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.