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The last race of the WAR series this year was at Stanley Park which I had heard about all year long. I was coming into the race weekend with a cold from visiting family over Thanksgiving but knew I had to give it everything to have a chance at a series championship. I had a few points lead but that was going to be hard to hold with the other racers getting faster all season.
Since I was battling a head cold I decided against racing the Open Masters race which was a good thing, as watching/heckling that group battle the hills, off camber sections, run ups, and brutal headwind on the main straight away looked like pure suffering.
Based on what we saw from those groups we figured it was going to be a 4 lap race for the 30 minute Cat 4/5 guys later in the day. I tried to warm up but of course forgot my heart-rate monitor so just got the legs loose based on feel. I ended up lining up late and towards the back, but when the whistle blew the group took off into the headwind and I was able to work my way through to the front before the first climbs. This race had a $25 Prime in place for lap 1 so I knew some would be going hard for that and sure enough 2 young kids were putting everything into the first lap.
I was just behind the leaders at the end of the first lap and sure enough the kid that won the $25 pulled the parachute and coasted in after that. Now the race was on with some of the same guys I’d been battling with all season. There were 3 of us who’d broken ahead of the rest of the group so I knew if we could hold this pace that’s what the podium was going to look like.
Passing the start finish tent at the end of lap 2 they had a sign that would have normally said 2 to go, but it had blown over so they verbally confirmed we had 2 laps to go. Keeping the leader in sight I swapped places with another racer for 2nd/3rd through the technical parts of the course.
As we approached the end of the lap, the race director came over and said that in fact there was not 2 laps to go, but only 1: THIS WAS IT! Oh man, my pacing strategy was not going to work out and all I had left was a set of barriers and finishing straight away to get my best position. I was able to smoothly navigate the barriers and power out of them forming a gap on 3rd, but 1st was too far to reel in. Crossing the line 2nd I felt good about my performance but wondered what a 4th lap would have been like. After years of racing 6hr races, I definitely like it when they go a little longer 🙂
Day #2 was for all the marbles: I had a small points lead and just needed to finish in the top 5ish to have a chance for the overall. I wasn’t settling for just finishing top 5 though. Having not won a WAR race yet I went out hard at the start.
Leading into first climb I kept the pressure on into the descent and wanted to attack harder on the 2nd climb. That’s when it all came apart: my rear tire burped out all the pressure and I was riding on the rim. I quickly went from first to outside the top 10 as the rest of the group flew by me. Fortunately we were not far from the pits where I had left my Trek Superfly Single Speed mountain bike as a backup bike.
I left my CX bike there for neutral service to work on, jumped on the SS and made my best efforts to catch up to the leaders. I was able to get back up into the top 3 but burned some matches to get there. The mountain bike was very good in the sand and roots, but the gear ratio was made more for high speed MTB races and not so much slow technical Cyclocross courses. After a lap on the SS I decided to switch back to the CX bike which had been aired up and readied for racing (Thanks Kona Bike!).
I was holding in the top 3-4 racers through the first 2 laps but changing bikes twice and chasing back on was taking it’s toll. I was cracking pretty hard but knew I only had 1 lap left based on how we raced on Saturday.
Unfortunately Sunday the race organizer made the race about 10 minutes longer than Saturday so we ended up doing an extra lap. That final lap I was slowly slipping back into 6th place battling for 5th. I wasn’t exactly sure how many points I needed but I knew every position was critical. At the end I finished 6th about 10 seconds behind 5th place.
We waited around for all the times and points to be tallied and it was official: 6th place, tied for the points championship with Ryan who finished first Saturday and Sunday. Ryan won the tiebreaker so he got the jersey.
That was a tough one and definitely took a while to process. A lot of things went wrong to get to the point of tying for a series championship, but ultimately I didn’t do enough to overcome the adversity to win it.
I was definitely bummed and took a few days off, but I’ve bounced back and now I’m gunning for the FLCX overall series. The WAR series was super fun, and I’m glad to see they’re adding a few more races for next season to make it even more Wicked Awesome! We’ve got a few more CX races left this season so hope to see you all out there!
Check out a sneak peek gallery here and be sure to enjoy and download the photos in the full gallery of 2018 WAR #3 MudCat photos, taken by my wife, Jemma.