Andy- How close was your crash to when Joey was buzzing the lapped skaters? I heard an "oh shoot" at one point when we came very close to taking someone out. At first I figured that was when the crash happened, but Alex told me otherwise. I didn't notice anyone was missing until about a half mile past the start finish line.
The pace on the first lap was pretty quick, or at least faster than the years before. The first crash I saw of the day was due to pure stupidity. Some guy was weaving around the pack like a fool, caught someones skate, and went down right in front of Alex and me. I thought for sure I was going to hit him but he slid just to the side of me.
Joey led all but about the first half mile of the first lap. He took the right hand corners much quicker than we usually do. Gaps were formed in the corners and a high exit speed made the pack fall apart. By the time the first lap was over we were down to 7 guys in the lead pack: Joey, Colin, Jordan, Norm, Adam, Ryan, and myself. It was an interesting split in teams -- four skaters were working for Luigino/Answer and 3 for Simmons.
Only 1 masters skater made the breakaway and that was Norm. Going into the race we had a few different goals, one of which was to make sure that one of the simmons guys won masters. That meant that we either needed to get Norm out of the lead pack, or we needed to get one of our masters guys into the lead pack.
Joey is an easy skater to figure out, but a very hard guy to beat because he's so dang fast. He'd wait for some of the simmons guys to get off the front and stay about 20 feet off the back of them. Then he sneaks up behind them with Colin on his wheel and flys past them at 900mph. Then the tired skaters who were just off the front are now 20 feet off the back and need to throw the hammer down to catch back up. Any time one of my teammates would try and pick up the pace Joey would sit back, and then dry and blow by them. That was one of reasons for the slow pace of the last 5 laps. We're not dumb. It really wasn't my goal to beat Joey in the end. I would have been happy with simmons taking 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. It was Colin that we needed to wear out, but Joey wouldn't let that happen. He worked hard (and smart) so that Colin could just sit in and relax until the sprint.
At one point Joey went off the front by himself. That was fine by me. Like I said, with Joey out of the picture we could tag team Colin and wear him out. Unfortunately, that's the part of the interview where Joey talks about slowing down because he didn't want to skate the next 16 miles alone. He waited for us to catch him and it was back to playing his game again.
The pace was slow for quite a long time. Eventually the chase pack came in sight. Jordan and Norm were taking turns pulling so that none of the masters guys would catch up. I was hoping Alex would attack out of the pack and try to catch on. He did just that and once he caught on the simmons guys picked up the pace a little bit to ensure the large chase pack didn't also catch on. Now the teams were even. There were 4 simmons guys (including 1 masters) and 4 Answer guys (if you include Jordan, who wasn't in a Answer skinsuit, but we all know he was working for Norman).
Andy Zak made the same move as Alex and caught the lead pack too. That made 9 in the lead pack. Unfortunately that didn't last long because he and Ryan crashed near the end of the 5th lap.
The pace slowed way down again on the final lap. The chase group looked like the were putting a hard effort in and were gaining ground pretty quick. WIth about a half lap left I got in front and picked up the pace, just enough to ensure we wouldn't be caught. With under a mile to go I decided I didn't want to be in the front for the sprint so I'd slide on back and see how Alex was doing. A had a minute or so to rest up in the back of the back and then Joey took off. Colin was on his wheel with Adam right behind. A small gap formed between Adam and Norm. Alex took that oppertunity to come around Jordan and Norm and start his sprint. IT was too late for me to catch the top 3 guys. I would have had to close a 10-15 foot gap in order to get on them. I felt good, but not that good. Coming out of the corner I was completely boxed in. Alex was right in front in front of me. Norm and Jordan were to my left. The grass was to my right. Alex was clearly in front of Norm so I yelled at him to move left. He moved left which gave me the perfect line up the inside and also ensured that Norm wasn't going to come around him. At the end, Simmons ended up with the 3rd, 4th, and 5th overall spots. Answer came out with 1st, 2nd, 6th, and 7th.
So it wasn't the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th we had hoped for, but it was close. We at least accomplished the goal of having one of our guys win pro masters. Joey and Colin both skated a really smart race. It would be hard enough to beat either of those guys by themselves, but the way they worked together made it even more of a challenge.
The weekend as a whole was great. The venue was great, the weather was great, the competition was great. The only downers of the weekend were the hospital visits by Andy and Ryan.