Well, it's been about a year and a half since I pinned on a number so this morning was met with a bit of trepidation. However, after 25 years of toeing the line, once I parked the team car all the old habits came back but this time, without the pressure.
Instead of having to herd cats (organize my team mates) all I had to do was get myself prepared. Instead of organizing a master plan for every possible contingency I rode the course and came up with a simple plan involving me, myself and I.
The course was a 5km square (sort of) with a head wind along the back straight and a cross wind on the final stretch. It was about 400+ meters from the final corner to the line.
In the old days I would have considered attacking into the corner, driving the outside foot into the ground and carving a ridiculous final corner giving me a gap and momentum and then nailing it to the line for all I was worth.
It was too far and I am far too olde.
Instead I decided to mostly sit in, position myself about 6~8 going into the final corner and then it would be game on for the money.
Bang! We start and immediately a small group goes off the front. It's a pretty short race so this wasn't as silly as it seemed especially since they had team mates in the bunch willing to slow a chase.
We rolled around for a few laps and I stuck my nose in the wind a few times to blow out the cobwebs and to stir the bunch a bit so that the gap didn't get too crazy. It worked the charm and I managed to get others to keep the move in check.
Sure enough they came back on the bell lap and then it was 5km to go.
The wind had been picking up and I knew that the finish had a decent cross wind so I needed to come up early out of the final corner to get the inside position. This was no problem but it was all about getting into position before that.
I had actually been concerned about my pack skills since it had been more than a year since I'd ridden with more than 3 or 4 people but ten pedal strokes in and I was surfing to the front through the middle of the group, working guys off wheels and keeping myself sheltered.
Since we caught the break as we heard the bell the group had throttled back and was spreading across the road. There were a few surges but without someone taking control we ran the risk of going into the final corner curb to curb.
On the headwind back straight the pace picked up and I needed to work myself out, move to the outside and find a wheel to take me where I wanted to go. And I did. I saw a train forming on the right and I rode it to the front much to the chagrin of the sprinter I took off the wheel.
Going into the final corner I was 6th or 7th wheel. I popped up early and got the inside line. Then the sprint began in earnest. There were only 6 of us out of the 80 or so with a shot.
I stayed seated, hooked my thumb over the Campagnolo thumb shifter and began spinning up the gear, shifting, spinning up and shifting again all the while sliding from wheel to wheel in the cross wind and towards the line.
I never even got out of the saddle.