"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Blew Island

One down. 4 to go.

Also down? About 20 other bikers.

Blue Island. Saturday, July 14th.

The crash happened with 6 go, thankfully, so I could at least finish. With less than 5 to race a mechanical problem takes you out for good. We came around turn 4 at high speed, the wind momentarily calmed, wheel to wheel, Chris Sheritpis in front of me. A crash first makes itself apparent, from your perspective at least, somewhat like a gopher, or Bugs Bunny, burrowing toward you. You hear shouts of, "Whoa!" and "Crash! Crash!" and then the wave comes at you, rippling through the riders. First they begin to weave, left and right, clipping wheels, coming out of pedals, ripping on their brakes, the metallic-plastic crackling and pinging coming closer and closer For a second you think you can avoid it, because you always have in the past, but then, an entire bicycle flies five feet up in the air, and a hand shoves you from behind as you jerk your cycle to the right when the wave finally hits the rider immediately in front you.

Luckily for me, unlucky for Chris and a South Chicago Wheelman, I fell right on top of them. It was my first crash. I looked at my bike. My wheel was ajar and my handlebars and stem were janked over to the left. I thought my day could be over. Luckily the SRAM wheel pit was right next to the crash, and I hustled over there with Chris and about 5 other riders caught up in the domino effect. I sat there patiently, appreciative of the free help that would help me get back in the race. My calf was cramping and a couple of fingers on my left hand were lightly sprained, but I was road rash free, thanks to Chris and the SCW rider being under me.

While I waited for a new wheel and my headset to be straightened out, the SCW rider was a bit more anxious, imploring the SRAM bike tech to hurry up. "Look over there," was his answer. He was pointing the nearly motionless rider lying in the street near the start/finish line.

"At least you're gonna get back in this race. Now let me do my job."

It was all I needed to see. I waited my turn. At some time while I received a new wheel and had my headset straightened, I was told he was dragged out of the middle of the course. The pack came around again, and they rolled us out so we could join onto the end of the pack. There were four laps to go.

I really couldn't get it together for the finish. For the first part of the race I had been getting gapped at the corners, and finally figured out I needed to begin pedaling at the apex of the turn, or even all the way through it. Once I did, I began having a much more fun race. However, the turns were sometimes seven riders wide, and not nearly everyone was carving exactly clean lines. I was at the front exactly twice. The first was the wheel of the green-jersey-zebra-shorts guy I also drafted on several times at Spring Prairie. He came by on the left, and for the first time this year I had the presence of mind to grab a wheel in an instant. Later on, shortly before the crash, I found myself next to Tim Hermanas, midway back. "Hey," I said, "how you feeling?" "Good, good. So what's the plan, man?" was his answer. I laughed and said, "Hey, you guys are the ones with the experience! If I can be a part of train, or help block, I'll all over it."

It was all Tim needed to hear apparently, and he ripped off a flyer up the left-hand side of the pack. I just hung onto his wheel all the way through turns 1 and 2, and for the majority of the back stretch of that lap, I was again at the front. My lack of confidence let me down once again, as the front slowed at the approach of turn 3, and I was swarmed riders on sides, and I fell back as rear wheel after rear wheel overlapped the front of my bike. After the crash I just didn't see how I could stay up there at that point and feel safe. At least, not be a danger to other riders.

With two to go, I was next to Rick Dearworth as he was helping to put together a leadout train of several of us, and then I heard him say to Bob Willams that they would be blocking. I guess it didn't work out to well. The highest finish we managed Saturday was 14th. It was a very fast race, the high wind being factored in, and there were a lot of crashes. One rider in a bright orange kit rode straight onto the curb at turn three into a wooden saw-horse barrier. The next time around, we saw an elderly woman being tended to by EMTs. Somebody later told me her head had hit the pavement pretty hard.

Rick Dearworth was riding very consistently, and dishing out advice, one-liners, and exasperated outbursts, at Triple X-ers and other teams alike. I mostly got it for looking down at the pavement as I hammered, and not sticking consistently with one wheel. I love riding with Uncle Rick. I always get choice, unfiltered instruction and learn from him every time he is in a race with me. When the race was finally over, I ran into him on the warm down. "Are you OK?" he asked. Confused, I said, "Yeah, I'm fine? Why?"

"Oh," he answered. "That was my hand that pushed you over on that crash!"

I laughed hard at that, and said, "Good! At least I helped out somebody!" He made it through the crash apparently and finished several places above me. It's OK, Uncle Rick. I would expect anyone to do that to their own grandmother in order to finish a race on two wheels.


Afterwards we watched the 3s, with Brian, Brandon, Matt, Niko, and Ed all riding for xXx. It was a good showing, and very nearly a victory for Matt. He let off a breakaway with about two to go and it nearly stuck, but another breakaway of several riders caught him on the sprint. Brian and everyone else finished with the pack. It was good to watch and see first hand how to take the turns, all of them pedaling all the way through, trusting their wheel, riding smoothly.

The 3s come by. Fast.

Afterward we headed to Nick's for a BBQ but not many of us showed. Alberto and I enjoyed a beer and watched the dogs play and Nick grill. Later we moved in to watch the conclusion of Stage 7 of the Tour, and then Brian Boyle showed up on his bike, fresh from his cool down after the race. We talked over watermelon, burgers, pasta salad, more beer, and bottled water, and gleaned as much advice form him as we could. We asked what he was thinking of when he attacked, bridged, pulled off, how he got back to the front. Was he nervous. Everything. He gave us very informed responses, honest opinions, and his sense of humor lends such a unique perspective to my whole xXx racing experience.

We continued our conversation on the way home. We talked about my first year with the team, what I could expect, his experiences along the way, and my race that day. My fears were fine, he said. You need to do what comes natural to you in the pack. If it doesn't feel safe, if you think you are a danger at the front, then hang back. Watch and learn. It dawned on me that the 10 per cent rule applies mentally, just as it does physically. Never add more than 10% volume or intensity to your workout a week, the rule goes. So for me, the same seems to apply to my mental game. Not so much per week, as I race less than that, but on a per races basis, it works. If I could get out to Matteson, the Judson, and the team ride every week, we would be talking, however.

For some it seems they get it immediately. I cannot imagine riding that aggressively yet, and I must apparently be a slow adapter. So I am not going to get frustrated, and I am going to do what comes naturally. I will, however, draw the line at wanting to naturally sleep in, watch Kubrick movies and drink beer all day instead of riding.

I will listen, follow the sound advice, spin, ride clean, and work harder each time I am on my bike. But I will first and foremost be myself.


Riding to Beverly to watch the first race of Superweek.

Rick Dearworth: The Black and White Cookie. He brings us together with his advice and his tanlines.

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