The 7th race of the season for the IMBCS and 2nd year at Lake Ahquabi promised to be another fun race. A few tweaks to last years course would ensure that we'd all get our fill of climbing on this fast double track course. One tweak was a mass start of all classes at noon rather than the typical staggered start. The other main change was the start/finish area being moved to the main lodge with a final lap only hill climb to the finish line guaranteed to leave you gasping for air.
With a large turnout of people and a mass start, the doubletrack start was packed with people. A few people hollered for me to make my way forward in the starting grid which was pretty cool as I had been slotted about halfway back. Now I found myself somewhere in the top 10-20 starters. We were off and dumped straight onto the first section of grass with an off comber left hander. More than a few people went down last year on the grassy off camber sections so I was pretty cautious running through here, but still started passing a few people. Only a few tenths of a mile into the race, we hit our first climb which was grassy and rough. I put a few more people behind me as I kept a steady pace up the climb trying to get my legs warmed up.
Descending the back of the hill I was on the tail of a few more people and starting passing again as the trail flattened out. Only a mile or two into the race and the pack had started to string out pretty well in front of me with the experts leaving us in the dust for the most part. My legs were feeling pretty good at this point and I kept my output pretty steady. Slowly I rolled up on a couple of single speeders in the form of Sedore and Allread who were putting out a pretty good effort on a not quite single speed friendly course. I figured the strength of these two would be good to mark and stayed on their wheels for half of the first lap.
As we hit the final hilly section before the screaming blacktop descent Sedore gapped off the back leaving Jason and I to work together. I was feeling pretty good at this point and took the lead going into lap two. Jason gapped off as well at this point and I was pretty much alone from then on. I think I may have passed another person or two on this lap, but I mostly concentrated on bringing my effort up slightly from lap 1 without putting myself into the red yet. I knew there had to be some guys chasing me down and wasn't going to give in without a fight if I had a choice.
Lap two was down and I was well hydrated and not feeling the heat to any real extent yet. I knew the climbs on lap 3 would be getting tougher for everyone so I planned on hitting them as hard as I could and turn the screws a bit tighter overall for this lap. Towards the end of lap 2 I could start seeing another rider in front of me, but didn't catch him until the first climb of lap 3. I reeled him mostly in on the climb and then completed the pass after the descent. He stayed on my wheel for a fair amount of time, but I gapped him on the next climb as I was still feeling pretty fresh at that point.
As we crossed the dam for the last time, I had one more ride in my sites. As we worked through the campsite, I caught up to Chris Maharry and tailed him through the next section or two. He let me by and then stayed on my wheel. Determined to put on a show for him I slid my front tire out going down a grassy off camber section. I guess I forgot my lesson from last year! Luckily I was able to gather it back under me and only shaved a little speed off in the process. Chris gave the proper atta boy for making the save and off we went. I began to think he might be permanently attached to my wheel as he tailed me through most of the 3rd lap. I even managed one more front tire wash out as we turned at the bottom of the railroad tie climb. I gathered it back up one final time and motored on without further incident.
I hit the blacktop climb for the final time and did the same as the previous laps where I dieseled up the climb without standing. I finally dropped my follower and never looked back. With the end of the race closing in, I couldn't see anyone in front of me and it looked relatively clear behind me from what I'd see earlier in the lap. Knowing there were still plenty of chasers, I kept my pace up on the hills and looked forward to one more flier down the blacktop before hitting the finish climb. Amazingly I stayed alone and out in front as I rolled to the base of the climb to the finish. I powered my way up to a hearty round of clapping and cheering from all the spectators and a few fellow racers.
After I caught my breath for a second I looked around to only see 2 other racers at the finish. That surely couldn't be right. I was pretty sure I was riding a top 10 or maybe even top 5 race, but not near the podium. Sure enough, I was 3rd overall across the line and with the other two being a single speeder and in the 45+ category, I snagged my first win in the sport open class. I was about beside myself happiness as it sank in. I managed to play all of my strengths just right and execute the plan I had in my head to perfection. What a great day for Rassy's as the team ended up with a large contingent of guys in black taking wins and placing during the race.