Heading into the last 6pm Seward race of the season I was down 2 points. The good news: I've generally been able to beat Luis (the race leader on Gene Johnson) head-to-head, although he bested me the week before leading to this late stage deficit. The bigger problem is that even if I beat him, odds are he'd be next across the line so I couldn't really count on gaining more than a single point at the finish. I knew that another strong finisher from Taco Time (Blaine) would miss this race, so that eliminated one of the few real chances for another rider to finish between me and Luis.
A couple of months prior I had the leader's jersey but then I missed 2 races and fell behind by 3 points when Luis won in my absence. +2 then -1 in the following weeks left me in this desperate position in the finale.
Randy called for the team to show in support (thanks Randy!) and I was glad to see the crew show in numbers. I'd been dwelling on a plan and shared that I'd go for broke -- aiming to snag two primes to even up the points and make the finish decide the series. This was risky as I hadn't really gone for primes all season, let alone two, so I wasn't sure how that would leave me at the end. But I'd just as soon lose at the end going for the outright win than play it safe trying to tie.
A risk to this plan is that Fount had been patrolling the front most races and setting up their 3rd overall rider (Steve) for primes. He's a fast finisher and although I figured I could beat him head to head, I might have to go deep to do it. But nobody said this would be easy.
To set up these primes, Z would need to stay at the front of the race so I'd be in position when the bell is rung. Sure enough, we were toward the front for the first prime lap, only I'd let Randy's wheel go at the top of the hill to smooth out my effort as I didn't know that it'd be prime time. Randy picked up the pace as he thought I was right behind him and I got worried he and the other rider on his wheel would head off without me. Fortunately Andy slotted in front of me and drilled it to reduce the gap and sent me into the hill with speed. I jammed up the hill to see the other rider was slowing and nobody was on my wheel so after a few strokes to fly by him I was able to cruise in for the first point without having to go too deep. In the distance I could see Gene Johnson trying to chase me down but they were too far back to make me work.
I recovered in the pack for a few laps before returning to the front. For a while I didn't see any Z next to me and was worried for a moment when the next prime bell rang. It's a bit fuzzy, but somewhere in the false flat Brian came charging up from the right side to jump to the front of the field and I hammered just to catch his wheel. He had to be hurting but I kept hollering for him to keep it going and he sent me into the hill with good speed, right next to Steve from Fount. Steve clearly wanted this one and made me work for it. I fell behind him on the straight at the top, let a sprinter's gap form, and started to close it as we entered the bend to the line. The extra momentum from closing the gap helped carry me around the outside and I edged him out for another point.
So I said most of the season I hadn't been going for primes. Well my instinct after a sprint like that with my heart rate pegged was to roll straight to the parking lot, but I found my wits, cornered like my 5 year old, and coasted down the hill. The field almost blew right past me in the false flat and it was all I could do to hang on for the next couple of laps.
From the back of the field I could see Z patrolling the front as planned. Only I wasn't there and had no idea if I had enough left for the finish. Somebody said there was a solo break toward the end but I was only aware of my own suffering. At three to go I started moving up and was a dozen or more wheels back at the start of the last lap. Luis was ahead of me with at least one GJ rider pulling for him. But I found my Andy and gave him a shout that I was on his wheel. Andy started barreling up the outside and blew by the riders ahead of us. Luis had one GJ leading him out at the front of the field at this point and Andy flew by them like they were standing still. He sent me into the hill with speed and for a moment I thought I might already have a gap on Luis, but a glance over my shoulder revealed that he'd made the jump. My only hope was that he'd already had to burn a match just to tag on. I was seriously spent, so eased off the pedals at the top to recoup any energy I could for the final sprint. I pushed just hard enough to keep Luis on my outside, not letting him slot in front of me for the inside line. Steve flew past us as we were playing cat and mouse but I didn't care, the series was on the line. As we hit the bend I unleashed my severely diminished sprint. I could see Luis in my periphery as we rounded to the line and in the closing seconds I knew he wasn't going to pass me. That's +3 points on the night and a series win!
Big thanks to the team for making this come from behind victory possible. Only thing better than coming from behind is doing it with teamwork.