Is this Heaven?
By Brian Morrissey | May 25, 2009
Race name: Snake Alley, Melon City, Quad Cities Criteriums
Race date: Monday, May 25, 2009
If you’d have asked either myself, Peter, Noelle, or Seth this question Sunday night in Muscatine, the sun setting on a hot, hard day over the fast food joints and strip malls outside our cramped hotel room, we’d have said, “no, it’s hell.”
Noelle was with us for her virgin foray up the Snake and in fact her first race of the year. I was going for the win after my top 10 in the 4s last year. Peter had the same aspirations for the 3s event, and while Seth was recovering from his recently broken ribs, he is still one skinny dude and a hell of a climber.
By day’s end, Noelle was dropped early, I’d finished 27th after starting in the front row, sweaty and snotty, slow and weak. Peter was strong early, riding off the front like a he-man, but fell back to the last money spot, and Seth only lasted five laps before getting pulled.
Sunday in Muscatine was even worse, relatively. Noelle was off the back and time trialing alone. I finished 13th in the 4s, unable to get through the clusterf*** at the top of the hill (but the speed bump was fun, especially at 40mph - best part of the race…I am going to LOVE CX!)before the last turn. Then I doubled up for the open Masters 30+ lining up right next to Andy Crater and Dewayne Dickey, two former pros and got dropped in two and half laps. 2nd lap in I was right with them up the hill until Crater attacked through the tight chicane turn before the start/finish.
I tried to close it, triedtriedtried…died. They came around after turn 1, before the descent to the speedbump and I tried to recover. But after landing (yes, landing) the hammering started and the gap opened again like a battle axe wound up the hill. Past the line again the motorcycle passed me and left me for dead. One more lap alone, I couldn’t see them at all. I figured I better get out of the way and save them the trouble of pulling me since it wouldn’t be long before they did. Besides, the hot dogs smelled pretty good.
Peter was sitting in the 3s like a patient tiger, then working his way up when he had the worst luck in the world, crashing out sitting 4th wheel on the last turn before the finish.
Seth was dropped with 7 laps to go in the pros race. From my vantage point on the grassy knoll by the final, chicane turn, Crater and legend Steve Tilford would come by breathing like steam locomotives, chugging rhythm to their cadence, at 25mph. Everyone behind them was grimacing in pain. Recovering from broken bones cannot be easy at that level.
So come today in Rock Island I grudgingly put on the kit, and half-heartedly warmed up, while Noelle stayed with her group, and laid down a really powerful sprint. Meanwhile, I moped around the side streets…I won’t say just how low I was Sunday night, but it was down there. Yet when I saw Mike Seguin’s beaming face just off the course, with 30 minutes to go time for the Master’s 30+ 4/5, it couldn’t help but put me into a racing mood.
I guess I raced angry, or at least with out any self-applied pressure, never sitting further back than 10th wheel. My bike handling skills are immeasurably better this year after all the descending in SLO and Asheville. I maybe touched the brakes twice on one of the more technical courses out there (the HED Stingers I now own let me bank my Max Lelli into next Tuesday. I still can’t believe I own wheels like that). I did a lot of work trying to bring one dangerous break back - a counter attack by a much stronger rider who went off as a less threatening move easily came back - or maybe get off in it…but 3 laps to go we were back in. One to go everyone jumps. By turn five holes are everywhere as they run out of steam. Seegs is sitting 4th wheel, and I’m right behind, when maybe 50 yard to turn 7 they go four wide.
I remembered Randy saying to me, “first person through turn 7 and 8 wins that race. Do whatever you have to and be first.”
So I did. I came around, and took the turn inside, but clean, Seegs whooping and then yelling at me immediately to GO FASTER. Shifter goes clunk. I go faster. Seegs: “FASTER!!!” Shifter goes clunk. “FASTER!!!”
For the first time in my 3 years of racing I see the line. With nobody in front of me.
And then I see Seegs.
Another guy right on his wheel. I throw, just like Coach Randy taught me, and get 3rd by maybe 2 inches.
All the frustration and anger and bitterness came rushing out of me in two huge barbaric yawps that echoed off the river town’s brick downtown buildings.
It made all the pain go away - a team win.
We tried to turn it around, and we did to an extent in the 4s race, but those damn juniors in front of us, 5 of them, held their gap from the their jump with one to go. Rewind to the start: Seegs is off the front immediately breakin’ legs, then chasing down other nascent breaks, while I sit in. It was team work between the two of us all day long. 7 laps to go I come by and ask how he feels, and I can’t really understand what he’s saying, I realize he needs to recover. 2 turns later, I had to take a dig to bring back a junior when nobody else would chase. The Mesa 14 year old who took 3rd at Snake Alley and won in the Melon 4s was off in a growing gap while two of his teammates blocked. Once back in I went to the back to recover and it took me until turn 3 of the last lap to get back up to where I could yell at Seegs, “yo! Outside!”
He faded left, I jumped on his wheel, and we tried like hell to close the gap to the five strong juniors in front of us, but coming through the last 2 turns to the finish we just didn’t have enough time. And after five races in three days, just not enough gas.
Yet we still finished in the money twice that day, and both of us made the podium. I now had $120 extra in my pocket as well.
Peter stuck a break of originally four, riding two others into the ground, for 2nd place and talked the winner out of his champagne. The speed of their effort absolutely destroyed the field in the only race that received real rain. Early crashes in the wet corners left gaps everywhere, and when they were out of sight from the main field once it finally reorganized to chase, their gap grew to almost a minute.
And Seth stayed with the P/1/2 pack, and finished in the top 50 in a race where he really never used a gear less than 53X14.
The ride home from Iowa was indeed heavenly.