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Saturday Night's All Right For Fighting
 
By Staff
Date: 4/2/2003
Saturday Night's All Right For Fighting
 

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 other side.

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!
Rich Pink
richpink@dailypeloton.com


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