The coffee machine gets turned on. Not in itself a rare or noteworthy occasion.
Time is what is different. The sun is coming through the windows from the other direction, and its intensity ensures there is no confusion of the hour. Afternoon espresso’s lead to awesome evenings.
The smell of freshly ground beans mixes with the chain lube on my hands. My bike is ready to race, and as I slowly sip the bronze crema from atop my cup, I get into the mood too.
The drive is only an hour, but we’re heading into the unknown. Or maybe we’re the unknown.
The bubble’s cycling community is close and cliquey; stepping out of that to attend another local race makes us rare species. People travel for races all the time, but weekday evenings are different. People ride from home and talk to all their friends before the start. Everyone knows the announcer and promoter by first name, not through a single introduction but through the seasons of competing and racing.
Our new, white, kits shout ‘outsider’ louder than any brand emblazoned upon them. and we line up with suspicious faces watching us. The Lemans start is a joke, and luckily everyone is laughing.
The crowd is surprisingly large. And quiet. My lead grows on each lap, as does the silence of the crowd. I feel no animosity directed at me – just silence. They don’t know me. My lead isn’t exhilarating, it provides no spectacle other than someone riding faster around the course than the others. The local hero who occupies second gets cheered and encouraged. His performance isn’t better or more noteworthy; he is just more familiar. Known.
I cross the line to a small round of applause from those whose attention has somehow been temporarily diverted from the beer tent.
I wasn’t racing for cheering or secondary enthusiasm – all that was inside me.