Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Counting Chickens

The start of the race is decent, and I soon find myself up with a few of the Expert class stragglers, intending to throw them in the way of the other eager Novices stampeding behind me.  I lead my class and wonder if this might be an easier victory.  Joe is up in front  and I intend to follow, but he is pushing harder than I am willing to at this point and I decide it is better to win the race I am actually competing in than to crash trying to prove a point to him, again.

As has happened often in my racing career I find myself all alone in the middle.  The faster racers in the Expert class are gone, and the slower racers are behind me.  There is no one to chase and from what I can tell, no one chasing.  I circulate, turning in solid, if not speedy laps for about half the race.  If I can manage not to crash, I can take home a win.  I like the sound of that.

Immediately in answer to that thought or perhaps in payment for my momentary inattention, a young lad on a 250 Ninja rails up alongside of me, sporting the yellow plates denoting Novice, looking to make a pass.  Rudely awakened, I stretch the throttle cables a little farther and summon my horsepower advantage.  That is a term not often used when talking about an EX500, unless it is to say, I was beaten by the other bikes because they had a "horsepower advantage".  But in this case, against the 250s, I have the edge.

The adolescent decides not to make it easy for me.  I pass him on every straight, he manages to pass me on some of the faster corners, due to what appears to be a total lack of fear.  I am able to outbrake him in the slower corners, but damn, the fast sweeping stuff seems to be his forte.

Normally I would relish a battle such as this, but not now, so close to season's end.  While his young brain cannot yet comprehend the disaster that can happen in any instant on the track, my aging one knows full well, having watched racers die just as easily the last race of the year as on the first.  We battle lap after lap, passing one another so often it almost becomes predictable.

I'm pissed, I don't want this fight, but I damn sure don't want to let him have the win.  Just when I think I've passed and gained enough distance to break him, he finds a way to make up ground.  White flag, last lap.  The rider executes a slightly hairball pass on the outside of me in turn 12, which he somehow sticks.  I have only a few corners left  to get him back.  It's late afternoon, the sun is in my eyes going from 13 into 14.  This has to happen in 15/16 because 17 might be too late.  I can't make it happen.  He is going to beat me, and I am about to accept it.

Something inside snaps and I chase him into the final corner knowing I am too far away to reasonably catch him.

Or am I?  I tuck all six feet, 175 pounds of me behind the windscreen and under the paint.  I lift my ass just slightly off the seat (because I read somewhere you get better aerodynamics doing this) and look for the kid's draft.  I pick it up about seven bike lengths behind him, I feel the tow.  I am closing.  This is going to be tight.  The flagman is waving the checkered flag.  I have to time this just right and pull out of the draft.

I make my move, pulling ahead and beating him to the stripe by .07 of a second.  I win.  It feels pretty good.

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