Monday, August 18, 2008
Another epic battle with Kent McNeil.
Photo courtesy of John Peterson.
The Psycowpath Series fired up again last weekend, after a two month break since the last race at Ponca. Bruce Brown pulled into my driveway a little after 8 and we loaded all of my junk into his Element and we hit the road for Tranquility Park, located on the north side of Omaha.
We arrived at Tranquility Park to a full parking lot. It was great to see a lot of people show up for a race. We’ve been struggling to hit 50 peeps at any of our races in Iowa, not sure why other than the cost of gas. Carpooling is a pretty simple solution to that. I don’t know what the final numbers were, but it looked like they had well over 150 peeps show.
As I was getting ready to recon the course, I took a look around and saw Kevin Limpach, Steve Jarrett and one of my favorite antagonists, Kent McNeil who finished 18th overall at Leadville last weekend a little less than an hour behind the winner. With an impressive finish like that, I knew that he was going to put the hurt on me today. As I was riding the course, I knew that the conditions were definitely going to favor the locals. There really weren’t too many long, open, stretched out sections where I could drop the hammer. It was a pretty tight, twisty course and it was also very dry and very dusty in some spots. During the recon, there were several corners where both wheels broke loose.
I finished my recon and headed back to the car. I dropped the air pressure in both tires down to about 25psi, hoping that would help me hook up a little better in the corners. We lined up for the start and my plan was to let somebody take the lead and hopefully follow in 2nd wheel. The race started and Kevin took off like a scalded dog into the lead. I grabbed his wheel and sensed that Steve and Kent were more than happy to sit behind me. I did an OK job of sticking to Kevin’s wheel until we got into some traffic from the 3 hour race that was also going on at the same time as our race. Kevin got by the rider with no problem, I got held up enough that it created a pretty good sized gap between Kevin and myself.
Kent and Steve were still on my wheel along with the rest of the expert field. Kevin’s gap kept increasing slightly as we were negotiating our way through all of the tight, twisty sections. I was having a hard time bringing Kevin back and I was feeling the effects of three consecutive 20+ hour weeks. About midway through lap 1 (of 5), Steve and Kent were still with me, but the rest of the expert field started to fade. While carving through a fast corner, both of my wheels started to break loose and I started to drift off line a little. Kent went by me and I was more than happy to let him take over because I knew that he would do a better job of bringing Kevin back to us. I did my best to stick to his wheel and as the lap continued, I found myself doubting that I’d be able to keep pace with Kent, Steve or Kevin.
As we were chasing Kevin, Kent managed to gap me off a little and at the end of lap one, it was Kevin in the lead by about 10 seconds, followed by Kent, myself and Steve. During lap two, Kent had finally pulled Kevin back in and Steve and I were still about 10 seconds back. I could see the two of them swapping the lead, kind of working together. On one of the tight, twisty descents, I was flying down the hill with Steve on my wheel. I went around a blind corner and into a cloud of dust. Kevin took the corner a little too hot and hit the deck. Kent stood his bike on its’ nose and managed to keep it upright and got safely around Kevin and his bike. I hit the brakes pretty hard, as did Steve and we also managed to get by. Kevin did a pretty good job of getting himself off the ground and back on his bike. He caught back up to us a lot more quickly than I thought he would. However he had to bury himself to catch back up and it was a little too much because he dropped off the pace shortly thereafter.
Kent, myself and Steve rolled through the start finish area and Kent slowed to grab a water bottle. I took over the lead and hit it pretty hard because it was one of the only sections that I could really open the throttle. I figured that my only chance to win today would be to hit it hard on the open sections and hope that it would wear down Kent and Steve. I lead the first half of the lap and could sense that Steve was trying to get by me. I moved over a little and let him by. As we hit another one of the many tight, twisty sections, he started to gap me off a little. I would reel him back in on the climbs and open sections with Kent in tow. This went on throughout the 3rd lap and we crossed the start/finish line with Steve leading, followed by me with Kent firmly attached to my wheel.
Shortly after we started lap four, Steve suddenly pulled off of the course and stopped. As I went by, he said that he was cramping up. Kent and I offered some words of encouragement as we passed. I felt bad for him, he was riding really well and if he could have continued, would have had a great shot at winning. I took over the lead and Kent stuck to my wheel throughout lap four like a fly on poo. Kent didn’t seem to have any trouble holding my wheel and I thought for sure that he was going to blow by me at some point and drop me like a bad habit.
Throughout lap four, we passed a few lapped riders and several spectators along the course. I heard several shouts of encouragement and a few commented on how it was going to be another ‘shoot out’. That’s one of the many reasons why I love to race in Nebraska. A lot of people seem to get just as excited about the epic battles that Kent and I have as I do. It’s really flattering and it creates a really fun atmosphere.
The Grady family, aka the Nebraska Tifosi. They walk the entire course ringing cowbells and yelling words of encouragement to everybody. They are one of the many things that make the Psycowpath Series the great series that it is!
Kent and I rolled through the start finish and began the last lap. I opened the throttle again, sticking with my plan of trying to wear him down. I sensed that I had a small gap on him and did my best to keep the pressure on. As we rolled through the wooded sections of tight singletrack, I kept my focus, trying not to put a wheel wrong. As the lap progressed, the gap stuck and actually seemed to be increasing. I managed to maintain the gap and was again fortunate enough to come out on top of another epic battle with Kent with a time of 2:06:35. Kent rolled through, a little over a minute back in 2:07:55. Kevin held on for 3rd with a time of 2:10:10. Darin Schlake brought home 4th and Jay Thomas rounded out the top five. It was a long race and the length really played out in my favor. If it had been a four lap race, I think the outcome could have easily been different. Kent was riding the best of all of us and I think that I just out lasted him. He could have passed me at any time during lap four, created a gap through the tight, twisty stuff and left me for the buzzards.
Yes, Kent's daughter scored a hard earned 5th place in the men's expert race!
As always, the Bike Masters Cycling Club did a great job with everything. A huge thanks goes out to all that helped put on another great race! I thoroughly enjoyed the course, the competition and the people.
Next up will most likely be another trip up to the great white north for WORS #9 in River Falls, WI on August 24. They call it the Border Battle and it’s supposed to be held in conjunction with the Minnesota Series. The competition will be hot so I’ll spend this week trying to recover a little from the three previous weeks of heavy training in hopes of getting another great result!
Thanks for reading,