I remember going to the 2012 Glencoe Grand Prix as a spectator. I was new to the team, new to any form of competitive cycling and really just there to drink it all in. What I saw blew my mind. It was like a cool street fair with food and music and happy people all around. On top of that, every few minutes a group of cyclists would come screaming by at speeds I couldn’t even imagine on a bicycle. At the time I really wasn’t sure I would ever race at all but I knew that if I did I wanted to race here, in this atmosphere.
Fast forward a year. Not only did I decide to race but I kinda fell down the rabbit hole with it (I’m not the first, I know--many of you probably have a similar story.) Here I was, lined up for my first of two races on Saturday. First up was the Master’s 4/5 and I was really happy to be in the 2nd row. Side note: I really like the staging format they used. I much prefer that to cutting my warm up short and lining up 15 minutes before the whistle just to get a decent starting position.
The race itself was way hotter than I expected. There was constant movement and more than a little “argy bargy” as Phil Liggett might say. Positioning is probably my biggest weakness right now--I’m still learning the finer points of reading the race, anticipating movement etc. As touchy as the race was, I found myself braking into corners more than I wanted and spending way too much energy coming out of them. As we got into the final laps I could feel it taking a toll on me. Aaron Delabre, Ben Cartwright and I were all near the front in the final lap but a few swarms and a particularly angry crash coming into the final turns had me too far back to really contend for much in the sprint. Aaron was up the road and would eventually take 5th. I knew Ben was close behind me so I gave it everything I could into the last corner to lead him out. It was a satisfying consolation to see him come around me and then pass a few others to take 11th. I ended up 15th in a field of over 60 starters.
At this point I couldn’t imagine racing a second race. I was spent and just wanted to gather my things and ride home.
The ability of the human body to recover is truly a remarkable thing, though. Just as remarkable is the ability of the mind to go from not wanting anything to do with bike racing to getting psyched to do it all again. After a little rest and some great strategy talk from Adam Herndon, I found myself lined up for the 4’s race. I didn’t have a particular plan for this race other than to communicate better with my teammates and try to make something happen. The 4’s race had a completely different feel to it. Fast, no doubt, but much more in control than the Master’s. My cornering was much stronger this time and I found myself emerging from corners right on the wheel in front of me. [slaps forehead] Bike racing is much easier that way! I was feeling really, really good and took half a lap at the front early on just to push the pace a bit. I then dropped back knowing that I had several matches yet to burn. I found Patch Cebrzynski and we quickly formed a plan: sit in until 3 to go, then move up together to form up with Aaron for the finish. This was turning into the kind of race that I had only read about: one where fitness is a given and tactics and teamwork are what win the race.
Then all hell broke loose.
With 4 to go I was about 15 back and headed into the long, straight descent before the hill. As I tucked into the right-hand turn I looked up to see--right in my line--two guys on the ground and two more about to be. I have no idea how I didn’t hit the deck but after about 1000 micro shifts of my weight and much fishtailing of my back tire I was able to barely stay clear. I then did what any smart cyclist would do: gun it to take advantage of the break in the group. As I turned the corner into the hill I heard a BANG and knew immediately it was me. One too many fish tails perhaps? Whatever it was, any hopes I had of getting into the small break that would eventually contend for the podium were shredded along with my rear tire. I clipped out and ran to the neutral wheel pit where I was promptly told that, yes, they had a wheel for me and, no, there were no more free laps.
“Do you still want the wheel?”
“You have to chase”
“I know.” At least those were the words that came out of my mouth. In my head I’m thinking “just give me the g@#d&*n wheel and let me finish my race!!!!”
Sadly, this is not Breaking Away and I was not Dennis Quaid. I TT’d it for a lap and ½ before getting pulled. Heartbroken, I got to watch a much-fractured race finish from the team tent.
For me this is a year of firsts: first time racing, first time for mistakes and first time for successes. I did a lot right this day. One guy actually came up to me afterwards to say "great save--I thought for sure you were going to end up in that pile up.” I have all my skin and I have a lot to feel good about but that’s not what I left with. The results don’t have an asterisk next to my name. It doesn’t include the footnote that explains how strong I was riding or how my teammates and I had a good plan--that I was betrayed by a failing rubber tube. It just shows 54/59. This day was, unfortunately, a new first for me: first time catching a bad break.
And yet for almost two entire races I was one of those guys that--a year earlier--I couldn’t imagine being, tearing around the village of Glencoe really fast on a bicycle. So I take away from it everything I can and see the rest as cruel fate.
Change my tire. Recover my body. Reset my mind.
See you in Galena.