Well it seems that I have at least 4 readers, so I'll keep you all posted on the finale of the New England Verge Cyclocross Series.
As you know, this season has been a knock down, drag out street brawl in the 35+ category with the jersey jumping from back to back to back all year.
Lined up in the brisk wind at Goddard Park in RI, for the 14th and final race of the series, Roger and I were separated by 5 measly points and Kevin wasn't far behind either, but it would have taken both of us finishing out of the points or way down for him to win it. It was most likely gonna be a battle for the series between Roger and me. With the point difference between 1st and 2nd in any race being 10 points it was winner take all, or whoever finished in front of the other. Kinda like when we were kids playnig basketball in the driveway and somebody's mom said "time for dinner". We usually said "next point wins".
And so it was.....next point wins.
After our instructions and a hilarious plea for all competitors to keep one foot on the ground til the whistle blew (not mentioning any names) due to a certain "flyer" on Saturday. We were off.
I got my pedal pretty clean and the sprint was a lot less hectic and dangerous than the previous day's. I followed Roger onto the sand and up the steep run. I felt good so I went to the front through the barriers and pressed the 1st lap. Coming into the wet roots befor the pit I dumped it on my left side, Rog got around OK and I was up in an instant. My chain had come off, but I saw that before I remounted and knew I had to pedal it back on. It jumped right on, so I didn't enter the pit which was right there. I didn't lose the wheel and I followed Roger for a full lap. Marky Mac had connected and Kev was just about on now too. Roger peeled off and I went through and drilled it. I stayed there for the next 3 laps on the front with Mark sticking on me like velcro and Kevin in 3rd looking comfortable. Roger slotted in, in 4th.
The good news for me was that Roger didn't look his best and was getting gapped off on lots of turn exits. All I needed was a shred of positive feedback to motivate me more and that was it. I started crushing certain power sections after technical corners, and after he clawed back several times, I finally got him off a little more and he wasn't reconnecting at all. I was pretty pinned, but adrenaline is a beautiful thing if you can control it.
The gap continued to grow and we got the bell. I had some serious support out there in terms of screaming, lunatic, New England Cyclocross fans (Thanks Team BOB and others). The gap was there and I just had to seal the deal with my final lap in New England for 2009. So of course I caught my foot on the 2nd barrier and crashed forward. I scrambled up in a jiff and got back on......LOSER! The only damage done was losing one spot to Mark. He went real slow through the next little section and I passed him as we went by the pits for the 2nd to last time. He sort of challenged my surge, and as we went around the next corner I said "I don't care about winning the race today". What I meant was that I just wanted to be on the front driving it for another half lap or so to guarentee my series win. Then he could go for the win. I wasn't gonna risk nationals by trying to fight Marky Mac in the last few corners if I didn't have to. I think we know how that would have turned out anyway. Kev was just as happy as I was so he didn't try his hardest to beat him either. I literally sat up with a few short sections left to go and crossed the line alone in 3rd with 5 fingers on one hand and one on the other raised, to signal my 6th series win in a row.
Undoubtably the hardest one yet! I almost feel bad, because I really do like Roger that much. Picture a friend of your's in a tight battle for a big series win. You'd be pulling for him right? Well thats our deal. Of course neither of us is gonna let the other just have it, which is what makes it so exciting, but I will say this. I hope he wins Nationals again, since I don't have any teammates in his race this year. It's not gonna be easy though. Natz never is. There's phenominal guys in every category.
A huge thank you to anyone that put up a cheer for me this year. There's a lot of you. I'm glad New England rallied around one of their own this weekend and showed how much they wanted that jersey sticking around these parts for the winter. I'm thrilled to be the guy you all supported. Kevin and I must have had 40 or 50 people wish us luck Sunday morning while we made our preps.....including a classy guy named Roger Aspholm.
An even bigger THANK YOU to Jamie for helping me at every single race this year with his mechanical expertise, pit crewing, soignieur, training partner and of course friendship. Try finding someone that will train with you in the dark in 30 degree temps after you both get out of work at the end of the day, and he wasn't even racing really so that's even more generous.
To one of the best guys you ever wanna meet, and easily the most talented bike racer on the Corner Cycle team. The incredibly loyal and super fast "old" guy.... Kevin Hines. Thanks for all the help and motivation all year long Kev!
After Roger mopped the floor with us in VT on the opening weekend. Kevin came up with this slogan "The jersey is not going back to New Jersey". It may have rented space there for most of the season, but it's home now!
To Sammy, and of course Trish and Nate who gave us a great series to follow in the 45+ and narrowly missed the top step of the final podium to another New England fan favorite. Mark Gunsalis of Team FUJI. Congrats Mark!
And I'd be in big trouble if I left out Nancy. Not only is she my girlfriend, but a fellow athlete (triathlete) and a massage therapist, who just happens to live very close to Roger Williams and also Goddard Park. Let's just say that I had about as PRO treatment as anyone ever did this past weekend. With my back going up in flames in Saturday's race, and chronic chest tightness as well as some pretty sore sticks. I was in good hands.......to say the least. Thanks Babe!
Finally I'd like to dedicate this season long struggle and ultimate victory to the owner of our team and Corner Cycle. One of my closest friends for over 2 decades. A guy that supports cycling and racing at all levels, ESPECIALLY juniors. George (Lefty) Sykes. George doesn't get the opportunity to come out to the races that much, but if you've ever seen him at the races, you know there's no one that enjoys it more. It seems like one of his favorite days of the year, each year, is the final day of the Verge series in RI. He makes it a point to get down there and see his friends and his team race some cross. With the event having a beer sponsor, it's a match made in heaven.
I spoke to Georgey Saturday night to keep him posted of what had happened, and we talked about a lot of different things, but then the conversation got very serious and he explained to me that his Mom was gravely ill and was close to passing. This is a very private thing, so I don't wanna go into detail here, but he said she was with family and comfortably sleeping and everyone had time to understand what was happening and come to terms with it. He said unless she passed before the race he'd be there to cheer us on.
I was really glad to see him pull into the parking lot just as I did in the morning. Half way through our warm ups he told me he had to go.....his Mom had passed. I can't even imagine how hard this is, since my Mom is still with me, but I imagine there can't be anything more personal than losing the person that brought you into the world. The woman that carried you inside of her for 9 months and then nurtured you and raised you. My deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathy go out to you buddy.
Well that wraps up another awesome season of Cyclocross in New England. We're off to Bend, OR to try to grab a few more jersies. I'll keep you posted.
Thanks for reading, JB