I got a hurried call to the staging area, and as I stood around shivering, I reminded myself that I only had to get through one more day, and then it was smooth sailing for a week of recovery rides and strawberry sorbet topped with gummy bears. I also told myself, “you really should do more of a warm-up”. FAMOUS LAST WORDS!
We are led out by the Masters 45+ 1/2/3 men, and I am dropped IMMEDIATELY. I don’t even know how. Maybe I looked down at the wrong moment? Maybe my legs wouldn’t listen? At any rate, I think, “F**^*^^#&^*#&^$^#!” and start to chase. This first section is directly into a 30+ mph headwind, so “chasing” is like 15mph; it is demoralizing to say the least. I catch back on after about 2 or 3 miles. I WAS NOT GOING TO STAND FOR DOING THAT WHOLE RACE BY MYSELF. In another mile, we turn onto the first gravel/mud/slip and slide/paste section. I am at the back of the tiny pack. The Project 5 racer two wheels in front of me cannot hold the wheel of Tamara and Cathy Frampton at the front. When I notice, I try to pass and push on with Cuttin’ Crew Jannette. Jannette starts to chase up to Tamara who has put on the power to create her own break, but jannette’s front derailleur is failing her, and she can’t shift up to the big ring. frown. I pass her and push up to the two in front...more chasing, probably a mile this time-BLERG! back on, though.
The three of us push the pace hard through the gravel and back around to the second lap. The wind has picked up. I have to lean my bike at a 45 degree angle and actually turn my front wheel slightly to the left in order to go in a somewhat straight line through the crosswind sections. OH, it has also starting sleeting/hailing! We make it through the worst section of the second lap. I almost wipe out/get thrown across the road a couple times and think, “this is ridiculous”. I take a really long pull, and when I come around to the back and Tamara pulls through, it becomes apparent that Cathy can’t keep the wheel. I tell her to get onto my wheel, but she can’t. I really don’t wish riding alone on that course, in that weather, on anyone, especially people I like. oh well. MORE CHASING BACK TO TAMARA who has not slowed, but increased her speed. Woo, two xxx in the front. We rotate through around the back of course and into to the hellish wind of the first half. We work together and are told that Cathy is more than a minute behind. I am relieved, and ease up a second to catch my breath after the wind. Tamara drives on, looks back, and then puts on the gas. I AM DONE CHASING. She can have the last lap all alone if that’s what she wants!
I am half smiling half grimacing, partly because the left side of my face is completely frozen and feels like I have been shot in the gum with novocain, and partly because I am happy my teammate is going to win, as I wanted it to be all along, and grimacing because I cannot feel my hands or my feet, and I am miserable and now alone. I keep telling myself that I only have to finish and second place is mine. I say in my head, “it’s totally not cold enough for my feet and hands to be ACTUALLY freezing, right? I will have feeling in them again...I think? Just 20 more miles...”
I can’t give up because I really want to podium, and because I didn’t finish my race at the Barry Roubaix, and I have something to prove to myself this time. I can’t quit, but I REALLY want to.
By some stroke of luck, I am told to pull into the finishing straight when I come around for my last lap! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!! I made it! I pull off the course shivering. This will be a really great thing in retrospect.
I am already very glad I did this race. My clothes have been washed three times and are still covered in dirt, but I am sitting on my couch eating strawberry sorbet and gummy bears after a nice warm dinner. Bike racing is great. Thanks so much to Flatlandia and all the Moto refs and volunteers that made this horrible race great! It was truely a day to remember.