So when I showed up yesterday at Liberty High School in the booming metropolis of Sprague, Washington, here's how I was greeted by another racer.
"Hey, how's it going? Haven't seen you out here in a while."
"Yes, well I haven't raced much lately."
"Been riding though? Tonight should be super fast."
"No, I'm kind of coming off of a three month rest block. So I should be nice and fresh."
Of course I wasn't being serious. Except for the three months part. I've had occasional rides, but nothing structured. Or particularly hard, save for some mountain bike rides where I had no choice. It's hard to go easy on a 25 minute climb.
So, I toed the line last night with a bit of, what? Foreboding? Fear? Not looking forward to tasting my stomach bile? Yes, yes, and yes.
In fact the race that our friends at Spokane Rocket Velo put on was outstanding. Super-fun course around the hills of the Palouse. Yes, it was all big ring. But who says going uphill in your big ring is easy?
Attacks started right from the gun, with Gabe Varela leading us through the "neutral" zone at 30 mph. You think I'm kidding? I'm not. It was fast enough that I forgot to start my Garmin unit, instead preferring to focus on things like, oh I don't know, breathing. And while I stayed among the front few guys early on, when I took a peek over my shoulder there were more than a handful of guys off the back, never to be seen again.
The race was fun though. In a whips and chains kind of way. A break went right from the gun, but unlike races earlier this season, the pack actually chased. We caught the break of Varela and Mike Gaertner about half-way through the 30 mile loop. For kicks I even took a few turns.
From there a flurry of doomed attacks went off and came back, until about 7K to go, when Gabe again lit it up. A tired pack hesitated, he opened a gap, and despite Rocket Velo's best efforts, Gabe only put more time on the group.
The finish was an uphill sprint. I actually felt OK going into it, but I unfortunately thought it would be good to lead out early. On an uphill sprint. You know, uphill, as in unless you're Andre Greipel, you're not going to do well by going early. Head and legs win races. I evidently had neither.
Oh well. I finished 10th or so. The results aren't posted, and even though there were maybe 35 or 40 people in the race, my guess is that I was far enough back that I won't make the results.
I also owe another racer an apology. Maybe. Although I consider myself a relatively smooth, and considerate, rider in the bunch, I had some feedback after the sprint alleging that I closed the door on said competitor (link). That is, I drifted from one side of the road towards something farther to the right, when I led out the sprint, making it impossible for him to get past me. Generally this is an unkind, unsafe and somewhat illegal maneuver.
For a drastic example of this, thankfully also without a crash as a result, here's a video to show what I mean.
If this indeed happened, my apologies. Although the race was held on a Tuesday, I certainly don't consider it the Tuesday Night World Championships. I really enjoy keeping my body and bike, and others bodies and bikes, in one piece. Especially when I'm sprinting for 8th place, or whatever.
Anyway, now that I have that off of my chest I feel better.
So overall, re-entry into the racing world could have been worse. And what a fantastic course. I absolutely loved it. Lumpy, fast, no traffic, good times. Although average speed in a race is among the worst ways to judge how hard a race is, we still averaged about 26 mph. So no, we weren't soft pedalling.
And kudos to Gabe Varela. Here's to being the most talented guy in the region right now, and to winning a race the hard way. Solo, off the front, after driving a break for most of the race.
If you're interested, here's a link to my Garmin file from the race. To see the gory details, click on "view details" on the image.
And I hope some of you can make the Two Wheel Transit shop ride on Thursday. 5:30 p.m.