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September 14, 2010

Speed Bump

It seemed like a good idea on Saturday night when my wife and I were at dinner wrapping up one of the best weekends we’d had together in a long time.

The Quad Cross was, after all, right on the way home. Sort of. Close enough.

The idea was to keep the race, and the hours leading up to it, low-stress and fun. FUN. I wavered a little off course when I called a girl who didn’t let me out of a parking lot into traffic, because she was too busy being awesome, a “Fucking Bitch.” That might have been enough, but it was my insistence on driving around her and down a one way street the wrong way just to get to “Point A” before she did that sealed the deal.

I did get there before her, and by a lot, I might add. So, you know, whatever. I won.

We got to the race about an hour early and I went through all the motions - register, pee twice, talk a little, ask about the course, pretend to not care, pee again, talk some more, realize you’re running out of time to warm up, etc…

To be honest, I didn’t feel like warming up. Until I put on my wet shorts. I had washed them last minute and hoped they would dry before 1pm. They did not, and they stayed especially wet on the left side. And they didn’t smell clean. It was a little strange having one leg be a little wetter and a little colder than the other, but that’s both here and there.

I warmed up for 10 minutes. I did an “opener” that seemed to do nothing more than make me not want to go hard. Today I would not get the chance to pre-ride the course. “Would it really matter?” I queried myself.

Then I started staking out the start. I knew the Masters racers would be finishing soon, and goddamnit, I would be starting on the front row. I am, after all, a Cat 2 on the road. I deserve some fucking respect! I drank a Red Bull. Bad idea? Or good? It was sugar free.

I got my front row starting position and I stood there, with all the other Cat 3s, for about 200 minutes while Diane Fortini did God knows what. I asked her about the holdup and she told me to shut up.

I almost pissed my pants, as is customary for me on the start line. Sometimes I let a little sneak out, just to take the edge off. I met Scot Rosenthal. He’s much taller in real life than he is on Twitter. I also met Nick Mashburn. Those Svelte kits sure are pretty. For me to poop on.

Then out of the right of my peripheral comes Josh “Hole Shot” Anthony on his 1999, custom, Hot Tubes-painted, Redline. He says something about getting the hole shot, and I say something like, “Fuck you, bitch, that shit is mine.” It wouldn’t be mine, though, because I had learned something at Blunt Park; blowing your load for the hole shot is not necessary. I had fooled a National Champ. What an idiot.

Diane Fortini pointed out a well-marked, bright yellow, mini-speed bump about 100 yards up the road. We should “be aware of it.” she said. “I’ll fucking bunny hop the shit out of that 2 inch pile of nothing,” I mumbled to myself.

The whistle blew and we were off.

Within 10 seconds I heard the familiar sound of bikes on the ground and carnage behind. “Typical Cat 3s. Can’t even ride over a speed bump,” I chuckled under my breath.

Josh “Hole Shot” Anthony lived up to his name and got the “you-know-what.” I settled, quite comfortably, into 5th wheel. “This is nice,” I thought. The pace was manageable, and I was on Michael Sabatini’s wheel. He seemed to be smooth and riding a nice, steady pace. He made a few efforts after the first few turns and he soon found himself in the lead, with me on his wheel. I was still comfortable and trying to find the elusive draft cyclocross seems to be hiding from me.

When we came through the second paved section, some friends and fans of Michael cheered him on. He responded with, “Holy shit, I’m winning this fucking race!” I laughed to myself at first, thinking, “I’ve felt that way, not so long ago, Michael.” Then I thought, “I need to take the lead. I need that feeling again.” I took the lead halfway through the second lap and realized, immediately, that leading was not for me. I gave Sabatini back the lead.

What Sabatini didn’t know, perhaps, was that a young, thrashing, tattooed hooligan was making his way up to us. Anthony Clark. I may not know much, but I did know one thing to be absolute; he was stronger than me. I would try to stay with him when he came by me. That would end up being a very, very, big mistake.

Soon enough, Anthony Clark caught us. I let him by me and followed him through the tight corners in the grass and waited for him to make his move around Sabatini. As we approached the pavement on the backside of the 3rd lap, Anthony made his move and I followed. We gapped Sabatini, and I was almost immediately in the red. A few minutes later we were coming through the start/finish area and I was about to blow ski high.

Photo courtesy of Todd Prekaski - blog HERE.

I hung on for a little longer, knowing there were some down hills and corners that would offer some much needed recovery, but it mattered none. I popped, and I popped badly.

Sweet Jesus, this was Blunt Park all over again. I was dropping like a submarine with all its ballasts open. Sabatini caught me in the sandpit. I had chosen to run it on the first lap – bad idea - so I committed to riding it from then on.

Photo courtesy of Todd Prekaski.

Coming into the sand pit, I stayed on my bike and Sabatini dismounted and ran to the inside of me. I bobbled a bit and ended up with his pedal in my front wheel. We untied our bikes and he took off into the distance like a gazelle being chased by a famished lion.

Doug Kennedy caught and passed me halfway through the next lap.

Yes, that is drool.

When I looked back on the course, whatever gaps I had had were shrinking! I cursed my legs and their inability to flush lactic acid. “I just need to ease off for a bit. Just catch my breath.”

Then someone I would do anything to beat, Nate Campbell (riding for Seaside Cycle), caught me.

Photo courtesy of Todd Prekaski.

I led Nate through the tight, grassy corners and coming onto the pavement he seemed to, literally, float past me. It was as if he were on a magic carpet and there wasn’t any room for me. I wanted on the magic carpet. To add insult to injury, Nate weaved left to right to left to right on the pavement so as to deprive me of the coveted draft. If I could have caught him, I would have tried to punch him. Instead, I muttered under my breath, “Really?”

Here is where the speed bump referenced in the title of this entry comes into play. Chasing Nate, after already chasing the other assholes who had passed me, put me so far into the red that I think I sort of blacked out. Or maybe it was more of a white out? That is the only explanation I can come up with for going down, all alone, like a ton of bricks on the starting stretch. I was riding, then I was on the ground. That’s all I can tell you.

Unlike my peers, who had gone down on the speed bump during a frantic start, I had chosen to go down with no one within 400 meters of me. Once I realized what had happened I slowly stood, wandered toward the sidewalk, for no real reason, and then I wandered back toward the middle of the road.

No more than 2 seconds after willing my battered body back onto the bike did Dylan McNicholas rear his ugly face from the shadows. “I know you really wish I didn’t see that.”

I wondered at that moment if Dylan was the kind of kid who tortured his next door neighbors’ pet cat. Probably.

I looked at him with a blank stare that made even the hideous creature that is Dylan withdraw his talons, “I mean, you ok, dude?”

After a few hits to my brake hoods to straighten them and some much needed time hiding in the woods trying to wipe away my tears and hide my red, puffy eyes, did I find the ability to pedal hard again.

I lost about 10 spots in the melee, which left me in 15th place coming into the final lap. I was actually getting comfortable again by this point and was able to claw my way back up to 12th place for the finish.

So, now having completed two races in my maiden season of cyclocross, I am starting to realize some things:

1. Cyclocross is harder than I imagined it would be. What’s up with not being able to coast very much?

2. You need to pace yourself. This seems like a pretty straight forward and simple strategy, but I cannot seem to do it. I am finding out I have two speeds and they are fast and slow. And the slow seems to be more prevalent than the fast. I’m working on that.

3. I seem to be the best-supported Cat 3 cyclocross racer in the field. Two complete, Ridley carbon bikes, mechanical support from Stu Thorne and, and many other things I’m embarrassed to even mention

Photo courtesy of my mother effing iPhone, biatch!

This, while intended to ease the pressure, has done nothing but add pressure. Quite simply, I have no excuse to suck like I do and no one to blame but myself. If this were tennis, I would be throwing my racquet around the court like a little baby right now. And by baby, I mean me in High School, because as you read in my last blog post, I am a Douche.

4. Cyclocross is more fun than road racing. No matter where I was positioned in the race on Sunday, and I know almost everyone who raced that course will agree with me on this, those tight corners were fun. Don’t get me wrong, I like Criteriums, but I do get bored during them. I don’t think I’ll be getting bored anytime soon in cyclocross. Especially if I can win one soon…

…because winning is everything.

PS - Dylan went on to win his elite race. Unfortunately for him, no one gives a shit.