Good Vibrations….
Thanks to Kona and everyone for the support this season and wish us Luck over in Euroland!