2nd Person

You, second from the right.  Don’t worry, you didn’t race in knee warmers and all those warm clothes.  You wouldn’t embarrass your Belgian teammates like that.

Imagine you’re asked to do a race the evening before.  A teammate’s mother comes knocking on your door, requesting you race the next day at another Interclub, supposedly a hard one that just a few days ago was a “Belgian-only race,” which you weren’t invited to.  Of course you say yes, despite your nagging cough that you’ve had since the beginning of August.  After all, you’re in Belgium to race, not to sit around playing Grand Theft Auto and reading books on the back lawn.  In preparation for the race, you make sure you’re bike is ready.  Looking at it, you shrug your shoulders and deciding that the ripped bar tape will have to do since the shop is closed.  Then you pack your bag for tomorrow.  1 liter of lemon soda for after the race.  1 bottle of whey protein for afterwards.  Two flasks of sugar.  Three cookies in tin foil.  Rain clothes.  Safety pins.  That’s about it.

The next day you wake up at 7:00 when you hear your roommate, Jake, rummaging about downstairs, eating breakfast and readying for his race in Holland.  You don’t have to wake up for another couple hours, so you turn your lap top on and set the alarm clock app to 9:00.  You go back to sleep.

As you walk out the door with your bike and your backpack, you realize that the bad weather your heard pounding on the roof earlier in the morning will most likely stick around for the rest of the day.  The trees are blowing violently in the wind.  Rain, earlier, has made the roads slick.  The warm, sunny skies of yesterday are gone.  You ride your bike a half block to the bike shop, where Patrick is supposed to pick you up at 10:00 with the mini bus.  No one is at the shop.  It’s 9:55.  You lean your bike up against the bike shop and pace back and forth for a few minutes until the sprinkling starts up again.  Great.  You’re going to be soaked before the race starts.   At least there will be no shock to the system when the racing gets underway.

The sprinkling turns into misting rain, which turns into light rain, which turns into rain blowing sideways in the wind.  At this stage you move behind the shelter of a tall team truck in the parking lot.  Making yourself flat against its side, you’re completely out of the rain now.  The wind is blowing so hard the horizontal downpour is blocked entirely by the truck.  You’re stuck there.  It’s 20 minutes past 10 and you begin to think that there’s been a mix up and either you’re laptop’s time zone was set incorrectly and it’s 11:20, not 10:20, or that no one was informed that you were supposed to be picked up.  You decided to ride back to your house.  You’re now soaked.

Patrick comes to your door 10 minutes later and drives you to the race.  You arrive at the race, over two hours early.  You sit in the van for an hour, putting on all the clothes you own and listen to your ipod as countless people access the back of the van and walk away without closing the double doors, letting in cold air.  Eventually you go out and realize it’s slightly warmer outside.

The race starts.  You’ve been told there’s a nasty steep cobbled climb one kilometer into the race.  You had tried finding it during your warm up, but after 40 minutes gave up.  So instead you do a sidewalk attack in the neutral roll out and chop 80 people, arriving near the front just in time for the race to begin.  Your legs feel good.  The climb approaches.  There’s a wide downhill road, also partially cobbled, leading into the cobbled climb, which is wide and has sidewalks that are non-cobbled, meaning everyone tries to ride on the sidewalks, forcing the spectators to make themselves narrow against the retaining wall.  You make it over the 20% grade in an okay position, though you realize you rode on the cobbles at the front too long and lost positioning and extra energy by doing so.  Next lap you know how to do it.  There are 10 laps in total; the first one is all about learning the course and staying near the front yo make any splits that occur.  The rain starts.  Actually, if your memory serves correct, the rain started a few minutes before the race began.  The rain REALLY starts now, coming down full blast.  Good thing you chose the clear lenses for your glasses.

The next 20 minutes of the race are slightly downhill and flat with a few uphill bumps and many tight turns on super narrow roads.  The pack is strung out for almost all of it, especially with the rain coming down so heavily.  Everyone takes the corners extremely cautiously, braking hard before them and sprinting out.  Gaps open.  You feel your rear tire slip out around a corner.  How?  You were barely moving!  You sprint back onto the wheel in front after the corner and continue moving up in bursts when you can.

Happy with your positioning at last, you breath a sigh of relief as you know that if there’s a split during this downpour, you’ll be in it, sitting 15th out of the 180 riders.  Only half a lap done, but you’re feeling a bit shaky.  Shaky is not the right word.  Whatever the word is, you’re not feeling 100%.  You’re breathing too hard for this early in the race.  You cough up snot.

You crash in a corner as your rear wheel slides out on the slick pavement and your front goes into the rear wheel in front of you.  Landing on your already-injured side and tearing off half the bandage on your hip.  The other half is ground into your re-opened scab, which just grew by 70% in diameter.  You have enough time to think that you might as well crash on the side that already has the road rash.  No sense in messing up both sides of your body.

You hop up fast, and grab hold of your bike as people pass you on both sides.  No one crashes into you.  Since you were up at the front you have plenty of time to hop back on the bike and still be mid pack by the time you’re up and going again.

Second lap and you go into the cobbled descent and climb mid pack.  It’s a mess, with people in the middle of the road trying to get out of the cobbles and onto the sidewalks on either side.  The cobbles are slick and slow, the sidewalk is cluttered with hedges, cracks, and spectators.  It abruptly ends in a few places too.  You yell at the guy in front of you to move as he seems to be unable to make up his mind on which sidewalk to head towards.  He chooses the closer one on the left and  hops/barges in line.  You, sensing that you’re maybe not quite fit to be racing, decide to just stick it out in the cobbles for the time being and not worry about making it over in the top half.   A large pile up on the left hand sidewalk leaves you happy with your choice.  So many people now behind you.  Good.  Now the climb begins, that was just the approach.

After the climb you take all the corners in the rain even slower this time and you resist your bike’s recently-learned desire to crash.  Good thing you didn’t put on new bar tape yesterday.  You have trouble breathing now.  Your lungs feel asthmatic, which translates into your legs feeling dead.  Pretty soon you sense that you’re near the back of the strung-out peloton since there are maybe 40 or 50 fewer riders in it already.  You continue racing, though your heart is no longer in it.  At last you realize that continuing will prolong your cough and sub-par performances and what you really need is to fully get over this cold.  You pull the pin.  No, you don’t pull the pin just quite yet.  You sprint around the guys who just let the gap open up, get back onto the tail end of the single-file line and stay there for another minute.  You don’t want to be taken out of the race because you were gapped off.  Now that you’re back in, you can take yourself out.

You ride to the cobbled climb, backwards on the course which takes twice as long (dumb), to let the team sougnier know you’re done with the race.  The sun comes out.  You eat a cookie.  You can either sit in the van for three more hours and get a lift home (which will take another hour as well) or you can ride home in an hour and a half by yourself.  You decide to ride home at a slow pace, despite not really knowing where you are.  You get home an hour later than expected due to getting lost.  Now you must rest and not race or even ride until the cough goes away entirely, because you don’t want to waste another month being sick.  The next day you go to the pharmacy again and buy another bottle of cough syrup.

I don’t always crash, but when I do I choose uphill. Sometimes.

A few days ago Kennett decided that he’d write in the third person for the rest of his life since he had grown bored of writing in the first.  Although he knew this couldn’t possibly last for the rest of his life, he decided to give it a try.  Then, upon taking a quick reflection on what he’d just written, he noticed that even today he’d accidentally reverted to the first person in the title of his most recent blog post.  The first person had been ingrained in his mind.  Kennett wasn’t sure why.  What was the point of having all these different persons (1st, 2nd, 3rd) anyways?  In the end they all had the same thing to say.

The Wervik interclub was a 170km race held an hour’s drive from Oudenaarde, the home base of the ASFRA Flanders team and Kennett’s apartment, which was located 100 meters down the street from the Flanders bike shop.  Kennett woke at 8:45, made a massive bowl of oats with rice pudding, three eggs, salt, and a spoon of butter.  He ate all but the last few bights.  He didn’t want to be too full for the race.  It was going to be hard if it was anything like last year.

Crisis number one of the day occurred at the shop where the team was supposed to meet and leave at 10:00.  But the last person to drive the team van hadn’t returned teh van keys to the cup holder in the door where they normally sat.  The problem was eventually solved 50 minutes later when a handful of random keys had been brought out from the bike shop with the hope that maybe one of them would start the van up.  After all, the real van key fit so loosely in the ignition that it regularly fell out while driving.  With a bit of luck, one of they keys worked and the team got underway.

Wervik had five “categorized” climbs with KOMs, all of which were in between kilometer 65 and 85.  The first two came back to back.  The Monteberg was a paved, not even that steep of a lump that flattened out at the top for a kilometer before heading down hill.  The downhill was short and the course took a 180 degree turn that shot straight up the Kemmellberg, a steep cobbled climb.  The next climb was the Rodeberg, a stair-step paved climb that was also really steep.  After that it was one more time up the Monteberg and Kemmellberg before the  race headed back to Wervik for three long finishing circuits.  The rest of the course was on small, rolling farm roads with wind.  Just over half of the 200 starters would finish.  Kennett enjoyed such days.

Kennett entered the day with a plan.  He knew what the course was like and how the race would most likely go since he’d done it the year before, though the locals had been doing it for years, so maybe Kennett’s plan was pretty well known.  The pace would start out fast and be strung out until the break was established, most likely around 50 kilometers.  Then the pack would slow down for a few minutes before the panicked 15 kilometer sprint to the base of the first climb began.  Then the field would split over the first time up the Kemmellberg and that right there would be the race, with the first 10 or 15 over the Kemmellberg breaking off and merging with the breakaway.  Kennett knew he could stay with the best on the Kemmellberg, so long as he was positioned well going into it.

The race went exactly as Kennett predicted, sort of.  Okay not really.  He attempted to stay up near the front in the beginning, though he did eventually drift a bit too far back.  His legs felt good though, despite still coughing from a cold.  He could move up whenever he wanted except for when it was completely strung out in the wind.  About 50K into the race the chase of the early breakaway was abandoned.  It was a large group of 15; Kennett expected they’d be brought back during the climb-heavy section of the race.  Heading through a town a few kilometers before the climbs, Kennett was positioned well.  The hard part, of course, was maintaining the position.  At the very last moment, he sprinted around 40 guys to chop them all and enter the final 90 degree corner in first position.  Next was a downhill that lead into the first climb.  Someone crashed on his right as he tried moving up in the gutter.  So far Kennett’s positioning was to the T.

20 guys came around on the downhill, which Kennett knew was perfect.  They started the Monteberg with Kennett tucked in away from the wind.  He moved up three or four times as surges came around.  He hit the top of the climb 15th, five or 10 more passed him on the one-minute descent when he braked to avoid hitting a van parked on the left.  They turned the 180 degree corner at the base of the descent and went straight up the 20% Kemmellberg.  Kennett took the lower part of the climb easy, making sure he could surge at the top if necessary.  He was always amazed at how terrible a lot of the guys in Belgium were at riding on cobbled climbs.  Half of them swerved about and looked like they were about to fall off.  Kennett went by these ones quickly, fearing they’d crash him in one of their violent bodily jerks.  Only 10 were in front of him now.  He began going hard.  No only two were in front as they reached the top, both were haggard, barely pedaling when the cobbles ended and they hit the pavement near the top.  Kennett decided he might as well make everyone else behind him suffer as much as possible, so he nailed it over the very top of the climb as it flattened out.  He kept it up on the false flat descent for the next couple hundred meters.  Two guys had managed to grab onto his wheel.  The front of the peloton was now broken into small groups of twos threes and fours as they hit the fast, technical part of the descent, still on a road no wider than a bike path.

After the descent a group of ten formed, which slowly swelled to 20.  Before long it likely contained fifty or sixty guys, Kennett had never looked back though so he couldn’t be sure.  Now was the time to be super attentive.  There was another longer climb a few kilometers after the Kemmellberg descent and Kennett bridged across solo to five guys that had attacked at the base of it.  The effort put him deep in the box.  He wouldn’t come out for a long time.

But the effort was well worth it.  Five or six more guys bridged and the 10 of them all worked to stay away until the top of the next steep climb, the Rodeberg, where an additional ten guys managed to bridge across to them.  This would be the winning move.  All Kennett had to do now was smash it up the Kemmellberg again and help shatter the group back down to 10 or 15, then roll through for the next 30 kilometers to town, where there’d be three long circuits, each 15K long or so.  Things would break up on the circuits of course, but by then they’d have caught the breakaway and at least Kennett would have a good shot at the top 10, maybe even win if he played his cards right.  Yes sir, Kennett was getting pretty excited as his group rolled up the Monteberg for the second time.  Then he crashed.

It wasn’t a hard crash and he only got a bit of road rash, but he instantly knew that it had ended his bid for the podium.  He’d hooked bars with another rider when the other guy had swerved to take a feed from one of his sougniers on the side of the road.  “Fucking idiot,” Kennett had yelled as he crashed.  Race over, well metaphorically race over.  He got back on, got off.  Put his chain on.  Got back on again, tightened his shoe which had almost come off, loosened his bakes all the way since the wheels were rubbing, then got caught by the pack, which was only a minute behind at that point.  He was completely demoralized and shot all the way to the back during the rest of the Monteberg climb.  Fuck this race, he thought.  One minute he’d been in the winning move, the next at the back of the 100 riders that were left in the field.  Well shit, he thought.  Might as well keep riding hard.  So he smashed it up the Kemmellberg to stay in the main group, then stuck near the front up the next climb as guys drilled it in the crosswind after the Kemmell descent.  Pretty soon it was just Kennett and one other big guy.  Two bigguns. So that’s how things were gonna be, eh?  This is where the race to be in the second group had formed the year before.  Best to start it rather than be left behind, so they rolled together for the next 15 minutes as the pack chased.  Kennett took a wrong turn at one point, did a quick U-turn and got back onto the other guy’s wheel.  They got caught.

As the peloton reached the finishing circuits and the race for the top 30 was obviously over, large groups snuck away as guys on the front sat up and blocked.  Kennett made some hard efforts to leap frog up and finished well and truly depleted.  Later he learned that the group he had been in when he’d crashed had been whittled down to 10 riders, probably over the Kemmellberg where Kennett would have CRUSHED it had he been there.  The break had also been cut down to 10 or fewer guys, but those 10 survived to the line.  Strange; the early move is almost always caught.  So in the end Kennett wouldn’t have been going for the win, just 10th.  That made him feel a little better about crashing out.  A little.  He thought it was a good day though, and was happy how his legs had felt.  The next day he went on an easy ride and stole a bunch of carrots from a big field.  Then he took those carrots and fed them to two horses.  One horse bit him on the arm when Kennett ran out of carrots.  True story.  The end.

What a breeze

As Kennett finished up his cold shower to cool down before bed, he wondered why he’d made a gigantic pot of hot soup for dinner.  Of all the things you don’t want to eat on a hot day, soup is probably on the very top of that list, and Kennett was well aware of that.  For Belgium, 95 degrees is just about as hot as it gets, and to make the living situation all that much more unbearable, Kennett and his housemates were living in an apartment that was designed to trap heat.  And flies.  And at nighttime, mosquitos.  The building’s thick concrete walls and lack of windows were of benefit during the fall, winter, spring, and about three quarters of the days during the summer, but on the rare occasions that it was above freezing, the Belgian commode was a sweat house.

But Kennett wasn’t worried about this.  He’d spent a solid two months earlier in the year purposefully riding during the hottest parts of the day in 90 to 105 degree heat, acclimating for super hot race days that never really ended up materializing…but he was very well heat acclimated nonetheless.  He’d made the bulk of the soup out of carrots, onions, and potatoes, all of which he’d gathered on various days from certain farmer fields surrounding the city.  Also in the soup, he threw in a little flour to thicken it up, a chicken bullion cube, pepper, Italian seasoning, a can of salmon, an egg, and some white cheese sauce.  The soup turned out to be a grand slam, as they say, and he and one of his roommates, David, each had a few bowls while watching a bike race on TV.  The sweat was literally dripping off Kennett’s face into the soup as he hunched over the steaming bowl.  Flies buzzed around his head, yearning for a chance to land on his eye or maybe up his nose.  Anywhere to really piss him off.

Hours later, after the soup had digested and after his cold shower, Kennett made his way up to his room for sleepy time.  As he went up the stairs he could feel the air temperature increasing the higher he went.  Kennett knew that this was because hot air is less dense than cold, which is why the sun, being way far up there, is so hot.  Kennett made it up the stairs and entered the narrow hallway.  Hot.  He walked down to the end of the hallway.  Hotter.  He opened the door to his room.  Hottest.  Kennett had been forced to abandon his old room a few days ago when the room’s rightful owner returned from a long trip.  Being the second newest member of the apartment, Kennett had to move into the Gimp room (the middle room/closet situated underneath the attic stairwell).  The gimp room is also referred to as the Harry Potter Cupboard.  It has no window, not electrical outlets, the door doesn’t close all the way, and the bed-frame is so creaky that Kennett decided to get rid of it and just lay the mattress on the floor, which, since he’d been without a bed-frame for some years, Kennett was accustomed to.  Kennett didn’t mind the Gimp room since the alternative was the couch downstairs, which David was now sleeping on, or moving to the Zingem apartment, which is on a whole nother level of uncomfortable and stressful.

Kennett closed the door to the Gimp room, carefully checking to make sure the extension cord running underneath the door coming in from Jake’s room wasn’t pinched, and got into bed.  Just a few nights before, Kennett would have been dreading the first seven hours of sleep in this infernal room.  Even his last room with the window was miserable to sleep in because of the mosquitos and heat.  But tonight, Kennett eased onto his comfortable mattress with a smile on his face.  This boy had a trick up his sleeve!

Kennett looked back on his life and thought about the greatest purchases he’d ever made (discounting sandwiches of course).  At age 10 or 11 he’d bought his first stand up surfboard, an orange and blue tri-fin that he never quite mastered.  At age 13 or so he’d bought his first play boat (a type of white water kayak).  It was a Centrifuge, and was probably the best piece of sports equipment Kennett had ever owned if you don’t count bikes.  At age 18, Kennett bought a pair of Mad Rock Locos, at the time a pretty radically-shaped bouldering-specific rock climbing shoe.  Also at age 18 he’d bought a plane ticket to Costa Rica, where he traveled the country in a semi-circle on his mountain bike for a month before heading to college.  At age 21 he’d bought a pair of winter Shimano road shoes, which kept his feet slightly warmer than the average road shoe during the many colds rides over the next five years of winter training.  At age 24 Kennett bought the ingredients for one of the best sandwiches he’d ever made, which included an expensive loaf of artisan bread, dry salami, pastrami, two kinds of chee–wait.  Kennett had gotten side-tracked and forgot that he was discounting sandwiches.  He moved on to the next purchase.  At age 26, Kennett topped all of those things with the greatest purchase of his life.  A 15-euro fan, the cheapest one they had at the fan store, yet the finest fan Kennett had ever owned.

With the fan, Kennett could find peace anywhere.  It stifled the heat, it sliced up the mosquitos, it silenced the sound of Jake masturbating in the next room….it did it all.  It could rotate.  It had three settings.  Actually four settings if you include Off.  It was lightweight, had a cool white glossy paint job, and it came with a two-year warranty.  Kennett saved the packaging so he could return it at the end of his stay.


Damn mosquitos

Mosquitos and caffeine kept me awake for most of last night.  It’s surprisingly hot here in Belgium right now, not Colorado hot, but still warm.  Sleeping is difficult.  I brought a small fan with me from home but it started smoking and blew up within 30 seconds when I first plugged it in a month ago.  Since there are no window screens on the windows, I try to leave the one to my room shut for as long as possible while I’m laying in bed, soaking into my sweat-drenched mattress.   I think I spent so much time being damp last night that I started to prune.  I opened the window eventually since the mosquitos had gotten into my room through the crack under the door, and the cool air did help, but the incessent buzzing by the increase of mosquito activity drove me mad.  Like most nights, I ended up putting on my carpentry headphones to silence the noise and let the mosquitos bight me while I lay there, completely naked without even a sheet covering me.  At least I can’t hear them.  But when you’re that exposed to mosquitos, you begin worrying that they’ll get to your private parts and start biting where you’d prefer they not.  It’s one thing to have an insect suck blood from your arm, it’s another to have it suck blood from your…is it gay if a male mosquito sucks blood from your…anyways, I usually end up covering that area with the corner of my sheet.

What was really keeping me awake was the massive jolt of caffeine I’d taken in yesterday’s race.  The race was in Lessines again, with a different course that had a lot more climbing (at least for Belgium it was a lot).  I got my legs warmed up with an attack over the top of the first climb, and kept the attacks flowing for the next three or four of the nine laps.  Nothing was sticking for more than a lap, if that, and I decided to try to conserve a bit more and just follow what I thought were the dangerous moves.  I didn’t want to be fully depleted like last race, just in case things got really hard in the end.  The field was a bit bigger and stronger than Tuesday, but I was feeling stronger as well, and also less sick than Tuesday.  It’s amazing what a couple days on the bike and a few extra days of recovering from an illness will get you.

With two laps to go I felt even more powerful and fresh than I had at the start of the race.  Deep down I had that feeling that I was going to win, and with the way I was feeling at the end I knew there was a good possibility of it, as long as I didn’t miss out on the move that I was sure would go on one of the hills or the descents after them.  I couldn’t contain myself, and attacked like crazy for two laps straight, hardly even feeling it.  I hope this is just the beginning of some good form that will last for the rest of the time I’m here in Belgium.

I went again and again on the twisting, rolling, descent through one of the towns, normally a place where splits usually occurred and stuck for a while.  Nothing stuck this time.  I could have kept attacking, but decided to sit in the pack and rest for the final three kilometers to the finish, since the remaining pack of 50 still seemed motivated to keep things together for a field sprint.  As luck would have it, the winning move of a handful of guys slipped off the front right by me once I was caught and three of them ended up just barely staying away to win.  As we approached the final kilometer I’d picked out a guy who I knew was strong and thought would contest the sprint.  I held his wheel until I realized we were still too far back.  I moved up on the side through town.  700 meters to go.  I went into the wind on the outside,  up against a carnival of rides, food stands, and a pony ride.  I continued coming around on the left, squeezing by with a foot or two separating me and the petting zoo.  I braked and yelled when someone merged into me.  I lost speed and my 15, and ended up 23rd (which is five euros of prize money less than a top 15).  I was really pissed that the race had ended that way with me missing out on the little move at the end and then not even being there for the field sprint.  I was pumped full of adrenaline and let it out with a roar and slammed my fist on bars after we crossed the line, angry that I’d done all that attacking and nothing had come of it.  I looked for someone to punch.  And then I calmed down.  There’s another race on Saturday that has even more hills to weed out the guys sitting in…which, just now, I decided I shouldn’t race since my cold has taken turn for the worse after the race.  It was just on the verge of being completely gone until I raced yesterday and Tuesday.  This is a re-occurring theme.  I have a big point to point race on Tuesday that I need to be healthy for.  That is all.


Running on fumes in Lessines

I’ve been fairly sick ever since Namur, laying low for all of it and generally hating life.  Belgium is the worst place to get a cold, for many reasons.  The first is that the only reason I’m here is to race, so not being able to is extremely frustrating.  The other reasons Belgium is a terrible place in which to get sick: 1) over-the-counter medication is extremely expensive here, 2) fruit and veggies are expensive here too, 3) EVERYTHING is filthy, at least in the slums I’ve stayd at, 3) there’s nothing on TV, 4) the internet is slow and goes out for days at a time, and 4) everyone else is going to races and having fun in the sun all day long, making me even more depressed!

I put it all behind me yesterday at my first race back.  It was a kermess in Lessines, a two-part series that commences tomorrow with the overall winner taking home a solid chunk of change.  Entering the day I knew that my legs wouldn’t be 100% since I’m still coughing up mucus and I hadn’t ridden very much in the last week, but just getting to race was a small victory in itself.  I drove the ‘mini bus’ out there by myself.  I got lost for a while but made it there on time, running on fumes as I pulled into the parking area.  After a 30 minute warm up I took my place for the start.  I had previously decided to be pretty conservative since I was still recovering and didn’t want to hinder my immune system too much.  Once the race started I forgot about that completely and followed moves and attacked for the first five of the 12 laps.  On lap five or six it began to rain.  I was near the front of the pack leading into a series of 90 degree corners through town and my front wheel slid out for a fraction of a second.  I took another corner and the rear wheel slid out.  I realized my choice of tire pressure (125 psi) and tires (one brand new front tire and one tire from 1997 on a borrowed rear carbon-esque race wheel) probably weren’t the best of choices for an oil and rain-soaked technical course.  The next lap I was on the front leading into this section, just in case some idiot thought about crashing in front of me.  I was going about 9 mph, taking the corner like a 98 year-old might steer a bulldozer in first gear…really slowly.  My rear wheel slid out, I unclipped and tried really hard not to go over the sidewalk curb.  I kept upright and came to a stop about three inches from the curb.

I debated whether or not it was worth continuing, seeing as though it was mainly me who was having difficulties in that corner and no one else due to my plastic rear tire.  But maybe the rain would stop and the road would dry up?  I continued.  We caught the break.  Another large group got away and dangled.  The rain let up.

A lap later I attacked during the main “climb” of the race, which was a tiny roller that actually hurt really badly every time.  I got away and was soon joined by two others.  The three of us drilled it as hard as we could for the next half lap until we caught the lead group.  The 13 of us would stay away to the finish.

With five laps to go I still felt good and did more than my fair share of the work since all I wanted out of this was to make the winning move and have it stick for once.  I shouldn’t have opted for this decision since I ended up riding myself out of the break.  Guys were letting gaps open and doing half attacks the whole time, with me never shying to pull through, but with two laps to go the real attacks started and I was already out of legs.  I continued covering too many moves and attacking for that second to last lap and all of a sudden realized I was in real danger of getting popped.  Entering the final lap, the break was split up into groups of two to six and there was no where to sit on and recuperate.  I came off with 7k to go and took 13th, for what I think is the first time I’ve been last out of the break.  Pretty unsatisfying, but at the same time it just felt good to be really hurt and tired again.  If only the States had hammer session races like this.  We’d all be a lot faster.

On the way home I stopped at two more gas stations (I’d attempted to get gas on the way there too) but both stations were only accessible with credit cards.  I plowed on in the mini bus, going 20 mph uphill and coasting downhill in neutral, gaining speed and carrying it through corners to near tipping-point.  The gas light had been on for at least five minutes before I got to the race and the drive home was around 32 kilometers.  The mini bus doesn’t get a lot of miles to the gallon.  I actually expected to be ditching it on the side of the road and riding my bike home, but I spent enough time coasting so that it really only had to drive like 16 K.  I made it back home and parked it in front of the team bike shop down the street.  Tomorrow is the second day of Lessines and I’m ready for round two, the mini bus I’m not so sure.

Tour de Namur 2012

Once I arrived in Belgium I spent the better part of a week recovering from travel and getting ready for the Tour of Namur. It’s a five-day stage race with hills, crosswind, and the best field of any race I’ll do here this year.

Namur Stage 1.

Belgium: Hello, Kennett.
KP: Hello, sir. Sorry to disturb you?
Belgium: Get on your knees and do what comes natural like.
KP: Yes, sir.
Belgium: Swallow.
KP: Gulp.

Touted as one of the easier stages, stage number one was by far the hardest race I’ve done this year. I finished 52nd after a whole lot of suffering and staring at the wheel in front of me, and later the ground, and then even later my handlebars, and then later, just a few times, the backs of my eyelids as I desperately held the wheel.

I felt like a novice for the first 20K (whole race really), losing position on descents and braking hard when no brakes were needed. There’d been a large crash right in front of me during the first kilometer of the neutral roll out through town, which I’d barely escaped. But mainly my nerves were wound up from the tight roads and aggressive positioning that’s the European style. It felt like ages since I’d last raced, even though it was just 10 days ago that I finished Cascade.

One crazy guy chopped me pretty hard in a corner, taking the inside line over a patch of bad pavement, skidding his rear tire through the gravely corner and narrowly missing a metal pole. All just to gain a few places. Crazy fucking Belgians…I mean Steve Fischer, my Hagens teammate who’s racing with the US National team. He was on it today. Hagens Chop!

Finally up at the front, I put in an attack at kilometer 21. It was short lived since the other guy wasn’t very committed, but we would have been eaten up soon anyways. At least it was good for the confidence. Today was fast. 100 miles in less than four hours. Most of Belgium is pretty flat, but not the southern, French-speaking region of Wallonie, where this race is held. It was up and down all day, and windy. Like I said, the roads were tight, pot-holed and cracked, involved technical descents, and more canopy than I like (similar to the Schleck brothers, I don’t care for too much canopy during my races). The race even threw in a few short cobles through various towns, and it was crucial to be near the front, especially during the screaming fast descents leading into the towns, where there’d be 10 corners within 600 meters, the final one being a 180 degree corner straight up the next steep climb. All day er day. It never seemed to end. Basically right after the second KOM it was ON. Guys were blowing up all the time too, meaning there were constant gaps to close.

I’d made the front group of about 70 up the second big climb, which was the steepest and longest, but not the most painful. After all, I’d sprinted for the KOM, even though I sprinted way too early and missed the actual KOM by one kilometer. I felt okay for about 80% of that climb, and then I began deteriorating over the top, false flat section and went all the way to the back of the pack. From there I dangled near the rear for the next 30 kilometers, losing position on the steep descents, taking corners poorly through the towns, and making things even more difficult on myself than they needed to be by starting the climbs by sprinting to close down the gap I’d made to the wheel in front of me. I was not on it today in terms of bike handling. And today was a day that was hard enough already.

It was hot here too. “Hot.” Definitely a relative term. It might have been in the upper 80’s. Maybe. But man did I suffer, only drinking three bottles for the first three and a half hours of racing. I’d missed a lot of feed zones and one bottle even popped out of my cage in the first 10 minutes of the race. I was never comfortable enough to go back for bottles, since the course was constantly full throttle. The team car wasn’t with the front group anyways. Luckily I got two bottles right before the finish, otherwise those last 15K would have been hard…er.

I spent a good deal of the middle part of the race praying that the pace would slow down for a bit or we’d get to a flatter section. We were only 70 K in and I was dying a slow and torturous death. If it wasn’t going to slow down, maybe I could just crash in a ditch and take a long nap in the bushes. When thoughts like that enter your head, you know you’re fucked.

I even yo-yoed a couple bike lengths off the back of the group for a few minutes, just barely sprinting back on when I could see the top of the climb we were on. But eventually my legs caught their breath and I sacked up. I didn’t fly all the way over here to get ridden off the wheel in front of me.

All of a sudden I looked up from the ground and saw that a large group was just then sliding off the front on a descent. 40 of us were about to get left behind. Without any true cooperation lasting more than precisely 38 seconds, our group began to shatter to bits as small bridge attempts were made, failed, counter attacked, failed, etc. It took a while, but this strategy somehow worked and eventually we caught up with the front group again. I was feeling better at this point, I think mainly because we were going slower, but I’ll also chalk it up to good endurance. The Belgians like to blow themselves to bits in the first hour or two of a race. My lack of race food was taking its toll though. Used to Hagens bringing nutrition to the race, I only brought a few bits of food with me today. Flanders provides some stuff, but not enough for 160 kilometers of nasty. I’d already eaten most of my 800 calories for the 4000+ kj race. Poor planning.

The next bit of the race, we’ll say around kilometer 90 or 100, was pretty easy compared to the part before and I figured things would stay together here with a big, open flat road and no wind. I made sure to move up near the front though when guys started launching moves. I went with one or two. Nothing came of it.

A small break formed up the road, which all of a sudden became a dangerous looking group as 30 more guys bridged up there, mainly in small groups of three or five. I was following the attacks when this was happening, but somehow managed to miss out on all the moves that actually made it across. How’d this happen anyways? It was flat and slow and this was how I was going to miss out? I could hardly believe. Bad luck or bad race tactics? Either way I was pissed.

We waved our goodbyes to the leaders since no one wanted to cooperate, including me, since for all I knew there was a massive 15% climb just around the next bend. With over a minute gap, the lead group looked to be the winning group, which is actually the case 100% of the time. But I made one more big effort to bridge across as we came into a town and we rocketed up another steep, winding climb. Five guys and I went balls deep and dropped the 30 we were with. We got close, very close, but close doesn’t cut it and we blew ourselves to bits before we got there. The lead group slowly disappeared and the group behind us swelled to 100 before it caught us, now rejoined by other dropped groups on the road who I earlier assumed I’d never see again.

I stole a bottle in a feed zone and took a gulp before I handed it to the guy behind me, who was its rightful owner. In my defense, I didn’t really know who was feeding our team. We have a lot of help here at this race. Like six people, all of whom I’d met either today or the day before and couldn’t necessarily remember their faces while going 30 mph, blurry-eyed, trying not to get dropped in the crosswind. It’s ironic that at Gila I was so well hydrated that I was almost never even thirsty, but here in Belgium I would have paid twenty bucks for a bit of backwash.

With the real race up ahead, I decided that if I wasn’t going to win, I’d better at least be the best of the rest and win my group’s sprint for 46th place. My legs were dying, but with some good positioning it might be possible, or so I thought. The finish, like the rest of the race, was hard. Lots and lots of turns and climbs in the final 10K. I stayed near the front and followed a hard attack that got me into a group of like ten guys. I blew myself to bits for the 90th time that day to latch onto the back of it. By looking at the results, I guess we must have gotten bridged to by like 15 more guys in the last kilometer, but I never looked back. Going 100% all out, and then blowing up 40 meters before the finish line, I could only come around a couple guys. I was 52nd out of 167. 21 abandoned today already, including two guys from my team.

After the race I was super grumpy, mainly from missing the front split when I should have made it, but also from being extremely hungry and thirsty. I drank one and a half tiny cans of coke (one blew up on me) and sat on the ground a little ways past the finish line while my body and mind came back up from Hell.

On my way to the car I stopped and ate a small piece of chocolate I saw on the ground. A woman laughed. (It was still in its wrapper so it wasn’t really like I was eating it off the ground). Then I drank two liters of water. I was hungry enough that I went in search of the USA team and Steve, hoping to beg food off them. I couldn’t find them. Our bags and my food were not with the team car; they were with the van, which was still parked at the start line, many miles away. I rode around being grumpy until one of the other rider’s moms gave me some sort of delicious hand-held pie with egg in it. Then I went and lay in the grass.

We were staying just down the street at a dorm, but no one was quite sure which building it was. Two hours later when we found it and were finally let in, I headed straight for the showers so I could get into bed and sleep the rest of my hunger away. The van wasn’t going to show up for a long time. I found the showers and eventually melted down to the floor. I stayed there for half an hour as the hot water came down. I dried off with a blanket and lay in bed for an hour before the van and our clothes showed up. Then we walked to the cafeteria for dinner and ate a LOT of food. And I was happy once again.

After dinner I got a light massage with what I assume was two full cups of oil. Old folk accordion music drifted up into the open window from down below in the parking lot, where the race officials were celebrating a victorious day with beer and cigarettes. It was quite pleasant. It was already dark and well past 10pm at that point. I showered off the oil and went to bed for what I hoped would be a solid night of sleep. It was, until I woke up drenched in sweat at 1am. Sometimes when it’s warm you fall asleep quickly, but wake up an hour later when you’re way over-heated. Hot sleeping temperature is perfect for taking an hour nap, not for a full night’s sleep. I opened the windows all the way to let the mosquitoes and cooler air in. Window screens have not yet been introduced to Belgium. But what it lacks in 20th century technology, it more than makes up for in badass races. Today was simply awesome.

From left to right: Richard, me, Tim (in black), Tim (rider ), Lawrence, Arne, Bart, Ronny, and Patrick.

Missing a feed.

Namur Stage 2.

Touted again as one of the easier days, the prediction for stage two ended up being truer than yesterday’s. It was still quite hilly, and windy, but it was nothing compared to the day before, meaning I could attack a lot. The cool thing about racing here, at least for the kermesses and this particular stage race, is that there is very little control in the races. Back home in the NRCs, the leader’s team sets tempo all day and usually the hardest part of the race is at the end. Or if there’s a mountain, it’s hard there. Here it’s a free for all and hard for almost the entire race. The leader’s team didn’t do shit today in terms of protecting their guy. In fact, the yellow jersey was attacking from kilometer 0 to kilometer 60 like a bat out of heaven, because a bat would hate heaven due to all the bright lights and would therefore want to leave at a very quick rate.  The leader lost his jersey.

A breakaway formed early in the race right after the first sprint at 4.5K. Their gap never went over a minute for the first two hours of the race, while we all tried our hands at bridging up there. I threw in a good number of attacks and followed a good number too. I thought that one or two of them would have stuck for sure, but nothing worked long term. At one point I bridged a large gap and gained contact with two guys up the road, and we actually got pretty close to the break. 25 seconds is what I was told anyways. But one of the guys wasn’t pulling through very hard or very often and about 20 minutes later we were caught (in defense of the guy who wasn’t pulling hard, he was on the race leader’s team).

It ended up not mattering too much since the break was caught with 50K to go (they just needed three more guys). The final 50K included some KOM point climbs that hurt like usual and a hard tailwind section that forced the peloton into a single file line in the gutter for what seemed like days and days, dropping less of the peloton than I would have expected. A crash right in front of me hit the ground hard during near the end of this section.  We were going fast.  Like 35 mph at least.  I braked and looked for Ian to crash on top of.  Not spotting Ian anywhere, I crashed on some other guy’s soft body, so I was okay. I got real angry after crashing and vowed to win or at least have a good crack at it. I took some chances going through the scattered caravan (where’s Joe Holmes when you need him?) and some more chances while moving back up in the pack to the front for the last 10K. I was taking some short cuts in the smooth part of the gutter that they have over here in some of the roads. It’s like a foot wide and concave, and a good place to move up since a lot of guys don’t want to ride in it for some reason. Possibly from the metal drains.  A parked car emerged around a corner where I didn’t expect it. I swerved off the road in between it and a building and braced for impact with the mirror. Sadly, the impact never came since I managed to make my shoulders very narrow for a quarter second. I was looking forward to breaking that damn mirror right off! I mean, the nerve of that thing getting in my way and all.

The peloton had split up a bit 20 minutes earlier during the tailwind section and one guy survived to the end, so we ended up sprinting for 2nd. Stupidly (very stupidly since we’d passed under the finish banner once before about 30 minutes ago) I did not position well for the sprint. I thought we had another 1.5 K to go but in fact we had 200 meters to go–ooohh, so that’s why the pace went up so hard there! I was heaps too far back, and came in 65th. Man I suck at this whole finishing well thing. (That’s what she—yeah whatever). Yet another opportunity wasted. This is why I could never be part of the NOW—M.S. team.

Things I did better today included bringing thousands upon thousands of calories with me, and attacking like a mofo for the first 90K of the race. Unfortunately these are things that don’t necessarily warrant a good result. The first one will really only decrease your chances of getting dropped, while the second, in fact, might actually increase your chances of getting dropped. Some would say that attacking in the first half is dumb. But everyone told me the move would go early and stay away today! All in all, it was a good day. It was hard, fast, I got my adrenaline pumping at full gas multiple times…just couldn’t finish it off. Happens sometimes. Bike racing is so simple; all you need to do in a race is cross the line first. So why does it seem so complicated? My appetite for Belgian racing is continually increasing with these awesome races. It’s nuts here and I love it.


Our team and the race officials are staying at a huge school dormitory, just 200 meters down the road from the finish of the first stage. It’s located in a tiny little town without a single store, so we’re pretty much stuck here on the ‘campus,’ which includes a few odd cement buildings, an overgrown race track for remote controlled cars, and a cafeteria. There’s no internet, even though the very building we’re staying in says “Internat” on the side of it. So close. Also, I think this is a school for clowns because there’s pictures of circus stuff every where and a big poster board showing a clown performance that all the kids at the school participated in.

I got a TV working on Wednesday and flipped through the 10 or so channels it had before switching it off. TV shows of note were Jersey Shore dubbed in French, so slightly less trashy, Pee-We Herman, and a long segment about our race that day that only showed an official talking to the reporter in front of us as we lined up for the start—no actual racing. But it was still cool to see.

Now onto the important part–the food at the cafeteria where we eat all our meals.

Dinner on day 1: Rabbit leg in a brown sauce (I thought it was chicken). Tatter tots (a fancy version). Salad makings of lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and shredded carrots. Bread slices. HERRING quiche (yeah you heard me right). And for desert there was an extremely sweet pastry thing that was so sweat I could only eat the frosting, which was the least sweat part of it.

Everyone had at least two servings of the main course. I was astonished at how much my teammates, who are all smaller than me, could eat. I’ve actually been getting out-eaten here. And by the smallest guy no less.

Breakfast on day 2: Six-inch lengths of baguettes, cold cuts, cheese, kid’s sugary cereal, raw egg yolk (didn’t have any), sliced bread, butter, chocolate spread, multiple cheese spreads, and jam. I had baguette with the cold cuts and cheese and a bowl of cereal. I also had three coffees and later filled my water bottle with two espressos for my pre-race jolt of caffeine. They have a cappuccino machine, but it’s behind the counter, so unlimited refills are harder to get.

Second breakfast on day 2: This meal was consumed not less than one hour after finishing first breakfast. I was lying on my bed, feeling slightly ill from eating so much baguette and cheese, when the guys started rousing themselves for pasta. Apparently you eat pasta after breakfast here. We all went back to the cafeteria, which was now serving pasta, and they loaded up. I didn’t have any. I couldn’t.

Dinner on day 2: Beef roast, pasta with brown sauce, more baguettes, cantaloupe topped with some sort of smoked salty meat that looked like bacon, the salad fixings just like the day before, the same super sweat gigantic pastry dessert (I didn’t have any this time) and also a crepe that you could get with ice cream (I opted out of the ice cream since one of us HBers had already pulled a Phil earlier in the day—Steve forgot his bibs).

Breakfast on day 3: Same as before, including the same pasta breakfast. The pasta breakfast can be substituted with rice and white sauce. I had a small serving of this.

Dinner on day 3: Chicken, cheesy potatoes, bread, salad, green beans wrapped in a piece of bacon, and crepe for dessert. Again, not quite the ideal meal for a race, but it got the job done.

Breakfast on day 4: Same. I haven’t eaten this much bread in a long time.

Dinner on day 4: Today was a special muscles and frites (fries) dinner that, as it turned out, didn’t start until almost 9pm. I’d gotten to the cafeteria at 7:30 and had been impatiently eating salad and bread while we waited for the main course to be ready. Bart and I began banging our knives and forks on the table to speed the cooks up. The cafeteria slowly filled with a bunch of extra guests that were in some way affiliated with the race. The head race official, who has an extremely raspy ghost of a voice, from what I suspect is smoker’s throat cancer, set up a microphone to make congratulatory announcements while everyone finished their third glass of wine that night (still all buzzed from the beers they’d drank last night, that morning before the race today, and the beers after the race). The four of us racers grew hungrier and more impatient as speeches and applauses were given. I was hungry enough to reach over the sneeze-guard and grab what I thought was a large vanilla pudding. I took a big fork-full (I only had a fork) and immediately realized the warm, salty, white creamy mixture was not pudding. I spat it out and held back vomit. It dribbled down my chin and everyone around me burst out in laughter as I continued hawking it up in a napkin. It was a bowl of mayonnaise for the French fries. I stumbled over to a trashcan to spit and drink water. Who puts mayo in a fancy pudding bowl like that? In large doses mayo is nasty, but it’s pretty good when dabbed with a French fry. Some things are like that.

Breakfast on day 5: Same.

Namur Stage 3.

Touted as the easiest of all the stages, stage three was supposed to stay together with a breakaway going away somewhat early and then getting caught before the finish for a large group sprint. I’m going to stop paying attention to what people have been telling me about the stages, since they obviously don’t know shit and are just talking out their asses.

I felt pretty bad for the first 30-40 minutes of the race and was fairly far back entering the first KOM climb, which wasn’t that hard even from back where I was. My legs were coming around at that point. But some people’s legs weren’t and a gap was opened up either at the top of the climb or the fast descent and rollers through the next town. Approximately 35 riders made this front group, and drilled it over the rolling, crosswind road for the next half hour as the rest of the peloton attempted to regain contact. I would have thought that having the yellow jersey, the sprint jersey, and the young rider jersey in our group would have meant that everything was going to come back together, especially with the gap so small for so long.

When the chase was finally given up with the gap still at 1:22, we rode easier for about 30 minutes.  The gap opened to over four minutes, then we began drilling it again and didn’t stop drilling it until the end. We finished three minutes down.

I’d punctured at around kilometer 100, right after a long cross/tailwind area in the open farm fields. I’d been smart and riding at the front and pulling through since I decided I didn’t have anything better to do and at least that way I wouldn’t get split off again. But the flat tire put that all to an end in an instant. I saw a big, jagged pothole right in front me as I exited a corner and knew that it would ruin my tube. It had an evil look to it and a sharp lip that was hungry for an innocent wheel to fall into.

I got a slow wheel change and the next 20 minutes of the race were the hardest and most panicky of the day. If you’ve ever gone without sex for a year, you know the desperation of a rider who’s off the back in the caravan, struggling in the crosswind and blowing up every three minutes.  I came very close to not making it back on. My chase through the caravan was terrible, with me not getting quite on the bumper (I was a foot off instead of four inches) and the town we were entering for the two circuits was full of hills, technical descending corners, rough road, and wind). I’d pass cars leading into a corner and they’d rocket by me out of it leaving me back in the wind, especially the Canadian national team. They were probably the worst. I went over my limit and had just about thrown in the towel when, miraculously, the peloton was just up ahead cresting a climb. I gave it one last effort and got on with a few pushes off the last couple car mirrors.

We did one and a half more laps of the circuit and that was it; a hard day but for all the wrong reasons.

Getting ready for stage 3.

Namur Stage 4.

Touted as the hardest of the five stages, stage four wasn’t as hard as the first stage, though I’m not sure since I got dropped with 50K to go. After the break was established in the first 10K, the new leader’s team finally set tempo for much of the remaining miles. From then on until I got dropped, it was fairly easy to stay up near the front, assuming you were comfortable pushing and shoving and yelling. The climb that I got shelled on wasn’t even that steep but I just didn’t have much in my legs today, and if it hadn’t been that climb it would have been one of the next three. I spent the rest of the race in a groupetto of 15 and finished nine minutes down. After today I’m looking forward to the end of this stage race since I’m not feeling good anymore. Really my strongest days were the first two. I felt okay on the third, but today I was not myself.  If I have anything at all left for tomorrow, I’m trying for the break. No sense in sitting in since the stage ends with a climb that I wouldn’t stand a chance at with the way I feel now.

Attacking to get to the feed zone first.  Pro.

The finish of stage 4.

Steve.  The man.

Namur Stage 5.

Touted as the final day of Namur, stage five lived up to the hype and was indeed the last day of the race. I had my worst day yet.  Now that the race is over, I can admit to myself that I do have a tiny bit of a cold. I’m sure it will be gone by Wednesday, when I plan on doing my next race. Anyways, stage five started out so ridiculously hard. So hard.  I’d decided to attack straight off and get away in an early move. After riding out of a little city center, the race de-neutralized and I figured the large flat road we were currently on was a fine place to get things going with some attacks. It would be a safe place for it too, since I could recover back in the pack in between attacks with such a big flat road. If we were on a tight, twisty road or going up a hill, I’d have been more careful, especially that early on in the race when I wasn’t warmed up yet (despite doing a 45 minute warm up ride). I should have known we wouldn’t be on that road for more than three kilometers.

I followed a move or two, countered, got brought back, then we immediately turned a corner and went up a hill. I plummeted back through the pack up the hill as my legs failed to recover. At the top of the hill was a long crosswind section where gaps opened up and guys were already giving up. I was near the back after the climb and in the worst place possible as we turned another corner and began a circuit through town. The two guys in front of me let a gap open. I sprinted around them and got onto the wheel. That guy let a gap open. I was done, I couldn’t close another 10 bike length gap with the wind and pace we were going. I was in the cars. I was in and out of the caravan for about five minutes, just barely off the back of the peloton through the downhill, technical section through town. I got back into the group finally.  It was still single file, gaps were still opening up. It was going to be a miracle if I survived.

Long story short, after another 20K I was off the back in the cars again, I had no hope of regaining contact with the group. I was with a small bunch of like 15 riders; our race was done at 40km. The last of the caravan passed us. We worked together after that, somewhat, until the group was down to three of us with 70km to go. I decided to end my race (ride to the finish since we weren’t even going to make time cut) and start resting up for the next race, and hope that I didn’t get a full on cold after today. Following the road signs to Namur, I made my way to the finishing city and got really lost for about half an hour. I ran a red light and a moto cop had been right behind me. He rode past and scolded me with a wag of the finger, then took off. That made my day.

Overall I’m not too upset with the race. It would have been nice had I finished in the top 50 GC, which would have been doable had I sat in the pack more. I made some tactical errors the first three days, but was riding strong. The last two days of the race I felt terrible. I’m not sure if it’s from the slight head cold I have, or if it was just that I went too deep for what I was personally capable of maintaining, especially on that second day, which would have been a lot easier had I sat in. Racing five road races in a row was an eye-opener in terms of what it must be like to race a grand tour. You really have to conserve, and keep in mind that whatever you do today will affect how your legs will feel tomorrow. And tomorrow might be the hardest day. This was way more difficult than an NRC, where you might have five or six days of racing but one or two of them are TTs and one of them is a crit. The style of racing is also way different. I don’t think I’ve ever done so much sprinting and spent so much time in the box as I have this week. I’m now back in Oudenaarde, lying in bed and sipping chicken broth like a dying old man fighting off pneumonia. Seriously, at this point I’m so wrecked a cold could kill me. Maybe I won’t race next until Thursday.