|Photo: Russ Campbell Photography|
I have been racing this godforsaken sport since 2008, and mountain bike races disguised as cyclocross races aside, I have never had a mid-pack finish until yesterday. And this is largely of my own doing, because I upgraded out of go-karts (4) and into Nascar (3) well before I probably should have. (Incidentally, Pro/1/2 is the Indy 500, which has been cleverly identified by a reader.)
Yesterday it was the confluence of actually being healthy, great equipment, good fuel, reasonable staging, ideal temperatures, cooperative course, ample pre-ride, good tire pressure, some skills, mild intelligence, some amount of prior week training, fantastic shoes, and dipping into embro that holds up surprisingly well having sat in the drink well of a car door for over a year straight which propelled Van Dessel’s most and least promising NH native to a 35th/66 finish in 3/4 Masters at MRC Cyclocross. I’m either getting back to normal, or I just peaked and this will never happen again.
I was one of the privileged few who got to race “the new flyover”. What a fucking abortion this thing was. I know what they were trying to do – make it cooler than last year’s flyover. At first glance from a distance, I was like, oh rad – ramped on BOTH sides now(!), this is going to be sick. I’ve seen enough euro flyover stuff to know that stairs aren’t cool. Problem being, conditions what they were & the way the tape was strung, you couldn’t get any MO. In practice, I got maybe a 1/3 of the way up and had to bail. That left hoofing it, and that was straight up frightening in the context of a sloppy race. They had screwed lengths of strapping across the ramp to serve as footholds, this really does not work unless you sidestep the whole way up, it was a huge fucking wtf and I’m thrilled to have survived it. Actually in warmups I found a terrified girl at the top, and gave her my sage all-purpose steep stuff descending advice: just keep your butt back and let the bike do all the work. Voila, she made it, elated to have extended her time on this earth. I should totally coach.
Anyway realizing their folly, race organizers ganked the flyover for later fields; I’m sure they’ll work out the issues; they’re good folk. I like their race & wish we had more like it. It’s very fair, it won’t break you in half, and that lends itself to lots of actual places to race. Which I had the fortune of doing myself.
I was systematically hunting down racers, and I find myself in reasonable shape with 1 to go. I latch on to a new guy with about 2/3 to go, and I’m just biding time, waiting for a good spot to pull the trigger and move up. Then we start sweeping through turns on the back side of the course and I hear (because I’m wired to hear certain words) a spectator say the word “singlespeed”.
FUCK. I didn’t even realize that I’m strung off the back of a guy running one gear. IMMEDIATELY I have this seemingly irresolvable inner conflict. Singlespeed is family. This is how I got into this sport. This guy is like an anonymous brother-in-arms; I don’t want to race this guy. Wait, but he did enter this field. But still, should I, but then, but he, but #%!@#%!@#$!@agaggggggagagagagagagagagagh!!!!! It’s fucking kryptonite. I don’t even know what to do. So I just sit, waiting for him to make a mistake. Which he doesn’t. The guy flows along pretty good, and once we clear the final barriers, I figure it’s going to be a perfectly fair fight.
So I start grabbing gears, and this is my biggest disadvantage, because this dude totally hears that and starts LAYING DOWN WATTS. The one gear revolution will not be televised or humbled. You stake your turf.
So we’re drag racing into the final turn. Shit is definitely ON, we’re totally level, and it’s totally awesome. He has the inside, I’m on the outside digging for china and OH AWESOME THERE’S A RACE VOLUNTEER STANDING RIGHT INSIDE THE TAPE OF THE FINAL TURN HAMMERING IN A STAKE.
If I didn’t have my head up I would have annihilated this guy. It would have made Joey look like newborn babies on a fluffy down comforter.
In lieu of killing this person, I hold up for just long enough to make sure I don’t, and between him and me and singlespeed guy you could have fit a dryer sheet.
SS guy now gots himself half a wheel and I start dipping into the special savings account where the bike actually leaves the ground and starts it’s suborbital ascent with soviet space program, it’s so high up here and there’s a monkey in a rocket! but the line is way too close and its game/set/match, one fucking gear. We had a great chat afterward. FUN. Finally. What it’s all about.
He later told me that he thought I was the race leader coming up to lap him. I felt this massive sense of relief that someone thinks I look like I am capable of winning a bike race. PRO
And this is like the Hooksett 5k. Race winner came up to me afterward all terse and nervously impatient and was like WHAT WAS YOUR TIME, WHAT WAS YOUR TIME. Do I look like I fucking won the fun run pal? That sprint you just watched me lay on? That was AFTER YOU FINISHED. Holy shit. I must look like the terminator. I gotta tap into this somehow.