Portsmouth Criterium 2014

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My summer of bike continued at the Portsmouth Criterium last Sunday. But I had low expectations. My body was confused by the sudden drop in temperature — 90 degrees and humid just the day before — to 70’s and dry.  And my quads were still drilled from a running workout a few days earlier.

I had a rough start.

Off the line, my pedal eluded my shoe until most of the field had passed me.  That made the first 5 laps brutal.  High speed, the field strung out, gaps opening up.  All the while, I was trying to move up to a safer spot at the head of the race.  But I was finding the good line through the corners and eventually made it to the top 15 and settled in.

After a few more laps, I was feeling pretty good. I pushed my bike harder and harder in the corners, passing riders each time, and confused why they were taking slower lines.  My LOOK 695 handled whatever I threw at it. I pedaled through the apex. I leaned low. I went wide. I went tight. Only once or twice did the tires start to slip and the bike skip sideways.

I was in love with the bike again. I had a fleeting thought or two of my old Richard Sachs and how that bike handled the typical New England criterium in a very different way. It boosted my confidence. So when I found myself at the front of the field and a break going clear, I attacked and bridged up to it.

I didn’t last very long. For a strong as I was feeling, I still didn’t have the high-end recovery to cross the gap and maintain the speed.  Half a lap later, I was detached and sat up, feeling like my day was done.   I saw my family on the side, cheering me on, excited to see me at the front of the race.

So I recovered and found myself competitive again. As the race heated up, I was fighting for and holding position in the corners.  On the straightaways, I snuck up the sides to gain a few positions.  I missed the final break — there’s no way I would have been able to hang in it — but stayed at the front.

Until the sprint.

And I wound it up. Usually I would have sat up, satisfied just to finish. But all of a sudden, I was a fucking bike racer. So I sprinted hard.  Bogged down. Sat down. Shifted to a lower gear and wound it up again.

And somehow managed to squeeze into 15th place.  It was the last paying place in the race. But I was happy to take it.  I couln’t remember the last time I was in the money in a bike race.

The payout — $15 — didn’t even cover the cost of entry. But for me — especially with my son watching — the prize was far greater than the money.

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