|- by Laura Weislo|
March 9, 2003, San Dimas, CA - Cracking. You hear all about it while watching any of the major cycling tours. You watch a tape of any mountain stage, and you’ll see guys riding along,
seemingly fine. The next minute one of them has a look of panic, then desperation as the wheel in front of them gets farther away, and then the camera pans away to the front of the field. Paul Sherwin makes a glib comment about the poor victim, and then goes on commenting on the race. But why did he crack? Was it physical? Mental? What does that poor soul feel like as he watches in shattered helplessness as the rest of the field rides away?
No commentator, journalist or diarist can sufficiently describe cracking on a bike in a major race. There are no words to describe the physical pain in your legs as you try to push the pedals around and hold onto that wheel in front of you. You hurt like you’ve never hurt before, but still can’t stay in contact. Then the mental anguish kicks in. Why can’t you get any power out of your legs? The race is riding away and you’re not in it. You’re dropped. For a few moments, you fool yourself into thinking you can get back on, and maybe the pack sits up and you pull into the fold, relieved. But then the next acceleration happens and back you go, onto the edge with one finger hanging on and then – pop.
I can offer lots of excuses for why I cracked in this crit. I went out to the premiere of Jamie Paolinetti’s new documentary film "The Hard Road" and stood around for a couple hours the night before. It was a good movie, but not a good move on my part. I didn’t eat enough breakfast. I didn’t warm up enough. I wasn’t tough enough to get into a good position in the pack and wound up yo-yo’ing at the back. But excuses don’t do anything. I just simply blew it.
The morning of the race, my withered glands couldn’t squeeze out any adrenaline to get me pumped up for this race. My head was foggy with exhaustion, my legs dead. We lined up for the race. The official fired the gun and my first pedal stroke offered up nothing except a dull ache. I quickly wound up on the back, but was reassured by the presence of Alison Dunlap right behind me. If she was back here, I was safe, right?
Wrong. As girls started to get tired and gaps opened up, she moved up straight away. The tired girls got dropped, and I was soon to be among them. Alison went off in a breakaway with Megan Elliot, Karen Bockell and Helen Kelly, and I was in a group of three off the back, trying not to get lapped.
About 30 minutes into the race, the three of us were working pretty well together, holding off the field, when the officials decided that we were through and pulled us from the race. I was pretty bummed, because instead of losing two, maybe three minutes, we were assessed a 4:37 penalty. I plummeted from 24th to 41st overall.
Little did she know, our Gerald Lee caught this one of Laura in
FRONT of a T-Mobile rider!
Now, all my friends tell me that I did great. I should be happy. It was my first NRC event, a tough field, my first stage race, and only 51 of 75 women finished, blah blah blah. I should be happy, but I’m not. I wanted to finish with the pack! And, dammit, why didn’t anyone get my picture during my one moment of glory breaking away in the road race, but every time I rounded a corner off the back in the crit someone was snapping a photo! I was ashamed. Humiliated. Broken. No consolation ("at least you weren’t last" does not help!) can take that emotion away. Instead, I will remember it. I will hold it like a talisman at every race. When I start to hurt, I will remember. And I will fight. I will hurt. And I will not crack.
Until next time…
Laura Weislo’s webpage can be seen here.
Results can be found here.