Today was wet and cold. But mainly fast.
In the still-dark morning, Tony, Mike, and myself drove to the race course in Tony’s tiny red Toyota truck. The bed was packed with wheels, bikes, and backpacks, which left only a tiny space in the rear seat for Mike to cram himself into. As we approached the race course, which is situated about half way from Corvallis and Eugene, it began to rain. In the period of 20 minutes, the temperature dropped at least 15 degrees. Rumors of snow on the finish climb began circling the covered basketball court where about 40 people sat on trainers, protected from the increasing rain.
Luckily enough, it stopped raining for the start of the cat 1/2 race.
Right from the beginning, the pace was high. Feeble attempts at breaks went and were reeled back in by the power house teams–Hagen Berman’s, CMG, Livestrong, and others. For the most part, the roads out there were clean and had few potholes. Trees lined the wet road. I can’t really explain the scenery in more detail than that because during the hilly, 43 mile, hour and 45 minute race, my eyes were glued to whatever wheel was in front of me.
The first true pain came at the middle climb. 1000 feet at a very high speed. We tore around the sharp corners and riders began dropping off in groups of five and ten. I had made the mistake of starting the climb near the back of the peloton, and paid for it by the end of the climb. As I passed struggling riders–myself struggling as well–I glanced down at my computer and saw 23mph. At one point I looked down again while I was “soft pedaling” during a slight decline in the gradient and saw 350 watts. I was well above 400 watts for the majority of the climb. A gap formed and I watched, helplessly, as about 15+ riders began the decent without me. But I was in a small group of other guys and we caught back on with a few minutes of work.
By then it was getting very windy and it began raining and sleeting. A break got away with about 10 guys. All were eventually caught.
The next half hour was a blur. I was in pain during the short climbs and sucking wheels like Hoover vacuum cleaner. We approached the final climb and the pace went up through the roof. I managed to stay with the pack though, and eventually began passing people. I thought there were 2 or 3 miles left in the race, and was making progress on the lead guys. The speed was fast, but not super fast. I was at about HR 185, around my threshold, and figured I could hold that pace for at least 2 miles. As I rounded a bend, I was shocked and very disappointed to see the finish line 50 meters ahead. I sprinted past a couple more guys and finished in 21st place–13 seconds behind the lead guys. There were no 3k or 200M to go markers, and it messed me up big time. Now I am sitting in 16th overall, 49 seconds behind the leader. Whatever.
I rode down to the start, freezing my ass off, and got the truck back up to the finish line for Mike and Tony. Mike had been dropped after being in a break away in the 3 field and Tony had been dropped from the cat 4/5 field during the 1000 foot climb.
We began the long trip home. It was a loooonnnnngggg car ride back to Eugene–3+ hours. On HWY 99, just leaving Junction city, we noticed a polite elderly redneck in a white truck (redneck according to Tony) pointing to the back of our pickup. We soon realized that something had fallen out. Tony pulled to the side of the highway, along with the elderly man in the truck, and he said, “you boys lost a wheel.” Each of our stomaches sank, praying that it wasn’t OUR wheel that flew out the back of the pickup on highway 99 at 70 miles an hour. It was my wheel. I let out a calm, but angry “FUCK.” I started running back down the highway as the other two guys got back in the truck and headed down the other side of the highway. It began to rain harder.
After running for a good 15 minutes, I caught up with Mike and Tony. Apparently Mike’s brand new Zipp had flown out also, but they found it in perfect condition. My wheel was nowhere in sight. Now I was getting worried. The wheel wasn’t exceptionally expensive. Just a cheap, factory built open pro. But there was an SL 2.4 power tap hub in the middle of that wheel. I let out a somewhat louder “FUCK!” I was very mad.
We spent the next 3 hours driving up and down the road, going all the way back to the race start. No luck. We stopped at Arby’s for an overpriced sandwich. We were bonking at this point in the drive. Tony and Mike had long since given up hope, but I wouldn’t take no for an answer. Because there is no way I could afford a new hub. We got out and began walking in the grass and garbage along the side of the road. Tony headed back to the car. Mike turned back to the car. I kept going, and saw a cool piece of rubber pipe that looked like it would make a good blackberry whacking stick. I went over to it and there, sitting in plain view on a slightly raised clump of grass, was my wheel. Victory. I grabbed it and ran with it along the highway, holding it above my head, yelling for joy as cars blared their horns.
The wheel was destroyed, but the hub was fine. Finally the long day seemed to be over. We could now go back and EAT. And rest. Coming back into Eugene, we were following a big, black SUV. The driver rolled down their window and threw a piece of trash out. We all gave a, “oh come on! WTF mate?” Deciding it was our one chance to catch up to a litterer (being in a car as aposed to riding bikes) we thought it would be a good idea to flip the driver off. As we pulled up next to him and gave him the finger, he rolled his window down to have a word. I rolled my window down and we argued for a few seconds, while still driving. I noticed that he had a big wad of spit saved up in his mouth and was pretty sure that he was about to spit at me, so I saved up a bit of my own and when he did spit, I let fly as well. He drove off and we all had a little chuckle. A few minutes later, when we came to a stop light, we saw him across from us a couple lanes over. We waved at him, which provoked him to get out of his SUV, walk across two lanes of traffic, and attempt to open Tony’s diver side door. I got out, thinking he was going to hit Tony, and we “got all up in each other’s face’s.” He was a big guy, about 6’4″ and 250+ pounds and looked like a linebacker. He said, “nobody spits on my car.” To which I replied, “uhhh, YOU actually spit at US first…after littering.” The guy didn’t care to hear my logic and attempted to shove me. I stepped to the side slightly and gave him a shove back, not really believing this was happening because of a small piece of litter. The light turned green and he returned to his car. Maybe next time he’ll think twice before littering. Probably not.
We stopped at Life Cycle to get a replacement wheel and Gild (my coach) heard what had happened and was furious that I would risk getting in a fight, especially in the midst of a stage race. I guess it was a bad idea.
Anyways, Geoff gave me a wheel off his bike and did a tune up on my shifting (thanks Geoff) before we finally got home and ate. And ate. And ate.
PS I didn’t proof read so sorry for the gramatiical erors.