It's been a long time since I could legitimately say or write these words: I won a bike race. I'm not talking about an imaginary Alpe d'Huez or a city limit sprint. No, I am referring to a real, live, honest-to-goodness race with more than three people.
Yes, it's hard for me to believe too. I texted Rider One with the news since I had to leave the race venue before his race was over and his voice mail response was, "Are you kidding?" I called back and left a message for him with some details and when he returned my call his first words were, "Are you kidding?" So, that would indicate that a) I am a kidder, I kid; and b) I am an unlikely winner of a bike race (at least in Rider One's eyes). And, to give him his due, it is hard for me to believe also.
I'm going to share a secret with you, though. I wasn't the fittest or strongest rider out there last night. No, this win was not a Fabian Cancellara/Tom Boonen show of strength. It was more of a Salvatore Commesso style bit of wily riding combined with some experience. That was particularly true when I won the night's prime. Oh, I forgot to mention that, didn't I? Yes, I am pleased to report that I also won that (accidentally).
Would you like a moment-by-moment, corner-by-corner recap of the race?
Oh. You would prefer I keep it short. Okay, if you insist.
The race in question was the Baddlands Tuesday Night training race, this week held at the Spokane Raceway Park, and my win came in the "C" Pack. With all due respect to my fellow riders, my buddy PW ("Half Man-Mostly Weasel") says that winning a C Pack race is like winning an award for being the Tallest Midget in the Circus. Now that I think about it, though, my buddy PW is kind-of a pain in the arse, so let's ignore that perspective and focus on the nobility of the competition and effort, shall we?
The race was on the 2.5 mile road course that incorporates the drag strip. We raced clockwise, which means that the finish is a LONG slightly uphill drag into a head wind, while the back side of the course, which has an S-curve and a little elevation change, was mostly with a tail wind. The race was largely "negative", which means that no one really wants to work the race, work that was done was to shut down efforts rather than make them, and at times everyone was content to sit in no matter how slow the pack wound down.
This is all relevant to set up my prime win and race win. As the pack comes out of the last corner at the bottom of the course there is a very long way to the finish line. People who haven't raced out there or who can't control their race emotions ALWAYS start the rush for the line too early. With the prime, I had no intention of going for it, but after sitting on a few wheels that were all starting to sprint 400-500 meters too soon, a Vertical Earth racer came by (sorry, don't know his name) and got a gap. I jumped (or more like, crawled) up to his wheel with about 300 meters to go. He had already been sprinting into the headwind for at least 100, maybe 150 meters. Predictably, he slowed down. I sat on his wheel and looked around and realized that we had a gap. As he slowed more, I sat on his wheel. Then, I moved over and with 50 or so meters to go, while the guy who pulled me up there was spent, I accelerated (mildly) and easily won the prime.
I would feel worse for the guy I did this to, but I have also done exactly the same thing and led others to their victory, so my guess is that he will notice what happened and be much less likely to do the same thing again. Particularly since he did the same thing to help me win the race.
The finish a few laps later was similar. Someone "went" for it on the backside, the group started pulling him back, as we headed up the start of the drag strip to the finish line a number of riders sprinted way too early. I waited, jumped on wheels and stayed out of the wind. Finally, to my surprise, the same Vertical Earth guy got the gap and was hell-bent-for-leather for the finish. Unfortunately for him, he started too early again. I was on his wheel and Dave Simmons was on mine. A similar scenario played out where the VE dude went for it, started to fade, Dave went on my right and I went to the left. The VE dude moved around a bit, which caused a moment of worry, but we stayed apart and it became a drag race between the three of us with Dave and me having the advantage having stayed out of the wind. Dave got the early jump, but thankfully the finish line wasn't 10-20 meters sooner since I managed, somehow, to keep accelerating just enough to get a couple of wheels ahead of Dave. I think the VE guy hung on for third, but I'm not absolutely sure about that.
So, for the first time in a number of years, like maybe five, I won a bike race. Just like that.
It feels awesome.
A couple of race notes for anyone interested in racing better. First, figure out how far you can really sprint, which is usually in the 200-250 meter range, but could be more, but definitely can't be 400-500 meters. Second, a race with a lot of headwind takes more patience than one without (usually). Third, it is possible on a windy day for 3+ riders to get off the front, but unless your only goal is to keep the pack together, you might think about working your ass off if you get into a group of 3-5 with a gap of even a few seconds; 90 seconds of effort could put you into a smaller group where you are no longer competing for the top 20 spots, but instead the top 3-5 spots. And lastly, think about and maybe talk with your teammates about whether you want to chase down your own teammates when they try to get away. For some, a team jersey is just a jersey, and while no one in the A, B or C pack is on the way to the PRO's, we could try to think about and use team tactics a bit more to help our team and the quality of racing.
In conclusion, thanks to Baddlands for putting on the race and yes, I may only be the Tallest Midget at the Circus, but I am smiling from ear to ear about it.