So this was it. The Final Round. Everything we had been working towards all season, the end. Although I’m second place in the standings but even with points and a half on offer any chance of moving up to the one spot is pretty much out the window as Josh is so far ahead of me barring a mechanical or crash he has it sewn up. Of more concern is the brace of strong riders behind me, Alex, Chuck, Dave, they are all within easy reach of me and I’m going to have to bring my A game to keep my second overall. It’s not over till it’s over. Strange then that I go into self destruct mode at the two Holiday Parties I attend on Thursday and Friday nights, culminating in me eating a half a cow and washing it down with beer, wine, whiskey and pretty much anything else on the table on Friday night. WTF was I thinking, couldn’t hold it together for 3 more days? Er No….. still it was a good night;)
Anyway, Sunday morning and I think I’m still digesting that steak so I’m not feeling in the best form of my life. The course is pan flat, smooth and fast – I didn’t even get off my big chainring in the warm up. I can see this one coming down to a sprint so there’s a high chance of messing up and slipping from second to fifth in the overall. Warming up, I don’t feel good, my arm still hurts from the crashes last weekend, my stomach feels full and I feel heavy, uck. The only good thing is my power numbers look good when I do a couple of hard efforts and my legs don’t hurt, so there is at least something to give me a little confidence.
The other problem I forsee is that I have my dry conditions tires on and the course has a lot of sticky mud on it, clogging the tread, fortunately there is also a lot of dry dirt and fast grassy corners to shake some of it off. I’m definitely not feeling confident.
Onto the start line and my strategy was to gun it off the line and be one or two going into the first corner as it’s loose and I can see people going down. The whistle blows and I get the hole shot, but I don’t have the best line into the corner so I ease a little, allowing Alex from behind to come firing through, I don’t think he used his brakes at all and was taking a huge risk. He slides on the loose corner and nearly comes down, close to taking pretty much the whole front row of the grid down too. Fortunately everyone stayed up. Not good for my nerves though!
I get boxed in a slip to forth, could have been much worse. We are hammering, the peloton is in a long line and the usual gaps that open up aren’t there, this is going to be a sufferfest. We enter the signature feature of this course, the spiral of doom where we circle around in about five decreasing circles curves getting tighter and tighter, then turn and circle out again. I’m praying I don’t go down, if I did it would be game over there are so many riders in contention. Into the second lap and the speed is still full on. Chuck and Josh pull out a few seconds lead and I trade turns with Dave; Alex and team mate Terry are just behind. Over the next couple of laps the gap stretches out to Chuck and Josh but I’ve got nothing extra, I’m all in just trying to keep myself and Dave in the 3-4 spots.
Into the last lap and I can see places 5-6-7 (and possibly 8-9-10) are coming back to us. Dave sits up with one lap to go, I’m not sure if he has misjudged the lap board or is cooked. I push on as best I can. Half a lap to go and Alex and Terry bridge with Dave hot on their heels. My heart sinks. I’d worked out if Chuck wins and can’t finish forth or higher then he get’s the two spot overall. Guess I’m going to have to dig deep and hang on for the sprint then. The last couple of turns soon come, we are flying. I’m too cooked to get the hole shot into the barriers and Alex has a bit of a gap coming out of them but I close up to him down the mini straight before the last corner, Terry is a little way back, he’s happy with fifth by the look of things, Dave further still. We come round the last corner clean and I fire up the turbo and sprint past for third. Man, I had to go deep for that….
Well that wraps up the season, second overall in the Socalcross Prestige Series. Some highs, some lows, overall I’m seriously impressed with my improvements this season over last and I’m really happy with how it went. Now for some down time away from racing and time to think of the next challenge!
Overall Series podium