I was going to name this one "Amateur Hour", but Mike said not too...so here it goes:
Joel, Brigham, Esmonde, John (borrowed from Pennsylvania), and I all towed the line on Sunday with the intention of getting Mike to the last corner with a shot at the finish. We were definitely the underdogs in this one, as NCVC, Artemis Elite, and Battley HD all had some serious firepower and the numbers (1's) to back it up, but Mike felt fast and we felt like suffering a bit...so game on. 57 pre-registered, but it felt much larger at the start.
From the gun, Mike was off the front setting initial tempo. The group was responsive though and never really let anything go. We rode a pretty defensive race and were always in a pretty good position to cover anything that looked promising. At one point, with about 15 or so to go, a move that had NCVC, Artemis, Battley, and a Kenda rider got a couple of seconds on us and the pack lost some impetus. I was sitting about 18th or so and Mike was sitting 5th or 6th. NCVC and Artemis were all over the front and looked to be slowing things down and Mike starts yelling "Jesse! Move...get things going..." Or something along those lines. So I went across with the intention of dragging the group across with me. It was cool because it was going into the start finish and I got some "face time" on the front and a shout-out for the club from Joe Jefferson (always a good thing). With about 10 to go, Brig and I were sitting top 15. I mentioned that with 5 to go we should be all over the front and ready to go. The next 9 laps I fought to keep my position and with 2 to go I was sitting third overall. Held the position and going into the bell lap I was sitting second. The guy leading the group started to look over his shoulder and slow down (waiting for someone to come through) and no one behind us wanted to be the sacrificial lamb that took out the last lap (Everyone is a sprinter in the 1/2/3 too I guess)...so when in doubt, lead it out. I jumped hard going through the start/finish to start up the last dig (Joel has a great picture of this moment). It was going to play out either two ways:
1) They would let the cat 3 go thinking that he wouldn't make it all the way around by himself (this scenario had a 0.01% chance of success)
2) I was going to set the pace high enough that Mike would be in good position coming out of the final turn as I was hoping that he was in a good position in the pack already (this scenario was the 99.99% probability).
So #2 happened. I held the lead through turn 1 up the hill and through turn 2 with the entire group in tow. I gunned it down the S turns of 3,4,5, and 6 all out and was out of the saddle seeing stars as I headed towards the final 180 degree turn before the final stretch. I was thinking, "pull off now", but figured if I could get through the turn and could do 3 or 4 hard pedal strokes, maybe it'll help. Problem is while I was thinking this, and starting to black out, turn 7 started coming up a little faster than I expected. I had been taking a good line through there all day, but dove in to quickly this time. I wasn't able to hold the turn at that speed and slid out into the barriers...luckily not taking anyone else down with me (I know, f$ing amateur cat 3's...locusts of the 1/2/3 race)...so I laid there for a second or two, moved all the extremities to make sure nothing was seriously broken and got myself up...did a one over on the bike to see whether or not I my convincing of Kari that I was going to need the new '09 Tarmac Pro was going to be easier (nothing serious..dang)...and rode down to the finish (Joel also has a great shot of this one too). Off the back, bruised badly, but happy.
Even with the crash, I had the best time in this race. The course was unreal and the backdrop was awesome. ING Direct/CycleLife and all the other sponsors are awesome for putting it on and I really hope they continue to support it. Thanks to everybody that showed up and cheered us on, it really helps a lot to hear your name while your suffering to hold the wheel in front of you. I think Mike got 9th in the sprint...he's going to have to confirm as he told me after I help down 8 pitchers of beer while watching the Pro race... :) A great day.
Some shots from the race: Here