Fun at the Fort 3/20/2022 – Tobin Power

My goal heading into the race was to get 3rd place or stand proud on the soapbox. Unfortunately, I had missed the first race at Exchequer, so my front row call-up from finishing top 3 last season was ripped away from me. When I was lined up to start the race, there were probably six rows of five kids in front of me, and I thought “Nice, thirty kids in my way!”.
When the race started, all my nerves and thoughts shattered into nothing as the pack began to move up the hill. I held my position and tried to lay back on the row in front of me. I was on the brakes a mere ten seconds after the start, and smoothly navigating a massive pile up of riders that spilled across the road. I quickly passed about a dozen people or so before the singletrack, and was feeling good. With the notoriously chaotic race start out of the way, I could relax a bit and just enjoy racing. The pace was fast, grip was great, and spirits were high. I worked on my strategy, coasting behind large packs, and attacking once riders got separated. About 10 minutes in, Joaquin and a couple Berkeley kids got tangled up on the trail, and I had to awkwardly hammer through the grass to get around, yelling at Joaquin to get up and keep going.
I had passed a few of my teammates and was surprised I had progressed this far in positions after maybe 15 minutes. I spotted Odin in the distance, and that shocked me even more since that meant I was most likely in the top 10. I hammered passed him on the fire road climb and continued storming ahead. I overtook a few more kids around the grass on the narrow singletrack, and that was extremely fatiguing.
I finally settled behind a Piedmont kid and eased off the gas and followed his pace. At the top of a downhill, I heard one of the Course Marshals mutter, “Here comes 3 and 4.” Now that really got my attention, my goal was at the tip of my fingers on the first lap! At ¾ of the lap, there was a long, flat, open straight that I knew was my chance to overtake and try and catch second place, which at the time I thought was Theo. I channeled energy and tried to break away from the Piedmont kid, since I knew if I relaxed and let him follow close behind it’d turn into a battle, and that wasn’t what I wanted especially since I was already a little gassed from making up thirty spots. I crossed the line with my legs burning and lungs working hard, but I knew I could sustain at least my current pace for the next lap. I spent the second lap half recovering and half trying to find P2. Coach Doug appeared course-side and told me there was 30 seconds to P2, and about 2 minutes to the leader. So I wasn’t too close, but I also hadn’t seen a single soul behind me for the whole lap. The third lap started out like the second, until I glimpsed and saw a rider hauling toward me on one of the early straights. He passed me on the climb and I was kicking myself to fight back, but I noticed his race plate was a different color. I yelled at him, “Hey are you D2?”. He responded “Yeah”, and I could breathe again.
That was pretty much the excitement for the race, the rest of the third lap was quiet, with only my thoughts and legs battling it out. The last steep climb was tough, everyone in your face yelling and ringing their cowbells, the loose sand, and bright sun beating down on you made that last push mentally and physically tough. I sprinted through the last few turns as I heard the same cheers and bells a few seconds after I crested, figuring there might’ve been someone hunting me down through these final corners. I focused for the final downhill and ripped through the turns, finally braking hard into the final grassy and off camber turn. I pounded to the line and finished strong.
Third place, soapbox, hell yeah.