So we were sitting in 4th after the first two days. The standings were tight, with only a handful of points separating us from the lead, but a huge gap opening behind that. It looked like things had become a race between the top 4 teams, with the rest fighting it out amongst themselves. Within the top 4, though, things were getting cut throat.
At the end of the last madison on day 2, an attack was made and a group went off the included Luke and I, the Cody Racing team, and the Canadians. I think I mentioned this before. In any case, Team Black (Austin Carol and Dan Vogt), which was leading, didn't make the break, and in turn, didn't gain a lap with us. Everyone figured that they were just being cagey, letting the contenders work like dogs, knowing that regardless of whether or not we succeeded, they would hold their lead, and in the process, conserve some precious energy. The announcer figured that was what was going on. Everyone I talked to who was racing agreed. Team Black went down a lap, the rest of us picked up 15 points, and they retained their lead.
Things got a bit more interesting on the third day. Rain was spitting on the track all morning, and the start of the racing was delayed by 15 minutes. Not knowing how long the break in the weather would hold, the organizers cut the opening (and relatively unpopular) 1 mile scratch races, electing to start off with a 120 lap madison. Luke and I had already decided to try our hand at sprinting in the early races, and then go for broke in the final. And it worked. We won a sprint, factored into everything, and really put the pressure on the other leading teams. After closing the points gap on the 3 teams ahead of us, we took to the combined miss and out. Not my favorite event, much less on a track this crowded, but it was a good chance to pick up some points. I played the devil, and eliminated more than my fair share of the other racers. When it came down to the end, Luke and I were the only team with both riders still in it. I hung on for 5th, Luke took some nice points in 3rd. Conspicuously absent: Team Black. They were out quickly. A first sign of weakness, or a dosed effort, looking ahead to the final madison? It was any one's guess, but while still leading, the gap was shrinking.
The last madison started with a bang. No one was willing to give anything up, and the attacks were nearly constant. I continued to play my so far successful strategy of attacking 4-5 laps before the sprint in an effort to set Luke up to grab points. It came through beautifully for me, and I was feeling strong, so I started throwing in more and more attacks. And then Team Black cracked. They started not contesting the sprints they had earlier dominated. Then they started losing laps. They dropped out of the lead, eventually falling to 4th, and Luke and I moved up into 3rd. Austin Carol then ran into the back of the rider ahead of him during an exchange and crashed. He was back up and in the race briefly, but all the fight was gone. He withdrew with about 20 laps to go, but Dan Vogt made the gutsy decision to finish out the race alone. What a stud. He lost lap after lap, but at the end of 3 days of brutal racing, to have the mental resolve to see things to the conclusion after your partner abandons is damn impressive. Hats off to him.
Ultimately, we got closer to the two leading teams but couldn't overtake them. We finished the weekend in 3rd (the same as last year) while Cody Racing took 2nd, and Canadians vaulted up the standings for the win. Most impressive? This was the first time Luke and I had raced together in well over a month (and the first time he has raced since Nature Valley) and we didn't miss a single exchange. 480 laps of madison racing, with exchanges happening in just under 2 lap intervals means we made over 240 exchanges, and didn't miss any. Now that's a good showing. Most of the officials, along with a fair number of the riders and spectators complimented us on our smooth technique. All I can say is that we learned from the best, and honed our skills spending hours doing high-speed throws behind the motor. Thanks Bob, you made us look good.