The second day of the Gloucester GP was much more pleasant than the first. Gone was the rain, the wind, the cold and most of the mud. The course was still squishy, but it was getting firmer and faster by the minute and the day 2 layout featured as many long straight sections as the previous day had turns. Normally I would have been looking forward to a fast course, but I was pretty sure that my legs were going to be heavy after two mediocre nights of sleep and a power sucking effort in the mud the day before.
The best thing about Sunday was being able to get out of the car without getting soaked. The driving cold rain on Saturday meant that we would have to go with the "Mark McCormack warm up"... sitting in the car until call ups and then rolling over to the start. Sunday was overcast but warm, and changing into my skinsuit with a towel wrapped around my waist while standing out in a field was heavenly.
Sunday's course was one of those puzzling arrangements where you start half way through a proper lap and come through the finish straight about four minutes after the whistle. This confused the racers as well as the course marshals who more than once forgot to rearrange the barriers until the last second, barely avoiding catastrophe.
Fortunately the start of my race went off without a hitch, and I felt great on the uphill dash from the line. I made the grass about 10th wheel, and stuck with the leaders for that first half lap. It was kind of easy, but as soon as we hit the fields for the beginning of the first full lap the weight of the effort hit me hard and I slowed while the others pushed on. I managed to stay close through the muddy ride up and across the twisty section as you can see here.
Soon afterwards, I fell off the pace and offer this photo from the same spot one lap later as evidence.
Clearly me legs had been good for one lap... maybe 10 minutes total. After that I was riding defensively, trying to limit my losses and catch drafts when I could: not to improve my position but to hold on to stay in front of the guys coming up from behind. I've done enough of these races to know the difference between being in the race and racing. This day, I was in the race.
After the slide back from the leaders, the gentler pace was more my style and I found myself comfortably riding around 20th. Svelte Cycles rider Peter Sullivan and CVC's Todd Bowden caught up to me at the end of lap one, but stuck around enough that I was able to ride with them. A Gotham rider came through and former Cyclonauts teammate dangled just ahead. Long time adversary Mike Rowell was up ahead as well, battling with Jeff Molongoski who has always been fast.
The fast off camber after the finish line was the best part of the course for me, I could afford to let guys roll away knowing that I could easily catch them with some selective late braking and a good outside-in line. The proximity of our base camp to this turn undoubtedly helped... it afforded me a good view of racer after racer stacking it up in the lower categories all morning. Each lap I used this to my advantage to latch on the the back of the group that I kept coming off, and hung on as long as I could.
Bowen, Sullivan and I hooked up a bit to chase the Gotham rider when Bowden dove into a turn on lap two and broke our rhythm a bit. I scolded him for slowing the chase in an attempt to improve his position, but he apparently wasn't interested in my bitching because he got to the front and started to pull away. I burned several matches to stay in touch on the long back stretch, knowing that the rest that I'd get would give me the best opportunity to stay ahead of Todd Burns who was coming up from behind. On one of those switchbacks, I looked directly into the eyes of Greg Ferguson who rode poorly the day before but was going much better today. Greg's a great guy, but his game face is pretty intimidating and he looked like he wanted to tear out my liver and eat it raw. I pedaled in fear.
Coming up the pavement on lap three I thought about getting in front of Bowden and Sullivan, but the effort to get on their wheel a minute earlier took a lot out of me, and I felt a cramp coming as I stood up and tested the legs. Time to sit down and see if I can get to the front of this group on that off camber.
Through the bell I lined up left to take that early line on the off camber but Bowden took a line that didn't allow me to come through and I had to check the brakes in a spot I would much rather have been rolling. This planted me firmly behind them, and the acceleration I had to put in to stay with them I knew would preclude me from any meaningful future attacks. I hung on as long as possible and came off the back of the group through the barriers towards the end of the lap and rolled over alone in 24th.
I felt terrible and still finished in the top 25. My results puzzle me. Good days, bad days, fast or slow it doesn't seem to matter. The only thing that significantly seems to cost me spots is mechanical problems. I see others like Aaron Millette and Ryan Rumsey well up in the placings one day, then well back the next. I'd take a few mid-pack finishes if I could pop off the occasional top 10 every once in while.
Post race we played with the kids, grilled some food and watched Charlie race in the kids event. He was doing well but crashed out half way through lap 2. He felt bad later on for not finishing the race, but I was proud of him for getting out there in the first place. He was really having fun until he took that soil sample.