Like I said I would write what happened in Bend on the way home, well I did, but never finished the story due to a red eye flight.
We got to Bend on Wednesday night and got settled at the La Quinta hotel, which was a very nice place to stay for a bike racer. Big rooms, tasty waffles for breakfast and a friendly maintenance guy who let as work on our bike in the “ boiler room”. The only problem was the 9-degree weather!
It was a long day and we need to eat, so Ralf and me took Matt Spinks advice to look for a restaurant call Pastini. It was very weird, a year ago we did the Nationals in Kansas City and we ate at a little fancy shopping center that looked identical to this one where Pastini was. The food was pretty good, so yes we ate there the next 3 nights; I guess that is pretty weird too according to Kyle, perfectly fine with me!
Kyle and Justin made it there that night as well after driving from RI with all the bikes. It sounded like they went thru hell getting there with a little pressure time wise, since we all were supposed to start riding the course on Thursday and Richard Sachs had his race on the first day. With the 3-hour time difference from home, now it was really late, but at the same time I did not want adjust to it either. My race is 9.30 am on Sat, so actually at 12.30 our time which would workout well since we are used to race at that time back home all the time.
Thursday morning, cold as hell! We get the bikes ready and head Wal-Mart to get some toe and hand warmers. Felt like we were going ice fishing or something, got a thermos and some socks as well! Then to the venue, it was squeezed into a small some sort of a warehouse parking lot. What else would you expect for the Nationals? The course is covered in ice and snow, super short and narrow and twisty with a million turns. It also has a set of stairs with 22 or 23 steps, very Euro! The hour that was available for pre-riding was like a balancing act, there was about 2000 people on it and only a few new how to ride on the snow ice, so we definitely got a good look at the course going 2 mph around it a few times. There were a million different races going on all day, every day, categories I never heard of. What is a B-race under 29 years?? Time goes quick we rode back to the hotel on roads covered with slush, sand and ice. Thursday and Friday was identical; wake up, waffles, Wal-Mart, ride the rush hour or gridlock on the course which they extended every day, clean the bikes, Pastini and then to bed @ 9.00 pm.
The real excitement on Friday was the 45-49 age group race with one of our clients, Ralf Warmuth starting on the front row with a good chance of finishing on the podium. Ralf has trained almost specifically for this event all year; he more or less put all the eggs in one basket to put his goals in perspective. Our good friend Jon Bold was in that race as well and between these two guys they probably made this race the most exciting to watch all weekend. Jon battled for the win after moving up from 45th spot at one point to the lead with James Coats. An epic battle all the way to the end, just like we race in New England every weekend and think that was to Jon’s advantage. JB wins and Ralf is in 3rd place one lap to go, gets stuck behind a lapped rider (that was supposed to get pulled???) and Noble slips by, a little bobble on the barriers and it costs Ralf his 3rd spot. 3rd or 4th is still a phenomenal performance by the German and I was really excited for both of them and a good start to the weekend. In addition to these guys an other East Coaster, Paul Curly had won the day before in he 55-59 category.
Race day; I felt good! We got to the course nice and early and I started to ride the course to test out some tires, did 4 laps on 4 different tires, file thread it is! The funny thing is that I had about 6 sets of different wheels with me, but Jon Bold offered me his Dugast file threads on a nice light Reynolds wheel, a very special tire, so that was no brainier at all. A very nice gesture from our new National Champion to offer that to a fears competitor all year, I would have done the same for that matter though.
Kevin Hines was up first (8.30 am start). Tillford was there, but did not line up, so I already new who was going to be the first FinKraft client to win the Nationals before the gun went off. Kevin races with me and Jon all year and I do not know any other 50 plus guys that are actually beating us occasionally, so as long as he stays up right and does not break anything on the ice he will have the stars and stripes at the end of the day. Kevin got a good start and just rode his own race and there was nobody even near him. He crashes a few times, but it did not matter this was probably the most dominant win all weekend. Great job, it has been such a pleasure to work with Kevin and Ralf and for them to have such good results is just outstanding.
Then it was my turn, I got a good warm up on the course testing out all those tires and then on the trainer while Kevin raced, so I was ready .It is great to get the first call up, but standing there for about 15-20 min waiting for the rest of the 190 guys to get lined up is not. It was not too cold so, not bad.
I manage to pull off the dream start ( hole shoot), I knew the start was critical and getting to the 180 turn would be important and then have less guys to deal with on the ice. The first lap went well, I think I was second up the stairs, but then for some reason I started to get passed on the really slick parts by a few guys, no attacks they just kind of rolled by. I had a small crash in the turn before the stairs, but nothing critical. Now am in like 10th spot and there are a group of slower riders in front of me, but not being able to pass at too many places my race was over, almost lost the fire to race and it felt like I was just riding around without really pushing myself. A very mediocre race for me, disappointing, but on the other hand this as one race out of 20 something cross races and a ton of road racing this year. I had a great season and not many disappointments at all which is unusual in bike racing. I went back to the hotel, took a shower and packed up, I was actually relieved it was over, I was tired and did not want think about a bicycle for a little while. Ralf and I went back to he venue and watched the U-23 race and then the 35-39 age group right after. Kyle and Justin had already pretty much packed up the bikes for the guys who were done racing and the million wheels we had, I have to say if it was not for Kyle and Justin, this trip would have been a lot more painful, thanks guys!
The drive back to Portland was interesting; a little snowstorm going over Mt Hood made the roads pretty traitorous. We made it and after returning the rental car, we were back at the airport. I change my flight to the red eye one , no breaks by the Continental people , they charge me a nice $ 150 and gave me some attitude to go with it. It was either that or stay another night in a hotel and pay for a baby sitter back home. Now we had some time to kill, so a couple of beers (Belgian) and a greasy burger were perfect after not eaten much all day. I think this might have been one of the best moments of the trip. Red eye flight back home, not much sleep, but glad to be back home!
A long story, I hope you are not bored to death reading it , the weather is crappy now , so there are nothing else to do anyway. Read blogs and watch YouTube , before you know it is back to racing !