25 August 07 High Rock Lake CAT-3 Road Race
I was somewhere around Cameron when the coffee began to take hold…
The hack cyclist’s drug of choice never fails. It’s confidence, motivation, regularity and morale distilled into a beautifully bitter, hot concoction of perfection. Damn the hundred degree temperature – besides the hatch of my car looked like a mobile nutrition store. I had bottles of Enervit, Hammer Gel, vitamins and bananas aplenty. I was ready to rock.
After a 0430 wake up call, I was well and truly psyched out, if not psyched up for the race. It was to be my first pure CAT-3 road race, and far and away the longest bicycle race of any stripe I’d ever done. 68 miles, heat, and the locals hearty enough to drag their butts to a 9am race start, in East Bumblefluck, in late August. Hell, at least the race was on a 13 mile circuit, I figured when I got dropped I could limp back to my car with my tail between my legs.
Then Keith and the Franklin Street Cycles guys pulled up next to me in the parking lot; I exchanged small talk with Dave, a Masters racer from my club – who thinks because I’m a 3 I’m talented (if only it were that easy…); saw Spencer, and my arch bike racing enemy, who shall, for the sake of tact, remain nameless. At that point I didn’t have any choice. The crescendo of recognition was too much. If I got dropped I’d at least have to make it seem like I didn’t pull out of the race because I’m a slow, fat, nancyboy. It’d be so much easier to fail if I could do so in anonymity.
We rolled out in a civil enough manner, the trepidation surrounding a long, late season road race had clearly spread throughout the peloton. As we rolled out I started to mark riders. I picked out the Fred Squirrel in our midst, he’d left the removable stub intended for foot race placing on your race number in place. No self respecting anal retentive cyclist would miss that. Best to stay clear of him. He was soon on the ground having taken out another rider less than 5 miles into the race. Well, at least the crashing was out of the way.
The roads were fast, and the riders faster. We surged to thirty two, thirty five miles per hour over and over, and over again. What makes me think I even belong here? Can’t quit without an excuse though, so it’s into the draft I go. Maybe if I sit in I’ll have enough gas to at least hang on until the final kilo. So it went, the same riders kept trying to go up the road, a Spin Cycle rider, and the Franklin Street boys were animating things, but the pace was hot enough to deter anyone foolish enough to stick their nose too far out into the wind.
So the race went. I received some sorely needed bottles from a friend of the aforementioned Masters racer. The cold water helped to bring some life back into my guts, if not my legs. As the race drew towards its inevitable conclusion I readied myself for the sprint. I’d have a chance if I timed it right. So, when a few riders went up the road with less than 10 miles to go I decided to wait for the chase. Sadly, no rousing chorus of whirring wheels and drivelines greeted my ears. Rather, the protestation of the masses in the form of heavy breathing was the overwhelming theme. My cycling nemesis was clearly in pain. Good for him. I felt fine, but with a break up the road and riders back, I had visions of jumping across while towing five or ten riders and subsequently popping off the back. Not me, not that day. I’d bide my time.
The break stayed up the road, and I rolled in with a half-hearted midfield sprint; with fresh legs. That kids, is perhaps the only feeling worse than defeat. I hate leaving anything on the course, and I left far too much that day. Much as it’s better to have loved and lost, it’s better to have jumped and failed, than never to have jumped at all. There’s an art to racing, sprinting, and winning – and I’m a mere apprentice.