Spin classes, cross-country skiing, idyllic solo rides where I feel fabulous and mythic as I climb a rolling hill don't really indicate anything. Pinning on a number over several layers of clothing and heading out into a fierce Greene County wind for the year's first race is a much better measurement.
The usual jitters passed as they usually do--all gone by the time I rolled up to the start line. It's actually getting to feel familiar, five years into racing. Today's is a short course at 18 miles, and it's nearly completely flat.
Lap one: A much faster pace than last year, which actually made it safer as we spread out. I spotted fellow CBRC guy Tim, and followed his wheel through the pack. Some gaps opened up, and I covered them, no problem, staying in the top ten to fifteen riders. We all managed to dodge the potholes that were helpfully outlined in bright orange spray paint.
The pace picked up the second lap, stretching the group out even more. Hard efforts and brief respites--that old wisdom that says "no matter how good or bad you feel, it won't last" that's true in racing and life. On the back side of the course, after a short rise, a gap opened in front of me. The wind filled it, of course. Tim, my guiding wheel, made the break. Then the mental game: go hard now, catch the group with almost nothing left, or ride at a sustainable pace. My body trumped my mind on that one.
I eased up and worked with several riders who came along. It felt good to have some company out there in the wind. Any cyclist I've asked would rather climb a harrowing hill than face wind like this--at least you can see what you're up against.
We worked our way through the last lap, out in a bubble between other groups, taking our pulls. The smooth rider on the Cervelo, the wobbly one on the Specialized, and the others doing their thing.
And that's how we finished, mid-field, on a desolate industrial road marked with cones, one USAC official checking off our numbers as we passed.
I'm used to coming in somewhere in the middle. I got 19th out of 49, though I'd hoped for top 10. We'll do it again next Saturday.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
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