It takes a high level of skill to do many things well in this sport of ours – bike handling, knowing when to chase a break, nutrition, the list goes on and on, but I’ve found the most important skillset to have is the ability to marry an afternoon nap to a morning of early bike racing. And in that I consider myself a master. To prove my point know that I’m tapping this out following a wonderful 1.5 hrs. of sleep in front of the NCAA tournament (Cornell! Northern Iowa! St.. Mary’s!). The key upon returning home is to jump immediately on the household chores and tasks. Bright, cheery and enthusiastic is the way to play it and then when the time strikes, hopefully before the reserves stores of energy are depleted and one turns into fire breathing dragon, find a soft spot to get horizontal. Now those without familial obligations will laugh and shake their heads upon reading this, but I speak to the silent masses of rider-parents out there.
Twice in the past two weeks, I’ve found myself in breaks during races. Last week I was part of the rain soaked and wind blasted fun that was Grant’s Tomb. The course, debated ad nauseaum in these pages, was shortened for safety’s sake and we basically rode quickly in an oval. Kinda like Nascar without the noise, BBQ and tattoos of racer’s numbers on our arms or our wives. I’m far from an accomplished racer but I’ve taken to the road in a variety of conditions but I’ve never experienced the headwind that was found upon turning north on Riverside Drive and then the crosswind that blew us all about five feet to the side upon leaving the cover of Riverside Church. A break of fifteen of us quickly formed and while the cold and rain continued the speed and attention needed to stay upright helped distract us from the weather conditions. Thanks to some poor decision making and bad positioning near the end of the race I ended up in 10th place. The takeaway from that race is to never surrender positioning in order to conserve energy. I should have continued to fight to stay near the front as the laps wound down. All in all it was a great experience and it was nice to get all the feeling back in my arms and legs about two hours later.
This morning I found myself crawling out of bed at 4:30 AM to drive out to Prospect Park for the Spring Series Race. I shared with my teammate, Mad Dog, that I was in a bad mood, tired and cranky. He replied that this was a good thing for the race and based on my result, he may come by and egg my house before next week’s race. The weather wasn’t quite longsleeve worthy (well, actually it was but I was too lazy to dress properly) and my guess is that there were about forty or so racers. The beginning of the race was uneventful with everyone warming up. Midway through the fourth lap two riders (unattached and Luzzo’s) went off the front at the start of the hilll and they were followed by Leszek. At the base of the hill (or is it a long rise?) he was caught in the no man’s land of not being able to catch the break but having some time on the field. I sprinted up to him, tapped him on the behind, and we joined the other two. Another rider (BVF) joined us and the break was on. I thought we had a chance because I did some math and figured between the five of us there were at least nine teammates behind.
We took turns pulling and worked together smoothly for three laps. With two to go we had dropped the unattached rider on the climb/hill/long rise. There’s nothing worse than being in a break that gets caught at the very end and we continued to go hard. When we climbed the hill for the last time we looked back across the grass field and we didn’t see anyone. With a half lap to go, we began to play cat and mouse with each other. No one wanted to lead the other guy out for the win. BVF took off and we chased. Leszek and Luzzo’s chased and passed him. I caught up to him but he managed to hold me off by a half-wheel and secured third place and put me in fourth. I started retching but no vomiting so I guess that I could have worked a little harder. It was nice to call home and say I’d be a little late because I had to wait to collect my $32.00 in winnings. It was even nicer to walk into the house to the cheers of my kids who couldn’t wait to learn how I would spend it on them.
Have a good week everyone. See you in the dark next Saturday.