by Buzz Wright
Both Gary and I were signed up for 3 races and my plan for all three was to work for Gary to try to get him some top-10 finishes and hopefully a few upgrade points. The course was new this year and I really liked it -- smooth and fast. There were a decent number of attacks in the this race, most of them getting chased down pretty quickly. One rider went off the front for a while but being solo nobody seemed too worried. He was left out for a few laps and then caught during a prime lap. With 4 to go I checked for Gary and started to get ready to put in a strong effort on the final lap for him.
Buzz hydrating (photo by Ricardo Arduengo)
We stayed near the front to defend our top-10-ish position and then on the bell lap I looked for the right time to burn my match. On the back stretch I pushed hard on the outside and moved us up a few spots heading into the last two corners. My legs were pretty spent and I wanted to save a little for the next two races so I decided to peel off before the final corner. Gary was able to get 10th place which was awesome but I think I could have pushed a little harder and continued my effort through the final corner to help him out more. Fun race, and Gary got a great result.
With the same plan and a lot of comfort with the course I had some high hopes for this race. Gary and I stayed near the front and within sight of each other. I took the outside lines through most of the corners while Gary opted for the inside lines to be more sheltered from the wind. Everything was going great until 2 laps to go when a rider touched wheels and went down. It happened to the left of me and I knew Gary was on that side but wasn't sure if it had taken him out. I checked a couple times and didn't see him so I figured he must have got caught behind it.
Buzz hanging on (photo by Ricardo Arduengo)
Without Gary on my wheel I decided to do my best to finish well and maybe get an upgrade point or two. On the bell lap I was able to get in to a fantastic position sitting 4th wheel, but my legs were screaming. We took the final corner and I put in the best sprint I could muster (which wasn't much). My jump just isn't there right now, not anywhere near what I had last year when I was training those anaerobic zones. I was passed by a couple guys and ended up taking 6th place, which was good enough for one point. I was happy with the result but concerned for Gary.
Turned out that Gary did go down in the crash, but he wasn't too banged up and his bike did not get damaged. He was disappointed but still wanted to race in the third race.
My legs were pretty toasted for this race, but I was able to hang on during the rough surges (one which lasted multiple laps) and maintain a decent position near the front of the group. I checked for Gary often and after a while noticed that he had been dropped from the group during that long, strong surge. With 4 to go I burned a couple small matches getting up to the front and with 2 to go I was sitting third wheel.
The guy at the front had done a lot of work and was looking pretty tired so I decided to shift back a couple spots because I didn't want to hit the front too early. I soft-pedaled through one of the corners to give up three positions and then slotted back in as we started the bell lap. During that lap the pace was blistering and I lost a couple positions prior to the final corner. I again had no sprint and was only able to get 13th place, but I was happy with how I had raced.
It was a great day, even though Gary hit the deck. We had a lot of fun hanging out with friends and watching the P123 race before heading back to Tucson.