Twenty Dollars

Posted in cycling, racing by antisociology on August 31, 2009


I spent twenty dollars this morning… before 6AM. Those of you who know me, know that it’s a miracle to get me up before 8AM. So what motivated me to get up at 4AM to spend money at 6AM? Suffering, that’s what. To be honest, it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but I wanted my first bike race to go smoothly. I did an easy 45 min spin around the park to warm up and rolled up to the registration table at 5:20 or thereabouts. Once the confusion over my club membership status and one-day license was resolved, I sat around waiting to line up.

Taking the lessons I learned from the race clinic two weeks ago, I resolved to stay in the pack most of the race. Actually, I didn’t even think about trying to contest the race. I just wanted to finish without crashing, causing a crash, or doing anything particularly horrible. Mostly, I just wanted to finish with the lead pack.

Lap 1: Cruising… but why is the field descending so slowly? Every time we go downhill, I’m on the brakes trying not to cut my front wheel up on the spinning cogs of the guy in front of me. There’s a crash on the east side as the pack fans out and someone zigs to avoid to some horse poop, sending riders next to him toward the rec lane which causes them to run into an orange traffic cone..

Lap 2: The field is strung out single or double file. I’m starting to get the hang of things and getting better at closing gaps and finding wheels to hang onto. I’m in the top 15 and holding position fairly well. Going down the hill around Harlem Meer, I have a close call that causes me to be less than smooth. I feel like such a newbie. Again, why is everyone going so slow downhills?

Lap 3: The pace lifts and gaps start to form on the uphill sections of course. The pack is three or four wide at the front with a long single file tail (from what I can tell when I peek back). For some reason, my rear derailleur isn’t shifting well. The chain takes a moment to go to the next cog after I shift. Annoying. At one point, I look down and my arms are covered in grime (a mixture of dirt and horse poop, I’m sure).

This is what happens when it rains before a road race

This is what happens when it rains before a road race

Lap 4: At Harlem Hill, two guys attack and go off the front (the eventual winners). Back in the main field, the pace ratchets up even higher and I scramble to stay on going up. At the top of the hill, a gap has formed and I’m the last guy with the group. The race has now splintered into at least three groups, a two man breakaway, nine or 10 of us, and then the rest.

Lap 5: It’s the last lap. The proverbial hammer is down and the group I’m in is pretty much single file again. On the rises I shift desperately trying to find a gear that will let me spin but still give me enough acceleration and speed to keep up. It’s taking noticeable effort to close gaps now. Where I could close a gap with a few strong pedal strokes in earlier laps, it’s taking some real riding to catch up now. At the small hill just north of the playhouse on the west side, a two or three bike length gap opens up and I spend that entire straightaway deep in the drops trying to catch up. I latch on at Tavern on the Green and settle in for a long drag to the bottom of Cat Hill where the finishing sprint starts (yes, it’s an uphill finish). I try and sprint, but the antics that transpired on the west side didn’t leave any gas in the legs and I just end up bogging down in too high a gear.

My efforts were good for 11th place in a field that I’d guess is 30-40 in size; not a bad outcome for not working to hard to contest and honestly, not having trained at all. There are two more races this season, and I am basically using them to learn how to move around comfortably in a pack of cyclists hurtling around the park at 25 MPH with mere inches separating them. Next year, I’ll buy a real USCF racing license and can start working on upgrading to Category 4.

Honestly, there's a rear derailleur in there somewhere!

Honestly, there's a rear derailleur in there somewhere!

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