Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jason Betz WINS AGAIN! Wins The Overall Series of SCRCS!

Tre' Haydal raced to 4th place in expert class...

Last weekend was the final race of the SCRCS, and was held at the Ridgeland trails in Ridgeland, MS (just north of Jackson). The race was held on great piece of city-owned property just minutes from anything you could need or want in a city, especially if you need or want great pizza. I heard several people say that they thought it was the best trail of the entire series. I'd have a hard time disagreeing. I'd strongly urge anyone passing through the area, and desiring a ride on some sweet trail, to give this place a try.

I made two consecutive weekend trips to this trail trying to ready myself for this race. I might have gone into this race with first place in the series sewed up, but I took this race as serious as any race I have ever done before. I felt the pressure of it being the last race and the weight of the target on my back (some called the target a sandbag). I knew I was the guy that every Sport 30-39 racer there wanted to beat. I, of course, hoped for a more positive ending.

Saturday, during my final pre-race lap, I felt well rested, remarkably calm, and ready to go. The course looked like it was marked for the Olympics! It was perfectly groomed and dry as a bone. One word summary, FAST! I looked forward to the next day's starting line.

Flash forward to Sunday morning's starting line and you will see all the usual suspects. The top half of the field were all lined up and ready to go. I was perched between Jeremy Polk, the local who helped build the three-year-old trail and who I knew desperately wanted a win on his home trail, and Keith Moore, a great racer from Florida who had missed the last few races, but was surely NOT to be underestimated. Keith happened to be on his new 22 pound Cannondale Team Scalpel, the same bike that Tracy Martin used to destroy the field at the last three races. Those were just the guys to my immediate left and right. EVERY face on that line was beaming with determination, and I saw great racers in every one of them. In other words, no pressure at all. I wonder why my HR is spiking on the line again? Revving the engine is the answer I decided on.

3,2,1, go! A short sprint to the trail ended with myself in second place behind Kevin Suggs, last year's series winner. I wasn't sure who was immediately behind me, and never looked back to find out. I made it around Kevin shortly into the trail when it opened up on a nice wide, slight incline section. I made it by him because I had more gears. He had one.

The first quarter of the race was the usual heart exploding blur. I still didn't know who was immediately behind me, but I knew they were close, and I thought it was Jeremy, followed by who only knew. I kept the pace high all the way through the tight, twisty awesomeness and through the hardest part of the trail, a series of switchbacks and climbing. By the time I got to the top, I had made it by all but two of the Sport 20-29 racers. The last guy I went around was Joseph Damaso, another great Florida rider who it seemed like I made friends with after seeing him so much on the trails this year. I passed him after he slowed me down in a twisty downhill section, and then slowed him down to the top of the climbs. Sorry! Thinking about letting him go back around while trying to BREATHE again, I started to recover and I knew that a fast flowing section of trail dessert was right there upon me. I opted to pedal instead of being passed and we were off again. Joseph stayed with me for a long time, but dropped off and was replaced with Tracy Martin's son, Braden who was in second place in 20-29. This kid is GOOD. He is also 16, still in high school and has a focus on basketball right now. Give him a few years. I think I pulled him all the way to the first place guy in his class, and for the remainder of the race, when I'd see them on switchbacks, they stayed together. I only found out afterwards that Joseph ended up catching him and finishing with a nice second place win.

At the end of the first lap, I was by myself and not thinking that it could be by a very wide margin. I kept seeing Jeremy behind me, and every time I saw him, I thought to myself how fast it looked like he was going. That Orbea he was riding looked great, but I didn't want a closer look. I knew the rest of the field had to be close behind as well, and used my fear of them catching me as fuel to just try to hold on. I spent the entire last lap in this odd state of what I guess was euphoria. My mind drifted all over the place. I was smiling and thinking about how much fun I was having. I was thinking about the entire series that was coming to an end, and how unbelievable it had been. I was thinking that I better snap out of it and get back to RACING, dummy! Jeremy's right behind you!

I crossed the finish line still holding onto first. Instead of my usual, cool-down riding. I parked my weary bones next to the finish line waiting to see who'd come across next. It was Jeremy, followed by Kevin, then Keith. Eric Spina, a great new talent who told me that he wanted to beat me before the series' end, finished in fifth place. He plans to move up to Cat 1 next year, and will get plenty of chances then. I already look forward to it. At the same time, I am ready for a long winter's nap. Next year can wait.

I definitely have to thank Scott at PedalPlay for getting my bike ready for this race, which is always interesting. I think he thinks I drag my bike home from the races. This time, race preparation included changing a terribly bent derailleur hanger, truing my I-9 wheels again, replacing some worn out brake-line guides, and adjusting my derailleurs. My bike worked flawless for the race. In fact, my bike performed almost perfect mechanically for the entire series. Almost hard to believe after last season. Thank you again, Scott!

So, now what? Well, there is the Piney Hills Classic in Ruston this weekend, the 24 Hours of Clear Springs the following weekend, and then hiding my bikes from myself for a short while. And maybe a few dark beers.


Jason Betz

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