"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


Tour of Elk Grove, Part II: Something Clicked (or was that just my knee?)

(Photos by Luke Seemann)

I woke up this morning not wanting to go anywhere except back to bed. Sleep was was so-so last night, with a car alarm reseting a few times outside my window around 2am. And then the venetian blinds nearly being ripped of it's mounting by the winds from the passing storm. I had prepacked everything the night before, so by time 6:30 am rolled around, my only items on the to-do list were to put my bibs on, eat a bowl of cereal, and grab 40 winks on the couch before Mark Watkins called me to tell me he was outside.

Today's race, save the cringe-inducing crash that neutralized the race at 22 minutes to go, was thoroughly enjoyable and was, at least I think, a break-though for me. All weekend really, but definitely today. Gone was the "oh-shit" feeling as I came around each corner, over-geared, then under-geared, riding at redline to catch on to the back of the pack.

I was still up and back constantly, unable to play much into excellent teamwork and punishment the rest of the xXx-ers were laying onto the peleton. I would get up to the front, find a wheel, try and catch my breath, and the next thing I knew I was being passed on both sides and finding all my work for naught once again. But I think I found the "feel", "touch", of gearing down before the turns, diving in and sprinting out, all within the draft of the wheel in front, and then attack and make up ground. With all the talk of the danger of these turns presented this weekend in Elk Grove, this weekend was the safest and most confident I'd felt in the lean during my entire brief racing career. That was click #1.

The front 180 U-turn:

Number 2 was finding a right gear to hammer in and stay with the acceleration of the pack after the turns. The realization of course, came with the previous click of making sure I am on a wheel coming out of the turn. So many times before I would come out, shift up once, and spin out without realizing I was spinning out. I finally looked down at my computer sometime during the race today and saw my cadence around 125. The pack was still moving away, and I was going anaerobic. Nothing new. I upshifted, only thought form (and an accelerating train) and it happened. I caught back with relative ease, and I didn't get gapped again for the entire race.

I still fell back again on the last lap however. Sometimes the nervousness still hits me at the hairy parts when I need to be more aggressive. It was really stringing out after the back 180 turn, and I was way off the front for the final left before the home stretch. But, I remembered the feel of my gearing "discovery" and thought only of force and speed. I was surprised to see myself flying past rider after rider, going faster than the day before, and just below redline. Or maybe I was above, but the joy of passing so many riders and feeling so strong negated any of the pain that was torturing me the day before.

I was approaching the main bunch sprint from the behind, but could only get out of the saddle for a few seconds, because I was about to run into a wall of riders. There was no around and the only thing to do was slow down and call it a race and 38th place finish. I tried to throw past teammate Rick Dearworth, but missed by just a few inches. Anyways, never do that to somebody who gives you a ride to the race and introduces you to the music of Dan Bern. Madonna. Rome. Too soon, too soon. Although she's getting kind of old, so I'm going ahead with.

xXx - Athletico cleaned up the Top Ten, and just narrowly missed the podium. Mark Watkins missed third place by about 1/2 a bike length. Michael Kirby came in with 6th, Jacques Cartier was right behind with 7, and El President, Bob Willems, grabbed 10th. Other teammates were working hard at the front as well, and ensured this great placing.

Chris Sheriptis sacrificing it all, he and Jacques laying the hurt down on the peleton:

The final sprint:

I felt like a chump for not being able to stay up front and missing all of the action. But, click number 3 happened on the ride home with Mark. He said to me: "If you aren't moving forward, you're moving backwards." That was like getting slapped in the face. Of course. Always keep looking for a good wheel, but don't ever be satisfied. Keep trying to move forward, even at the front. Take your pull, get off, and you're moving forward again. But the whole time, you still looking for that wheel, and banking calories even as you are moving up. Bike racing is all about balance. Between the physical and mental. Between intensity and rest. Of pain and relief.

All tallied in the end, it was an extremely fun weekend of racing, and I learned a ton. Enough, dare I say, that I guarantee a Top 10 at Sherman Park in two weeks in the Master's 4/5s...(just making sure you're still reading. Ha.) I'm also upgrading this week and I'll race the 3/4s race that afternoon. It will probably be my last race of the season before I turn it all over to music full-time for fall, and my parents will be there as well, so I better make the most of it!

Oh, if anyone who's reading this has any information regarding the rider who crashed, please email me or post a comment about his status. I sincerely hope he is OK.


mokeefe said...

Congrats! Sounds like a breakthrough race.

The Car Whisperer said...

We'll see!