Montrose  - one year ago the weather looked just like it does today – a fresh coat of snow blanketed the ground, the high was 18 degrees and a cold wind was coming out of the north.  That was my second CX race ever, and at the time I had no idea that a year later I’d be battling for the 2nd step on the 50+ Masters podium, and my two boys would be bangin's wheels in Juniors!  However, I did know one thing – I was going to join a team and come back stronger for 2009.

I came to Montrose with a goal – I wanted to finish the season in 2nd place for the series, so I had to finish strong and other things needed to fall into place as well.

I didn’t get to pre-ride the whole course, but I did get in a decent warmup.  As far as things falling into place, I was pleased to see Bob Gardner come down from Milwaukee.  Although he and I have had some good races and I know he is strong – I needed to get him in between me and Eddie Bartley to have a shot at second place overall in the series. I got a great start and led the group till we got to the coast.  Wayne took over, and I hung on to his wheel as best I could – no drama through the first sand pit, and I got him back by the time we made it past the second sand section.  At this point, we were already starting to pass some 30+’s – and I led Wayne till we got to the barriers by the gravel underpass.  Wayne smoked me thru the barriers, but I hung on through the gravel and toward the hill.  Getting a look back on the field, I could see Bob a ways back, but nobody else – we had already put a good gap on the field.  As we come down the hill for the first time, I notice we didn’t go over the metal gate pipe, which quickly made it obvious to me that we were going to climb the hill AGAIN – Ack!

At this point, Wayne and I were beginning to chip-away at more of the 30+ field, and although I could see Wayne just ahead, I knew I wasn’t gonna catch him either.  I was really pushing hard, but it still wasn’t enough.  I caught Pip on the back straight and we went into the barriers together – Pip really nailed it and as I botched my remount, I nearly took us both out!  He let me carry on and I simply kept pushing as best I could.  The sand traps were getting harder to ride with each lap as they continued to get carved up, and other than one minor miscue, I managed ‘em pretty well.  Looking back, I couldn’t see Bob anymore – nor could I see anyone else.  Wayne still had me covered, so all I could do was hope for a battle behind me.  You see, if I finished 2nd in the race, Eddie had to finish 6th or worse to put me in 2nd in the final standings.  I focused on not making any mistakes, and got plenty of help/support from the 30+ guys I was passing...and looking at the 30+ results now, I can see that I got into the lower 20's overall in the 30+ field – not bad!

Pretty uneventful finish – I congratulated Wayne on another win and another state jersey (doesn’t he have enough?), and then found Bob Gardner and learned he had a flat and had to run to the pits – but he still felt he finished 5th.  I then found Eddie and he felt he finished 5th and Bob was just behind him.  I waited patiently for the results only to learn Eddie was right.  I missed the second step on the podium for the series by 2 points!  Hindsight is 20/20, but had I not missed the 3 races I did, it would have been a different story, but what can I say.  I finished in 2nd to Wayne in the last 4 races, so I accomplished my first goal which was to do my best in the Masters class, and I felt I did just that.  It was an awesome season with loads of help from Coach Bob, the family, the team, all the new friends and competitors, and as far as the series goes – WOW - can it get any better than this?  What an incredible thing we have going here in Chicago and major props to EVERYBODY that makes it possible.  How soon can we start the next season?

-Al Thom