Just as I was starting to feel good it started snowing. Big, wet, sloppy snowflakes coming down hard. Ok, now I’ll start from the beginning…
It was freezing-ass cold in Live Oak Springs today for my first road race. I raced the Cat 5(a) along with several Descenders; Voris, Mike, Rick, Drew and Logan. The plan was to let Rick, Drew and Logan go on up the road and win while Mike and Voris acted as my lieutenants, helping me get as good a result as possible.
According to the National Weather Service, coldness can be described (in order of temperature) as mild, cool, chilly, cold, brr!, butt-cold and freezing-ass cold. I am not making this up, go Google it. There’s also something in there about a witch’s bra, but this is a family blog so I left it out.
I have to stop here and tell you what an awesome feeling it is when two cyclists tell you that they are willing to work for your best result. It’s absolute gravy when they are cyclists of the stature of Mike and Voris. When I read Dave’s email telling me he wanted to be my lieutenant, I actually yelled out loud and did a funky dance which totally freaked out both my wife and the cat.
But, back to the action… We’ve all got on every stitch of cycling clothing possible and we’re still shivering at the start. At least it wasn’t raining really hard, right? I eyeballed the competition and they all looked really, really fit. Like, “I’ll have half a turkey sandwich cause I just raced 100 miles” fit. I was trying to identify at least a few guys I could beat to the finish line and was having a hard time. I guess only the really committed racers show up when it’s double-butt-cold and raining.
The race official declared the race on and out we rolled. Fifty meters later, on the first real turn, I hear a terrible clattering behind me. I was convinced someone had stacked, but I guess some guy went all random, swerving onto a heavily rutted shoulder, immediately flatting and then swerving back into the peloton. Well, there’s one guy I’m going to beat.
I found Voris’ wheel and glued myself to it. Dave watched our position and kept us out of the wind. I focused on being a jerk about not letting other riders onto Voris’ wheel. It was really a fairly tame pace as the group approached the big downhill, which was also very sedate, probably because of the water on the road and the fact that we were all still cold. The fun really started when we made the sharp right turn onto La Posta Road.
The road started going uphill and I was quickly above 95% HR trying to hang onto the lead group. Those guys are hella-strong. I held on for as long as I could but finally had to let them go on the second climb. Voris sat up and let them go too. I tried protesting, but he was determined to work for me. I felt like I was letting him and his hard work down. I set a reasonable pace (about 93% HR) and focused on ticking over the miles.
I set the pace on the hills so that I wouldn’t get dropped, but whenever the road turned flat or downhill, Dave would jump out and take all the wind, trying to gain time and letting me rest. He was awesome like that all day long. What a total stud.
Rolling through the finish area for the first lap I spot Mark on the shoulder with a humongous camera. He had driven all the way out here and was standing in the freezing cold to encourage me and take pictures. That really lifted my spirits. I was extra determined to give everything I had to live up to these guys’ contributions to me.
Voris took the lead again on the downhill of the second lap and put the hammer down. A little group started to form around us, with only Dave and one other guy willing to work. I sat safely in the back, chugging GU and drink in preparation for the climbing ahead. I was starting to feel just a little better.
We turned right onto La Posta again and there was Mark yelling and taking pictures. Now that I knew he was out there I tried to look really fast with a determined look on my face. I can’t wait to see how those pictures turn out!
I got gapped as the climbing started again. Voris was in the lead with a few riders and there was a group in the middle between us. Then my legs started to feel better and I caught one rider. Ha, there’s another guy I’m going to beat. Then I caught another guy. Mark was leapfrogging us on the course and as we passed him again, I went into this really cool looking tucked position – I was so stoked to have him out there rallying me on.
As we crested the second hill on La Posta, I caught up with the group Voris was in. I gave him the “Let’s go!” look and he came right out to break wind all the way to Hwy 80. We climbed the short ramp to Hwy 80 easily and then I decided to put whatever hammer I had left down. I was definitely riding in anger at this point. My goal was to drop all the bastards who had caught up with us on the downhill. My plan worked and soon it just Voris, me and Yellow-Jersey-Guy (aka: Josh – see the comments on this post). That’s when it started snowing, which was truly cool. The three of us rolled on in the snow with Voris on the front whenever the road went flattish or better.
I spotted Mark up the road again and decided to fulfill a lifelong dream. As we passed him, I chucked one of my half-full water bottles in his general direction. I have always wanted to chuck a water bottle in the middle of bike race, just like the pros. They don’t let you do it at these regional races because it’s littering. I figured that since Mark would pick up the bottle, I was golden. Anyways, I hope I get that bottle back someday!
We passed the 1km sign and I started thinking about how Dave and I were going to drop the Yellow-Jersey-Guy. That’s when we got passed by the leaders of one of the other categories. They run multiple categories on the same road at the same time, don’t ask me how they keep it straight. We thought about latching onto them, but that didn’t seem ethical, they were not our race.
With about 100m to go, Yellow-Jersey-Guy took off. I paused, then got out of the saddle to go after him and frankly, there was nothing there. Nada, nichts, nothing. I flopped back down onto the saddle and accepted it. I’ve written about Failure Versus Quitting and I have to tell you, this was definitely failure. Voris took off after Yellow-Jersey-Guy to preserve our team integrity so crossing the line for 20-whatever’th spot it was Voris, Yellow-Jersey-Guy, some other guy (where did he come from?), and me.
By the way, Drew and Rick got 2nd and 3rd (respectively) with Logan around 8th. What an awesome day for the team – nice work Descenders!
I don’t know what place I got since I still haven’t seen the official results. Once I see them, I will share. Also, I can’t wait to check out Mark’s photos and hopefully he’ll let me post some of the better ones here.
All told, it was a fantastic day, made even better by the efforts of Voris, Mark and Mike. Thanks guys!