"Hey kid, this is bike racing – it's all fair. It's a sport where treachery is revered. Grow up."
It certainly is amazing the difference in perspective the other side of a podium finish makes. I wasn't planning on even mentioning my 15th place at yesterday's opener in Blue Island, but now that I am experiencing the joy of a top 3 finish at today's race in Olympia Fields after sticking a 20 lap, 3-man breakaway with a teammate, it's a lesson worth sharing.
Yet even with my first podium finish, I am sure that for those of you around me just seconds after the finish, however, joy is probably not the word you would be expecting in this race report. I admit I had some choice words for the third rider in our break for sprinting past me after sucking our wheels the entire time. And for that, I apologize, both to the rider and everyone who witnessed it. Not one of my finer moments. I learned a hard lesson in tactics this afternoon, and that I am entitled to nothing until I cross that line.
There was more than enough time for cat and mouse at the end of the race. Coming through the line with 1 to go, we were about to lap the field, and I don't know why I didn't think to position myself better. I was incredibly gassed, just glad for it be over, and introspective about about finally breaking my podium cherry. Never thinking about the here and now. Always the Poet Laureate of Logan Square. Always the lover, and never the killer.
Yet Jonathan took the victory, and with Newt in 5th, and Jeff in 6th - blocking all the way, overall we placed 4 riders in the top 10. It could've been 5 if William hadn't crashed out.
Not much more to say. Jonathan and I worked very well together. I leaned on him during some tough spots, but we were fairly equitable in our pulls, generally around three-quarters of a lap apiece, each trying to take a pull up the hill into that vicious wind. Rightly so, the 2CC rider sat in, pointing we had the advantage, we had the blockers. The whole time, my first time in this situation - even though I'd imagined and practiced over over and over - I simply thought he'd better take his third place and be happy with it.
I'd attacked to simply get out of the nerve-wracking tight quarters of the half-mile course, and the 90-plus degree turn after the downwind downhill backstretch. Ironically, just a half a lap before I was ready to just abandon the race. A nasty crash happened just behind me after I forced my way onto Jeff Holland's wheel lining up for the turn maybe four or five laps in. I felt someone bump elbows with me, I took the wheel, then heard a "what tha- HEY!" I hoped as I rode on that I hadn't caused that crash...but really I hadn't. There was no doubt as to my intention. Stealing wheels is racing, and so is rubbing wheels. You can really only be responsible for the wheel directly in front of you.
So right then I told myself I was not going through that turn in the pack again. I thought about dropping, but Katy was watching, and we'd driven all that way...there, off the front...a rider dangling. The pack was chasing, close to bringing him in. Just the distraction I had been telling myself to look for, I finally quashed my trademark indecision and took a flyer.
I caught the rider off the front and kept going. I kicked 15 times, counting in my head, then looked behind. It was chaos, really strung out. As if I were trying to pull a piece off of a chunk of taffy. I came out the hard turn, looked again, saw riders coming up, and small gap, and hammered up the hill. Then a most welcome sight: Jonathan Dugas pulling though. He led our team time-trial squad last year in Utica, and I'd rather have had almost no other rider with me in a break. I've been in some nascent attempts with Jonathan before, and his commitment to suffering is nothing if not pure inspiration.
(At one point, as I was pulling through on the hill, I forgot we were on a prime lap - for a free pizza - and I had to pull up a bit so Jonathan could take home the prize...with his new baby on the way, I figure even a pizza is better than Government Cheese.)
And this time it was enough to get us to the finish and a victory for the team. Thanks to my teammates in the pack, working just as hard to chase down every single bridge attempt, we gained on every lap, and as we crossed the line, the end of the main group was still just going around Turn 1.
A quick word on Blue Island, as promised:
Actually quite an easy race, until the last lap. The speed wasn't very fast, and there were only two really committed breaks - a very strong one by Voytek of WTD until three to go, included. With two to go I was casually chatting with the 4's winner Nate of Spidermonkey, and suddenly, with one to go, I was at the front with 5 teammates behind me and a 2CC rider attacking off the front.
I certainly wasn't going to pass the initial responsibility off, and shortly after Turn 2 we'd caught him. I wasn't gassed by any stretch, but not wanting to pull off too drastically with the entire, twitchy peleton behind me. But just as I indecisively contemplating my jump, up came a very decisive South Chicago Wheelmen train steaming past. Instead of trying to force onto a wheel, or just jumping ahead right then and there, I indecisively, of course, waited for an opening that never came, and then found myself looking at the back end of Turn 3, now about 6 riders wide. My race was over.
I was just going to let it go. It was gone, today was another race. The irony today is thicker than than the steak I had for dinner tonight. With the nasty corner, I was nervous about even starting today. But, my poor finish yesterday was what got me turning the pedals. And now, my finish today is letting me tell the entire story here tonight.
There's a lot of racing left. Tuesday is a new day.
But, still, I want to build.