When it comes to the bike gods, there is no middle ground or the concept of a steady state. For every high you have there will be an equally depressing low. Unfortunately, for the past two weeks I have been oscillating more towards the low end of things with the highs only periodically showing themselves. Today would prove to be no different as within a period of 90 minutes of racing, I would hear more than my fair share from the yin and yang monkeys on my shoulders.
Seegs and I packed up his truck and headed down to one of my favorite races put on by the South Chicago Wheelmen – Cobb Park. The past two years I’ve raced here the course was always wet with rain. I don’t mind racing in the rain, but the slicks or tubulars on my rims usually do.
YANG: Don’t worry my son, I made all the rain come through yesterday night so today will be good and clear.
JARED: Thanks Yang, you’re the best! I really love slicing the corners on this course. It’ll be sweet knowing that my HED Stinger/Veloflex combo will take all the power I want to dish out and I don’t have to worry about them sliding out from under me.
YIN: Not so fast buddy. How about some 80 degree heat with enough humidity to make you sweat while you just stand?
JARED: You know you suck Yin?
YIN: Sorry dude, it’s my job.
The field had a pretty good xXx presence – Myself, Seegs, Stocky, Briney, Bob W, Chris K, Fay (sorry if I am forgetting anyone), but it also had a big Wild Card presence as well. Knowing how these two teams ride, it was going to be a 45 minute slug fest to see who could outlast the other.
Whistle goes off, I get a good clip in but Briney doesn’t. So I guess to make up for it he decides he wants to take a test flyer. So for about a lap and a half he’s off the front and everyone seems content to let it go. But then the peloton has second thoughts after about two laps of this and decides to go to work. So for the next few laps all I kept seeing down the front stretch was a single line of riders and 30, 31, 32 MPH on my computer.
YANG: Hey look, we’re hitting 32 MPH!
YIN: How you like this heat?
JARED: Hey, I’m trying to concentrate right now, can we all just talk later?
This ballistic pace keeps up for a while and then settles down around 15 minutes in. So why not liven things up with a prime? Off we go again – drats. Well, the pace gets hot again and guys are starting to blow up. I specifically remember a point where I was coming around a rider who clearly didn’t want to race anymore and I think to myself “you either do 30 seconds of hard work and get up to the pack or you will do 30 minutes of riding on your own.” Apparently I was delusional since there was only like 25 minutes left in the race, but I made the bridge up and that’s all that mattered.
YIN: Hey, how do you like this heat? I’m only going to ask you a few more times.
JARED: The heat sucks, but at least I can now recover in the pack. Wait, why am I not cooling down? Why am I running at 185 bpm? How long has this been going on?
YIN: About the last 10 minutes.
YANG: Your HR monitor is probably malfunctioning again. Just keep riding, you’re doing good.
JARED: No, something is wrong - I think I’m overheating. I’ve ridden in heat before, but this doesn’t seem normal for me.
So the pace doesn’t let up and a weird thing happens. I don’t blow up like I usually do, but I can’t get my heart rate down. So reluctantly, I let the peloton go and see if I can get myself in order. Not happening. Do I do the unthinkable and self inflict a DNF upon myself or do I try to finish out? I’m racing again in about an hour so I could really use the rest. I came around turn 1 and I see Bob riding kind of slow in the gutter. “Not feeling it?” The look on his face and the hand motion to the neck as if “I’m out” say it all. So I make the call, it’s over for now. I roll past the line, tell them I’m out and pull under a tree to get some shade.
The race has about 20 minutes to go and xXx did some really good work. Briney and Seegs went to battle for a prime with Briney taking it. With about 4 to go Stocky is up front working and I’m yelling at Seegs to get a wheel as he is drifting off the back. With 3 to go all the boys are up front and things are looking good - Fay even takes a flyer to try and bridge to a solo rider, but a sustainable break was not in the cards for the day. With one to go, Seegs is in the front and the boys are picking up the pace so that it’s all strung out in the turns. In the end, Briney would take 1st and it would be a good day for many xXx riders.
Cat 4/5 Masters 30+
YANG: All that Gatorade and shade made you feel better right?
JARED: Yeah, I feel much better now. I’m going to try to stay up front and get a little payback for that DNF I took this morning.
YIN: Just remember, I’ve got a few more tricks up my sleeve.
JARED: Why are you always messin’ with me? Haven’t I had a rough enough road with this cycling thing? After three seasons, haven’t I earned a break yet?
JARED: Once again, you suck Yin.
So the field is equally as big as the race before (many of the same xXx riders from the 4’s and many new ones), but Wild Card has been replaced by Beverly-Bike Vee Pack. Here goes another slug fest is all I can think to myself. The whistle goes off and things are pretty chill. There are a few test flyers but nothing major. About three laps in they throw out a $100 prime to some restaurant. I’m sitting right next to Seegs and I say “I don’t want that, I don’t even know where that is.” He looks at me and says “ya don’t?” My reply is “nope, so if you want it go for it.” In the end, Davy Jones (Get A Grip) and another rider would go head to head for it with me sitting back in like 15th wheel or something.
From that point, things stayed sporadically hot with Steve Feehery of SCW and a few others launching test attacks every few laps or so. The field would eventually start to shed riders who we would come back up on a few laps later, but the pace wasn’t as bad as the morning, or at least it didn’t feel that way to me.
YIN: Why are you only going 6 MPH?
JARED: What is up with my computer? Now it’s not working at all – forget it, switch the HR monitor to speed so I can at least pace myself.
YANG: Your magnet moved a little bit. Don’t worry about it, just focus on riding hard.
We get to about 4 to go and that’s when the anger from the DNF in the morning starts to kick in. From that point on I tell myself that I’m not giving up any more wheels and I need to be moving up with each lap from here on out. We get to lap three and I remember a conversation that Bob, Briney, Seegs, Stocky and I all had before the 4’s race – if a move is going to happen it’s going to go with 1 ½ to go, not 1. Why? Because of the turns. You want the field good and stretched out because if you don’t hit turn 3 in wheels 1-5, you will never be able to make it up in the sprint.
So at the start of 2 to go I move up the outside to about sixth wheel and keep my eye out for anything coming up on the sides. Nothing. We hit the line with 1 to go and off my right I see Steve of SCW take off like a rocket.
YANG: Get out of the saddle and get his wheel. This is THE move!
JARED: Okay legs/lungs, we hurt for one lap and then we can go home.
YIN: How does your back tire feel?
The pace is up and it’s Steve, Curtis (xXx), Davey Jones and me. Once things were good and strung out, Steve rolls off (thanks for the awesome lead out man) and I’m trying to not only mark Davey (he’s former xXx and I’ve seen him close a race) but make sure no one shoots to my outside and boxes me in as I lost many a top 5 towards the end of last season just because of moves like that.
We hit turn two and we’re still single file and the motors are running 95% but I think I just lost a spot (turns out I lost it to Mike of Spider Monkey) so now I’m 5th. We hit the last turn and I’ve got a clean line – my Stingers sail me through the turn and I can see Davey stand to sprint.
JARED: Time to punch it engine room, let’s have 100% – GO!
YANG: Spot number three is blowing up – Mark Davey!
YIN: How’s the tire?
JARED: I’m gaining. I’ve got 4th locked! Curtis is really movin!
YIN: What about the rider on your right?
YANG: Go faster, only 100 meters!
JARED: I’m running out of time, looks like this is it.
And that’s how it would shake out. Curtis would bring home 1st for xXx, Mike rocked 2nd, David took 3rd and I would roll in for 4th. On the other side of the course while I was panting like a spastic dog…
YIN: So, how’s the tire?
JARED: Dude, why is my rear tubular flat? When did this happen?
YIN: It started about 25 meters before the end of the sprint and it’s over right about…now.
YANG: Hey, you finished 4th AND you’ll get some money – this is the best you’ve ever done!
JARED: Yeah this feels pretty good – especially considering that I crashed at the track a few weeks back and bruised a rib, got stuck behind that massive crash at Sherman Park causing me to place badly and my hamstrings seizing half way into my 33K TT the following Sunday for a mediocre MPH average.
YIN: You know that was ALL me right?
JARED: Once again, you suck Yin.