no one line


Grant’s Tomb 2010
March 15, 2010, 3:32 pm
Filed under: road racing, teamwork

Were you outside this weekend? The rain, the wind.

Let’s backtrack. The racing season is started. Training camp opened last weekend with a few pals coming up to my neck of the woods for one day of racing and one day of long, hard riding. The racing went well: we put our boy into the winner’s pants (though, in a headsmack moment, he was DQ’ed for having failed to pin on his number), and honed our team tactics. We went for a long, fitness-building and fatiguing ride. We felt the sun on our skin. And so we came to this past weekend lean, mean, and hungry, knowing our strengths and weaknesses, wavering only when we clicked on weather.com’s forecast. 40 degrees. Rainy. Windy. Stormy. We rode to Grant’s Tomb with spare wheels in our hands, wondering how many people would show in the wet. The wind gusts knocked us from one curb to the next, and looking at each other with wild eyes we took off our race wheels and put our training wheels on. Our plans immediately went from “field sprint” to “survive.” I thought about the importance of flahute training and thought, “Well, the racing might actually be safer and better suited to us.”

After a delayed start during which we tried in vain to warm up and stay dry, the race began. Everyone was already soaked and shivering. The course was shortened. Two long straightaways and two hard 180 degree turns. One downhill into a brutal headwind with an alternating crosswind when we passed 122nd st. One long uphill with a tailwind.

The attacks came immediately. We had to sprint out of the corner to stay with the rapidly dwindling field. After five laps of sprinting painfully out of Turn 1 into the headwind, trying desperately to grab a wheel as riders were flung side to side by the wind, I latched on squarely and watched with glee as a race favorite went backwards fast and was dropped.

We settled in for some difficult racing. The gusting wind slashed across the course. Everyone was wet and quaking. The wind was unpredictable, lashing out. We were in a fifteen rider clump, the front of the race, drilling it in hopes of continuing to shed riders. I tried to talk to a teammate about our plans but all of my words were slurred and incomprehensible. At some point I remember hollering to those around me, “Good racing!”

With four to go I launched an attack. I rolled to the front, rolled off of it, and started pounding the beef. I turned into the headwind and slowed to a crawl, trying to claw out a second or two. I had a nice gap. Somebody yelled encouragement from the curb – “Make it to the corner and you’ll have a headwind.” I would, and I did, and stayed away for another lap until I was caught. I summoned the energy to go with the counter. Ridiculous but at least my quads weren’t cramping. We were dragged in. A teammate attacked, a big power-pedal-stomp acceleration up the inside. He was caught and a counter rolled off the front. One to go. They had a few seconds but looked weak. It would be a field sprint. A wrecked, disheveled field sprint. I was near the front and according to plan I turned up the pace as best as I could. Two people sprinted – a favorite and my teammate. They took first and second and the rest of us rolled across the line.

What followed fascinated me.

The breakaway and accelerations, followed by my attempt to sprint, had hurt me. But the weather had hurt me more. I was aware that I was uncomfortable, but my awareness was far curled up inside my body; the inside and the outside were well separated. I stepped off the bike and found myself sobbing. I threw my bike down and dryheaved on the church steps. My sweetheart came running, her face a mask of worry, but I staggered away to hug my close friend for his second place finish. I was shivvering, sobbing, confused, stumbling. A teammate tried to find my jacket but I was too confused to answer him. I knew that my jacket was further in the bag through which he rummaged, but didn’t know how to say it. I looked to my sweetheart for help. She found mine and helped me through my sleeves. Later, at the house – thankfully only five minutes away – I crawled into the shower with my socks still on and started laughing hysterically as she looked on with concern.

The next day, in Central Park, an organizational snafu (only one of four required motorcycles showed up) caused the fields to be mixed but to finish on separate laps. After some fun wet racing, it came down to a sprint with one person from the 3/4 field off the front. Our teammate was beaten by the same guy who powered away from him the previous day – good enough for third in the morning – and we had two others in the top ten.

And unlike the previous day there was no hypothermic incoherence – just the need to take off wet clothes and get into the shower, with much less emergency.

We ended the weekend confident in our emerging fitness and growing team cohesion. And I ended it knowing that I’m a lot less scared of bad conditions than I have been in the past. I know more about how my brakes, tires, and whole body respond to the conditions, and I know that I can relish conditions where I can step to the line and think, “Okay – most of these guys have already given up.”

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3 Comments so far
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[…] Grant’s Tomb 2010 « no one line […]

Pingback by Get Abs Without Gym

Good going, tough guy. Kudos on staying away for a lap.

Nice to hear about racing in my home country. Wish it’d been there when I was a lad.

Comment by Velosopher

Nicely written and a great description of the racing this past weekend. Your post-race reaction is a clear indication of how hard you raced. Well done!

Comment by Suitcase of Courage




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