I started last night’s race in a highly unorthodox fashion. Without a watch, I had no idea when the start was coming and it snuck up on me. Chris and I hurriedly staged — with good positioning, I rather thought — and at the whistle the pack was off to a hot start. So much faster than last week. I had to make an effort just to stay in the pack (normally not a problem). As we finished Lap 1 Chris nudged me and pointed off to the staging area, where our group — the 4/5s — was staging. He was smart enough to put it together: “I think we started with the 1/2/3s” (myself, maybe I was anaerobic already?)
Unfortunately by the time we had processed this failure we were several hundred yards past the start. I started to turn back along the course but thought better of that; then we jumped the barrier and high-tailed back to the stage. By which point the 4/5s were already started and maybe 200+ m out. I made an unprotected flat-out sprint for the pack and caught them at the first corner. Phew! Chris didn’t make it in.
I caught a wheel about 2/3rds back, and the guy said: “Wow, you should not be this winded”
“Yeah I took a lap with the 1/2/3s and then had to sprint to catch our start.”
”Well you’re probably pretty warm then”
The 1/2/3s neutralized us around Lap 8 and a couple guys ribbed me: “you should jump back on that train.” Funny enough, I was thinking: I wonder if I could hold onto the big cats for 20 laps? My sense of achievement is perverse enough that I’d rather finish DFL in the top category than middle of the pack in the bottom one.
The rest of the race was more-or-less like last week. There were two primes, I was nowhere near contending. I tried to catch a breakaway around Lap 10 but couldn’t finish the bridge. The guy drafting me on the bridge pulled ahead and I held his wheel. The breakaway got reeled in, no surprises there. Jimmy — in his inaugural race — was perennially 8 to 10 riders ahead of me and I just couldn’t work my way up.
I think I finished 23 of 47, but it’s hard to say because I was in a thick scramble and they didn’t record my jersey number. So I think I’m “green jersey” in the results page. I set the goal for myself of “finish in the top half” which I did, barely. Just like last week I hit my goal of “finish in the middle third” in a similarly literal fashion. I need better goals. Without my opening sprint I might have finished better — I had no legs for the final sprint and couldn’t stand — but I rather think the opposite. I had a do-or-die sprint and I didn’t die. That gave me a huge psychological push, for example to chase down that breakaway (which I might not otherwise be inclined to do). I psych myself out a lot, especially on sprints. So now I know: I can hold a long, unprotected sprint, if the alternative is abject humiliation.
It was great riding with Jimmy and (theoretically) with Chris. I made a few instant friends in the pack, on the basis of shared bikes (another Vanilla owner), and that goofy start. I was much looser last night and just having more fun. I shared about half my ride home with a guy who, turns out, lives about two blocks away from us. (For non-Portlanders: the raceway is pretty much across town from our neighborhood, so this is a wild coincidence.)
- Wear a watch. I don’t have a computer so this is a necessity.
- I didn’t count laps this week and that gave me a big mental boost too. In fact, from cyclocross I have learned that: the less I know, the better I do. (Thus, no computer.) I tend to overthink, where my tactical strength is really in reaction.
- I fed a little better on this race and carried water (which I didn’t drink. Seriously, this race is only 75 minutes, you can’t be a little thirsty for 75 minutes?) This helped my performance for sure but I was still totally tapped for my ride home. It’s about 15 miles home with no traffic, on my racing bike. With fresh legs that would be a 45minute ride, one hour tops. Last night it took me almost 90minutes to get home! So: bring a snack for the ride home.
- Cycling is the new Bowling. In Portland at any rate. It’s easy to meet people when you’re all racing together. Cyclocross is a powerful gateway drug because it’s fun even if you’re losing; I talked to several guys last night who got their start (like me) at ’cross. For 40ish guys like me, winning is less important than cameraderie, personal effort, having fun.
- I’m starting to be a little embarassed by my Vanilla. I honestly didn’t buy this bike to impress people but they feel compelled to compliment me. I bought it because it’s beautiful. It’s always nice to hear “beautiful bike,” but I don’t want to talk about how long I waited for Sasha to build it — because his waiting list now is five-plus years long. I especially don’t want to talk about how much I paid for it, or how much it’s worth now.