I love the preparation for a bike race. Cleaning the bike. Kitting up. Warming up on the trainer. Listening to some good music while I crank up my heart rate. And there’s nothing better than doing it for a big-city race, like the Mayor’s Cup.
This would be my final race of the season. On a sad note, it would be only my third bike race of the season. I had sacrificed my summer to train for and run a marathon, opting for long distance runs instead of bike races.
After a warm-up in the parking garage, I rode afew recon laps of the race course. I rode a lap with Mark McCormack. I rode a lap with Adam Myerson. I rode a lap with Ted King. I saw friends and family along the course. I waved to them as we rolled by. Then it was time to line up.
On the line, they played Amanda Palmer over the PA. I was seeing familar faces. Old riders, guys like myself who had come out for one last show. I smiled. I had missed this.
The start was smooth. It took only a few laps to settle in, to get the feel of cornering at speed, to negotiate the squeeze into the uphill right-hander, to stay calm when being pushed up against the barriers. The pace was fast. The 70 or so riders were strung out. Gaps were opening up, even in the front-end of the field and I was working hard to close them. But, boy, my bike could fly through the corners.
At 10 laps, there was a crash on the uphill where the front of the race had gone wide and a number of riders were thrown into the metal fencing. It surprised me that pro’s could still crash like that, but it shouldn’t have. There’s nothing simple or predictable when cornering at 35 mph. I went way into the red zone to close up the gaps that opened up after the crash. Then, they neutralized the race for a few laps. I was grateful for a chance to catch my breath.
When the racing started back, it was for real, this time. Attacks came one after another. Guys going for $200 primes. Guys trying to get clear. Somehow, I was staying in front third of the race. But I was burning a lot of energy to do so. I was starting to overheat. My stomach felt bad. My left thigh was cramping. I flew through the corners without touching my brakes. I was willing to crash if it bought me a little speed on the exit. I was waiting for the race to ease up, a slight relaxation, and I could recover. But at half-way, it only got faster. I knew I was underprepared for a race of this caliber, but this was too much.
I let a gap open in front of me. I pulled off, let the riders behind me come through. But I had nothing left to jump back on. As the motorcycle passed me, the commisaire waved me off the course. I nodded. Even though I had sat up, I was pretty sure I was still going to vomit.
As I came to a stop, I realized my back tired was going flat. Sure enough, I found a small piece of glass in the tread. There had been a slow leak. I had no idea how long it had been there, but it was at least part of the explanation of my struggles. It was too late to get a wheel change and take a free lap. My race was over.
I changed up and got back to the race in time to watch Luke Keough sprint to victory.
After racing bikes for 28 years, I’m still learning and I’m surpised I still have so much left to learn…
- Marathon training isn’t good for cycling.
- Always pit, no matter what.
- Bike racing is really fucking hard.
- I really miss being able to go fast.
Next year, I’ll be back for more and it will be different.