I recognized that getting throug Gloucester weekend on clincher tyres (cool way of writing tires.... look for colour coming up) was just dumb luck.
My luck would run out at Night Weasels.
This mid-week event is a sister race to the Ice Weasels, two races organized by internet inventor and defacto USAC rankings coordinator Colin. Being on a weeknight (and perhaps more importantly being a Weasels event) guaranteed a "younger" crowd and pulling into the parking lot confirmed those suspicions. Lots of small cars and body art, not to many grey hairs.
The challenge of evening races in October of course is the availablity of light, but Colin along with fellow race promoters Chip and Linnea (no linky... she's got to live with Reuter, that's enough second hand technology exposure) semi-correctly identified Ski Ward in Shrewsbury MA as an appropriate illuminated venue. True, Ski Ward does have lights for night skiing, but without the reflective qualities of a nice base of white snow, the modest lighting at Ski Ward struggled to reach all corners of the course. It wasn't picth black, but there were definately parts of the course that required more reliance on faith and feel than vision. This isn't a knock on the venue feeling your way around the course introduced an element of suprise and excitement that would have otherwise been absent.
Being a working dude I couldn't stay for the last race of the night and had to sandbag the 3 race. Start/number order was determined by crossresults.com points, so despite poor performances in two of the first three races of the year, the points I got from racing some of the best Master's in the country towards the end of last year earned me the top spot in the field. No pressure or anything.
At the whistle the photags along the starting straight are snapping photos, blinding us in the process. Through three turns I was 3rd or 4th, then the climbing started. Ski Ward is no great mountain, but riding up anything that has been deemed appropriate for anyone to ski down is a challenge for this flatlander. I slogged up the slope, losing a spot or two but watching many others struggle with me. My superior bike handling skills would allow me to make up these spots on the descent, right?
Yup... the slick corners and messy parcours were just the trick to get me back up to third wheel, and approaching the pit I was railing the corners, really leaning into the turns as my sweet tubulars were providing just enough give to keep me hooked up.
That's when I realized that I wasn't running tubulars... and that "give" was my rear wheel going flat a half lap into the race.
Into the pits and the disgust was high... palpable even. With no urgency I asked for a wheel and was told there was none. Sounded good to me. Then a happy Pedro's dude (I hate to say it... not sure why that is... but Pedro's has really stepped it up this year, if not in actual support activity but certainly in visibility) declared that he had a wheel for me. Great, semi-quick change and I'm back (literally) into the field.
I spent time behind teammate John Menard, then dispatched him into the tape. He wasn't thrilled with that move and apparently he wanted a kiss on the cheek first, maybe next time.... or just htfu. One of those two.
Just kidding John!
The rest of the race was spent clawing back through the field, I passed a ton of guys because there was a lot of lapped traffic. There was abrand new set of FMBs awaiting the 13th place finisher, and I figured I was close. The course got easier as it got darker, the sometime confusing dusk light let the venue's lanterns do their thing. The climbing got easier as well, the rain had stopped and the course firmed up a good bit. Most everyone was wearing the same kit by the end of the race: a red, yellow or blue on one side and a nice brown colour down the other (from crashing you see) however I managed to keep it upright the entire race.
I came in 14th and missed the tires by 6 seconds. Arghh!!!
Great scene there at Ski Ward. I wonder if the owner knew what it would be like to have 250 pbr drinking bike racers descend on his place.
Up next: Providence. Sneak peak: tire problems continue and finally a good day.