Backwards

For this post I’m going to start at the present and make my way backwards through time, instead of starting at the start and working forward like most readable stories. Here it goes.

.eog ti ereh. seirots elbadaer tsom ekil drawrof gnikorw dna….okay on second thought I’ll allow some exceptions for simplicity reasons.

I’m sitting at the computer right now (I wrote this on Wednesday) sipping on a bowl of hot chocolate before I head to the race today out in Hoegaarden. The best mug was broken a month ago and I don’t like using the other ones because they’re too small and require endless refills to feel satiated. Plus they’re all dirty right now. The downside to using the bowl instead of mug for hot chocolate is that the hot chocolate cools rapidly due to the poor insulation and design of the bowl and it becomes warm chocolate, usually within one and a half minutes. This means I take a few sips, put it back in the microwave, take a few more sips, put it back in the microwave… At this rate I’ll be finished with it in half an hour.

My to-do list today consists of A) breakfast time B) going to a race C) racing D) driving home E) super quick dinner time F) interviewing for a job via a Skype-like invention, so it’s actually a pretty full day, except before noon.  My legs are pretty worked right now. Yesterday (Tuesday) I got back from a three-hour easy ride, not quite bonking but getting that really weak, almost nauseous feeling that lets you know that you’re in bonk territory if you keep things up. I hadn’t eaten during the ride and the races the previous two days were wearing on me.

Monday: I finished my second sardine sandwich wanting another, but deciding against it. It was late, I should just go to bed and dream about breakfast. A couple hours before I’d said goodbye to Will at my door and brought my bike inside, front and rear lights flashing in a trance as I came out of the dark night into the cave that is Jake’s and my home. The ride back from our race began at 8:30 PM, having left from a late race 30km away. Luckily I’d come prepared with lights. Will had just started to feel a bonk approaching with around 25 minutes left to ride and I gave him a waffle, which was the last item of food in my trusty Shimano shoe bag. I hate riding with people who’ve bonked. I don’t necessarily care about the suffering they’re going through, it’s just annoying that they can’t keep up. JK, sort of.

Will and I finally got out of the cafe with my race winnings (10 euros) for my 25th place. Not much, but better than nothing. The race had been hard and my legs were tired from the day before. I considered it a good day of training and a good memory of an evening filled with pain and excitement, though I assume I’ll end up forgetting about it one day, the memory having been used up, sucked dry, nothing left, like a book read too many times, the spine will break and the pages begin falling out as you read them one last time; you crumple the old pages up and toss them in a camp fire that you’re sitting in front of to keep warm and to provide you with light to read by. You can barely make out the words on the pages in the dark, you feed the fire more pages and increase the illuminating flame. The fire will soon be out once the book of old pages is used up, and the memory of everything that has ever happened in your life will be gone to ashes.

I came around him in the last hundred meters and put the brakes on. I came to a halt. I was drenched in sweat despite the cooling air of the late evening; Belgian autumn was approaching. The sweat I was covered in was slimy, dirty, spotted with dead bugs and cow manure, snot, possibly someone else’s snot too. It was the thick kind of sweat that you need a squeegee to scrape off. I coasted around through the crowd slowly making my way to where I’d left my Shimano shoe bag before the race began. I pat a white German Shepherd on the head. The guys racing for first came by with one lap to go. My group had been pulled with two laps to go, sparing us the final 29th and 30th laps of the small, 4km course.

I was done covering moves. Some of these other guys could do it, after all I hadn’t seen any of them doing shit in the first half of the race when it actually mattered.

A group of 10 formed just after the crash in one of the course’s million corners. I hated that one corner specifically, the one with the crash. It was the worst one, requiring you to slow down a huge amount before the gigantic sprint out of it. I always opened up huge gaps to the wheel in front of me on that corner. The split of 10 guys was happening right in front of me and I could have gone with it but who knew that that would be the one that would stick? I’d gone with plenty of others, including the one right before this one. I can’t go with everything.

Finally the pace relented for a lap or two. My stomach removed itself from my throat.

The white team began drilling it. I’d just been brought back from being on the front so I had some recovering to do that wouldn’t take place for another 20 minutes. The tiny, twisting roads were ideal for a single team to split the race apart. I needed to stay somewhat close to the front.

Although the five-man break was gone, I thought there was a chance it could come back. Not likely though. I continued attacking and following moves. I didn’t feel good, but then again I knew that just about no one did.

After the first two laps I realized that this race was going to be hard, especially with my poor cornering abilities tonight/always. Just don’t drift too far back! I figured guys would be coming apart within the first couple laps if they were all the way at the back. The roads were very narrow.

We started.

Will and I rode to the race, which was an hour ride–the perfect distance to make the day a good solid training session at 160 kms. I knew I needed some miles in my legs after being sick for the entire month before.

I wasted time until we had to leave.

Breakfast.

I woke up.

Okay that’s enough backwards story telling, I can’t stand it anymore. I’ll just wrap things up here pretty quickly now. Sunday, the day before that whole fiasco I just explained backwards up there, was another BVB interclub. The BVB stands for “Being Vaguely Belgian” I think, because suposedly it’s a race that only Belgians can do but I’ve done two of them now. Anyways, it was in Rochefort, in the hilly region of Belgium way down near Naumur. It was a LONG drive, like two hours.

I did this race last year (second half of the post) and had been hoping I’d get another shot at it. I knew the course for one thing, so the Belgians wouldn’t have that over me this time.

The course was completely different this year and included a race-deciding climb at kilometer 28. Before we started I’d known the course was changed this year but no one had told me about the wall of Dinant, a 1.5 kilometer climb averaging 10% with sections of 24%. There was a silent rush to get to the front as we came into the small riverside town of Dinant.


This is Dinant.

We slipped through that crack.  It was a tight squeeze for that many guys.

The road narrowed down to a single lane. I’d been sitting near the front five minutes ago but had slowly drifted back, stupidly unaware of what was to come. Possibly the one and only person in the entire race that didn’t know what was just up the road.  Let’s get on thing straight, though.  I did know that there were a lot of climbs in this race, after all, my stem could barely fit all the 19 KOMs listed on my cheat sheet.  But the first four climbs we’d done hadn’t been that bad and I was feeling alright and was actually told by a teammate to just conserve and hang out for the first half of the race “near the back” and then to start following moves and be up front in the final half.  Nothing would happen early on.  I should have known better.

I was maybe 30 guys from the very back of the 170 rider field when we came to a stop.  There was a 170 degree corner the packed bunched up at, slowly funneling up the behemoth of the climb looming in front of me.  I had to unclip.  UNCLIP!  Half the guys in the race were already a third of the way up the damn thing and here I was unclipped at the bottom, cursing at the fools in front of me to hurry up.

The race was over.  60 guys made the front group.  I spent the rest of the day chasing my brains out with small groups of guys, at one point up to 30 of us, but then dwindling down to just seven before we were finally passed by the last follow car at kilometer 113.  We’d been close, just at one minute for a long, long time, but every time we thought we were about to catch back on half the caravan stopped at the top of a hill to let us pass without giving us any assistance.

In my opinion that climb was too decisive to have that early in the race.  It should have come at 100 kilometers, not 27 or 28.  I believe fewer than 40 guys finished the race.  It definitely would have been a good one to have ridden well at.  For one thing the trophy was HUGE and the race started and finished in an outdoor velodrome.  But at least next year I’ll know about the wall of Dinat…that is until they change the course again and no one on my team tells me about the new climb at kilometer 17.  What really pissed me off was that most of the guys in the race and everyone on my team had done a race two months ago that had this exact climb in it and still they didn’t mention anything to me about it.  If you don’t speak flemish and you’re on a team with only Belgians, chances are you’re going to be left scratching your head in wonder.  And it won’t be on accident.

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