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You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 7/9/2002
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

I was in a zone this whole past week. I knew this race coming up would be a good one for me, I believed it with every fiber of my being. When I ate, I pictured my cadences. Before I slept, I visualized the course. On my training rides I pictured crossing the line with the lead group, maybe even pushing for a win. Dare to dream! At the team meeting way back in March, this was my top goal listed for the upcoming season, a Top 5 finish in the 4 Bridges of Elgin race, in Elgin, Illinois. Last year I managed 16th, in my first ever race. This year, with almost 20 races under the belt, I expected better.

But alas, to you faithful readers who are hitting my articles with great regularity and even writing with words of encouragement and tips about almost everything, I regret to inform you that once again my terrible habit of building giant castles in the sky has gotten the better of me. It certainly was funny, though. In fact in retrospect, it was downright hilarious. It seems that this 1st year of racing in the lowly Cat 5 ranks has provided us with many laughs. I go with good intentions, and try to train right and eat right to be competitive, but it seems all I manage is a good clown story for all of you. Maybe I’ll start riding in make up and full clown suit, complete with fuzzy buttons and one of those old school horns wrapped to my handlebars. I can let riders go by and squirt water on them out of my lapel flower while doing my best Krusty imitation, or construct and hand off to other riders little balloon poodles and funny hats. An assortment of funny whistles is in order too I suspect. Suits me fine actually. In a chat with some of you, it was determined that I am a modern day Charlie Brown, if you will. Full of “sigh”s and “Oh Brother”s and “Good Grief”s. This last race provided all 3 of those, in rapid succession no less. I hope the saying ‘every dog has his day’ is true, because this puppy is still waiting for his.

Again, another learning experience. The fact of the matter is, no matter how tough it gets, you’re out here to compete to the best of your ability. If I’ve learned one insoluable fact so far in all of this, it’s that winning a bike race is a very hard thing to do. The very nature of the sport is pain and suffering (say it like Yoda!), and if you can’t adapt to repeated failures, get out. Also it is safe to say that in these races, once begun, the slightest split second of a mishap can cost you everything you had worked for to that point.

The race was to be short, a mere 11.2 miles, so I had trained a 15 mile TT all week. I was happy with my form, and ready to rock as we lined up. Again, I am joined by my young Hotel Accomodations compatriot, Dave. He and I have had our eyes on this race for a while now, and we both had done what it takes to get here and ready. A much larger field is with us, last year there were maybe 30 riders, this year we have near 50, in all shapes and sizes. The beauty of the 5 races is, the citizens can come in too. So, you see many race refs running around pre-race, removing aero-bars from the Lemond fans’ bikes, or making friendly suggestions to some that they may want to remove their rear-view helmet mounted mirrors. The good thing is these crash magnets are usually out of the back before you can say “Did you see that guy?” In fact, it’s been normally the same faces in the 5 races that get to the front and split away from the rest, one of which is my ugly mug. I think all these usual suspects will be with me in the 4 ranks soon.

So we start, and all is well in the first few miles. It gets hot quick, and Dave and I secure a spot in the top 10-15 riders, right where we want to be. This race course is one of the best in Northern Illinois (hats off to Chicago Events!) with many shaded roads zipping right through neighborhoods, and even up through a forested park on its northernmost point. The fans (well, the villagers I should say) were out in force, lining the 5 mile circuit with their complimentary Saturn “clickers” and even though it was a 5 race, it almost felt like the Tour in some spots, with kids running alongside you, yelling unintelligble things. And some of the people who lived on the route had parties going on in their front lawns, complete with tents, lots of chairs, and lots of guests. I recall being at 25mph and being offered a beer. Twice. Had I known then what I do now, I would have stopped immediately and had one. Or eight.

Nestled safely in the lead portion of riders, with the crash magnets way out the back soaking up the sights, Dave and I are happy as we settle in to wait it out to make our move. As we came down the one good descent, and turn into the one significant climb for the first time, the inevitable quagmire rears its ugly head. Dave is ahead of me by a few riders and as the lead group fans out to begin the ascent, the rider next to him hooks his handlebars and throws him violently to the left, purely on accident. It looked to me as though all of his forward inertia was redirected to his left and he went down with a resounding ‘Thud’. It really looked like it really hurt, but I had to find a lane to the right as the cries of “Rider down! Rider down!” echoed through the peloton. I steal one glance behind me to see Dave very slow to move, making an effort to only roll onto his back, not to get up. Knock my team mate down, will you? Well I don’t think so, thank you very much! I clear out to the right, with every intention of rocketing past everyone, and try to change gears as the gawking I’ve been doing has left me in the wrong gear at the base of the climb. I flick the lever to drop to my 39. Nothing. Here come the aforementioned Charlie Brown quotes, except mine were peppered with a few more colorful expressions of dismay. I push it again, but now my legs are seriously laboring to turn the pedals. Still nothing. My chain looks up at me from the big ring, mocking me as it defiantly grinds away. More colorful language as my temper starts boiling. My plan was to leave the rear gear as it was, and just flip back and forth from the 53 to the 39 on the short but very steep climb. People are getting by me. Lots of people. I go from being in the front with my team mate, to being maimed by faulty gearing, alone, and limping aside the field, rapidly going away from the sharp end of the group (thanks, Phil). There I was re-enacting Dave Stohler in “Breaking Away” after the Italians had dropped his gear as a cruel joke, pedals full of lead, hardly turning over at all, handlebars all shaky as I try to stay upright. The damage is done now as I drop gears in the back cassette, and the climb becomes manageable. But it’s too late now. I’m gone; out. The second group on the road picks me up just as I get a rhythm again, and I finish out with them. There will be no closing the gap to the leaders in a race that short, that is that fast. My ego has now incited my temper to riot in my head, and the rest of the race is spent with my conscious trying to forge an uneasy truce between the two. Luckily, my own mental civil war is tempered with the knowledge that Dave is o.k. and has remounted his bike, carrying on like the trooper he is.

So it was over. For both of us. We decide to nickname ourselves Crash and Burn. Perfect.  We finished, which I have learned is a good thing in any race. Dave left a few dermal kisses on that hill, but he’s ok. My gears now for some reason are working perfectly fine without any complaint which, if you know me, is typical. Timing is everything. I exhausted every combination of cuss words in the book. You name it, I combined it and I came up with some doozies that I’m afraid that despite their hilarity, I cannot share with you on this website. For those of you that email me, I’ll send them along if you’re looking for some new gems to add to your repertoire of sketchy language.

So, the search for success goes on. Again, I sincerely thank all of you for the emails, it’s really a kick to get them, keep them coming! Next week is the beginning of Superweek, a hellacious two week long race-fest, complete with some Euro pros in the 30+ category. I look forward to having my teeth kicked in day after day. There’s certainly bound to be some more humility oriented encounters there. Then I’m going to switch the race engines off and do the Tour known as RAGBRAI. Perhaps it will be good for me, as I seem to be getting worse at racing as the season goes on. That, or everyone else is getting better.

Thanks for reading!!!

Rich Pink

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