Ah, so wonderful to get my skinny butt back in a pack again. To finally end
the winter of my discontent, get out with some teammates, and have a really good
romp around the UW (University of Wisconsin) Parkside campus in Kenosha,
Wisconsin, in the third of a three-crit training series. I missed the first two
due to my traveling for work, but I had had the 30th of March written in big
letters in my calendar. I would look at that written date in the oddest times
and get a little jumpy. In meetings, in my car, at my desk, I'd see it and get
the butterflies. This was to be the opening of a new season as a new man on a
new team (www.project5racing.com).
No gut check needed, I was prepared to suffer and suffer well, whether it be at
the back or at the front.
My training has really hurt in the month of March as I paid for all of my
sins in the winter (sins, reconstruction, whatever you want to call it), and I
was worried for my ability to even just sit in, much less animate. I was also
worried that I was kicking off my season in Wisconsin, land of the driving
impaired and land of really bad race results for lil' ole me. But I had good
teammates and Mother Nature on my side to keep things calm with some wicked
wind. I think the field was a little smaller than it had been weeks prior, on
account of it was 34 degrees, with 20 mph winds and intermittent snow. I also
had a good night's rest after a monster meal with my mate Matt, who drove out to
stay by me so we could travel to the race together Sunday morn.
It was all supposed to be quite tame, really. Go grab some din, then take him
to my favorite little watering hole for a Guinness or two, then hit the rack.
Matt's perhaps one of the nicest, most polite dudes you'd ever hope to meet.
Unassuming and usually kind of quiet, he cuts no swath while entering a little
hick bar out here in the country. I don't know; fate, kismet, maybe some kind of
karma coming back to him for some past transgression against some drunken
gearhead redneck, but some fella took notice of Matt, after Matt had moved a
barstool around his, resulting in a little brush. In ordinary times and places,
a simple "whoops, sorry," followed by a "no problem," would have been the end of
it. But this fella had a burr up his butt the size of North Carolina. He starts
eyeballing Matt. He's completely overserved and slack jawed, his eyes are
pinwheeling, searching his own field of vision to look at my buddy. I'm on the
This continues, and I finally lean over and ask the guy what his problem is.
He's so drunk he can't compute the question and mutters something
unintelligible. The guy must have worked Saturday. His hands were grimy as grimy
can be, and his Harley-Davidson shirt was equally unkempt. And in a matter of
minutes, the inevitable came to pass: the guy got behind Matt and tried to put
him in a headlock. The attack is so lazy Matt has time to put his beer down and
stick his hand up in the guy's face. I jump in and turn the guy's arm behind his
back and just as I was to introduce his face to the nearby wall, the wave of
bouncers came crashing down and we were separated like dogs. The drunken brawler
was torn towards the door, and under the impetus of Super Marty (a pluggish
bouncer you wouldn't want to mess with) he lost his footing and went headlong in
to the anchored pool table. Let's just say I never saw anyone's nose split open
like that before. Mr. Broken Nose (check that, shattered nose) was escorted from
the premises and we sat back down, accepted the apologies of the owners of the
establishment, finished our creamy goodness, and went on home. No better way to
start a season than by a good old fashioned bar fight.
Oh yeah, this is about a bike race! The race itself was held internally on
the campus of UW parkside, utilizing a one mile oval loop with a small incline
and one small decline. The wind coming off of Lake Michigan neutralized anything
trying to get away on the backside (another one of my patented suicidal flyers
included) and it inevitably came down to a group sprint. But in between whistle
and line, there were some fun highlights among the pack of 62 guys. A teammate
made fun of me for leaving my seatbag on. Honest mistake, I spaced it
completely. I laughed while cornering at 26 mph with the aid of the wind, and
explained that that is where I keep my snacks, EPO, and porno. Other riders then
began to ask if they could borrow it. Not so funny now, eh?
My teammates Matt and Cale worked rather well together and in the end
finished 4th and 9th, adding to our infant trophy case. I crossed the line in
16th, legs knackered from the flyer, and unable to get over and help Cale and
Matt in the last lap because a wavering lapped rider messed up my whole program.
I ended up on the other side of the road, boxed out by the agitated swarming
riders vying for the line. Chris was somewhere in the top 25 and our new guy
Mark had a mechanical and was unable to finish. My ex-teammate Chris Vogel (who
is now a coach for Robbie Ventura's VisionQuest company - you need help? Seek
him out) took 2nd, after a slight miscalculation.
After the race, with lungs under duress, I thought to myself that I'm very
lucky to be on such a deep squad. Almost everyone is superior to me, even in my
own category, and the guys above us are something else. The 3's I saw yesterday
(Kevin and Greg) are super monster killers. Kevin even jumped in the Pro 1/2
with Mr. Kenny Labbe himself AND KEVIN TOOK 5th! Egads. Training and racing with
these guys is only gonna make me a stronger rider, and I look forward to the
coming months of punishment.
A new season, a new team, a new outlook, a new bike, a new category...it's
going to be a great year!!!!!
Thanks for reading, and do not hesitate to write!