I have bipolar shot selection. At Vint Hill, it sucked. At Jeff Cup, it didn't. Going into the Master's race, I knew a couple of guys to watch out for. None of the teams were particularly big, so I expected people to be somewhat judicious in how they approached affairs. We were three (Larry, Gus and me), and were confident in our ability to get involved in affairs, but we'd discussed the need to play a following role in any early shenanigans and keep our powder dry for when it counted. Larry's an unbelievable road captain and kept coming up with good rolling intel and planning.
Apparently everyone had had the same conversation, because the first lap was pathetically slow. So slow that the 45+ race passed us ("we all got dropped, redux") at the bottom of Blenheim on lap 2. That was embarrassing to all, and sort of woke us up out of our stupor. There were some forays off the front, some of which had traction for a while, but the bunch was still too interested. At one point, Larry came up after a surge that I'd helped drive and told me that our group (maybe 15 or 20 guys) had gotten about 100 meters and had the horsepower to make it stick, so I should be ready to go with any surges as they'd likely split things.
There are those who are better with details (if the little linkie thing worked today I would have linked to Bert there) than I. I lack the cinematic memory of each turn of the cranks, but I do remember that a couple of the runs off the front had caused some guys to work a little harder than they'd have liked, and that it seemed to be just a few guys willing to play gatekeeper. One of these was Stephen Robinson (Coppi), with whom I'd almost bridged at one point, but he bailed. I looked at him, asked "not this one?" and he shook his head. Okay. The weather started going downhill, and I knew that this would cause a division. Gus was on the front, having more or less gotten there by momentum, and was just leading with tempo. I seem to have a knack for the momentum roll off the front, so on one of the little rolls after the start finish on what must have been lap 4, I just pushed the pedals a bit and, well you can't call these things that I do attacks, but I rolled off the front. It's all about timing, not power. One other thing I'm committed to is not looking back when I go, so my first look back was after I'd made the turn onto Blenheim. After making the turn, I counted to 8, looked back and saw nothing. Why 8? Who knows. I'd never see the field again.
Pete Warner (Whole Wheel) bridged up just as the hill turns to false flat, and was clearly into going. We traded pulls, and then he took one pull that was like "dude, if that's how it's going to be, we can't be friends." The guy is fast, his pulls hurt. We got into something of a rhythm, and a few minutes later looked back to see three (which in the rain looked like anywhere from 2 to 5) guys making it across. We backed it off a notch until they arrived, then all of us (Pete, Stephen R, Mike Runnals (JRVS), another dude, and I) settled into a groove. The one guy wouldn't take any pulls, and dropped off before too long, so we became 4.
Sketchiest moment came when we re-caught the 45+ field just as we all turned onto the finishing stretch for their last lap. They were slow at that point, and we sort of milled about behind them. Not ideal, but sort of what are you going to do. It was our fault for having been on Qualuudes in the beginning of our race, but we were still antsy as hell to get going. Kevin Long asked if we wanted him to shepherd us through, and hell yes we did. Of course, just as we got to the front of their field, they started winding up for the sprint and passed us again. Then we got to weave through the detritus of their finish. Mike R did a nice job of paying Moses and parting the seas for us to get through.
Shortly after that, one of the refs came by and said they were cutting us down a lap, so we were on our bell lap. I wasn't unhappy with that news. At first, I thought it was kind of beat, since to some degree it would cheapen the accomplishment if we were to stay away. What I didn't know was that the field behind us had shattered, there was a group of 6 or 7 (one of whom was Gus, who wasn't going to do much to chase us) and the officials had invoked the ever popular "the big picture is painted, why make everyone suffer" clause. Thank you, officials.
The last lap was just cold. I'd been soaked to the bone for a long time by then, but the onset of serious cold was a challenge. All I can really remember of the last lap was a lot of time in the 13 and 14, we were motoring. Up and over that last little rise on the backside of the course, I gave the group what I had and tried to recover as much as possible. Whether it was the cold or what, I was starting to lose my shit and didn't want to be the jackass who got dropped from the break that close to the finish. Not going to lie, I skipped a couple of turns but the other guys were cool.
Onto the finishing stretch, I knew it wasn't going to be my day to throw hands, I was too messed up from the cold and the others were clearly keeping it together better than I was. I'd recovered enough that I could lead out at a tempo that would at least hold our time on any chase (which we still knew nothing about), guaranteeing our team a podium in the 3/4 part of the race and giving me a finish that I'd definitely be happy with. It wasn't my year to win Jeff Cup, but I was once again excited to have started a successful break (this time it was over 20 miles long - not bad) and have had a great race.
Pete got a good jump to win the race outright as well as take the 3/4 crown. Mike was second in both. Stephen took third on the line and first in the 1/2 section, while I was fourth on the line and third in 3/4. The chase group (minus Gus, who was an unfortunate casualty of wet roads and turned his knee into hamburger) finished about a minute down on us, with the remaining field I think a minute and a half down on them.
So hooray for good shot selection, thanks and congrats to Peter, Mike and Stephen for a really fun ride, and to Larry and Gus for good team work. Nice to rock one out in the AC/DC kits, too.
Up next, Walkersville Masters and Tysons 3.