It’s always so much easier to write about the good races. The successes. Words flow onto the screen as I scrutinise each detail; I can elevate the minutia into a blow-by-blow account. Saturday was a success, so I expect the following post will be exactly as described above.
The start line. Too big of a gear: an overestimate on the downward slope of the start straight. I hit full speed as the course hit the grass. Fifth place. Not happy. We careened around a sharp banked corner and into a long gravel straight. I stretch myself to accelerate around a couple of people, misjudging the corner ahead and using Gage Hecht as an effective, if unwilling, barrier to get around the bend.
That move, ungraceful as it was, probably saved my race. I went through the tricky ditch just ahead of Ken Benesh and just in front of the carnage. Three of us had unwittingly escaped. I took to the front in a froth-mouthed surge and kept the pace up. Mitch Hoke was stuck back there, and I didn’t want his hairy legs joining the lead group. In my anaerobic malaise I felt like my pace was failing: felt like Spencer and Brady were soft pedaling behind me , felt like Gage and Mitch were reeling me in. In reality I was cracking people. Brady popped. The chasers went from one corner behind to two. I could see people coasting into corners a few pedal strokes earlier than a lap before.
But then Spencer. That explosion of pink and orange mashed on top of a bike like a child with a playdoh problem. Aero helmet and lace up shoes. Seeing that in front of me was reason enough to suffer: I didn’t need that in my face. But he wouldn’t budge. Like my heart rate stayed pinned, he was pinned to my wheel.
Finally I was secure that it was just me versus him. No one else to worry about. He pulled through, but a grassy turn had him bobble. Unusual for Spencer: his smoothness is normally unquestioned. That crack in the armour was the clue – he was tired too.
Into the ditch with two to go and I hear space behind my rear wheel. A distinctive non-sound that rings loud at the end of races. I stamp harder on the pedals, losing all finesse and advantage in the process, cornering like a Colorado driver in the first snowstorm of winter. Spencer latches back on. The key move of the blown rider: he goes to the front and I know I have it.
It’s confirmed with just under a lap left: Spencer’s aero dome cuts minimal resistance on its way towards the ground. One simple mistake puts him scrambling for pedals and gears. I hear clunking, but don’t dare look back. How many seconds? Not more than a handful. He’ll have venom now – no one goes down in a cross race without getting back up angrier.
I’m all in. Out of the saddle. Why did I have that extra slice of pizza? My body is so heavy and legs ineffective. I need an aero helmet. If I lose now I will blame the huge chunks of air parachuting me backwards towards Spencer’s neon onslaught. But it sticks. His rage fades as I continue my frantic pedal to the line. I know his position – he’s put me there too many times this year already. His chase fades, a quick sneak back to see he has room, and the rush of oxygen begins to repaying the checks his body has cut for the last hour.
I don’t know all this. Every sweep of course tape reveals him just one corner behind. Logic is lost in my inebriated brain: the pulse of hydrogen ions flow out of my muscles and blur my vision. I’m scared of the last curb – don’t make a fool of yourself. I don’t, and now I celebrate. Tentatively letting go of the bars and wobbling upright. What to do with your hands? I salute, brake, break. Bent over. Hurting. Good solid productive Saturday afternoon hurt.
Until next week friends.