TNC #5

Let’s see, how to strike the appropriate tone here. I don’t want to get this wrong, to create the wrong impression, to sound immodest. It’s been easy and fun to describe my cycling exploits with self-deprecating humor when I get spit out the back of a pack of racers and trounced, or get dropped, gasping for air, on a long climb with my much stronger training buddies. Modesty as schtick. Let me keep that tone for a moment here, then, by pointing out that the race was just the Cat 4, for beginners and old farts, and that the effort by several of us on the last lap to pull back a three-person break and set up a bunch sprint was a complete failure. The breakaway guys were all tremendously stronger, and were gone before we could even think a second time at pulling it back together.

Some 25 guys started, and like every other crit I’ve done, there was hammering from the beginning. But this time was different. Instead of gasping on the tail, I found I could push up through the group at will, taking turns at the front. The speeds were, for me, intense – over 26 mph for the first couple of laps before we settled in in the mid-25’s. But this time, the lead motorcycle was never out of sight. I was still gasping, but gasping at the front.

The speeds were enough to split the field, and we had about ten or so in the lead pack. Breaks kept going off of the front, and a couple of times I was able to get in one, but they always came back together until the last lap.

On the back stretch of that final lap, there were three people off the front, perhaps 20 yards ahead of the field and accelerating. I moved up along the inside, found the back wheel of the guy who was pulling the pack. I knew I had no speed and was simply going to be happy helping on the front. My thought was that we needed to pull back the break, but those guys had such a burst of speed that by the time we headed into the final turn they were gone.

So there we were, in the final turn, and I’m second wheel in an accelerating pack. Coming out of that turn has been a tricky problem for me, trying to stay on the wheel of the guy in front of me, but this time I managed it, sucked his wheel long enough, then burst past him.

They guy who’d led me through the turn, I realized later, was one of the more skilled riders who raced the Cat 4’s to help us out. They’d been in the bunch all along, showing us how it’s done. At the end, he was giving me a sprinter’s lead-out, and as I pulled past him, he said something encouraging, pulled off to the right, and the last 50 yards I was on my own, taking a clean fourth place.

You have to look way down at the very bottom, but there I am.

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