Yesterday was Days of the Dawg* and a banner showing for my team. On such a proud occasion, after watching my brother win, after watching our relatively newbie guys throw down with the top teams in the area, I feel ridiculous writing about my own rising comfort levels whilst racing in the fifth and lowest category of our sport.
But I will anyway. Because after three months of nothing but sore legs and crashing and getting dropped hard, I have something other than tragi-comedy to report on this blog:
I raced a predictable, smart, nay, even comfortable, race in Hagerstown on Saturday.
It was a shady, technical route through the old-money section of H-town, .9 miles featuring two acute angles and gradual inclines. After a shaky first lap, people settled into surprisingly non-squirrely, if inefficient lines through the corners. Two riders slammed into the curb and flatted, but no flesh-grinding, bone-cracking crashes.
My teammate Tom S. (pictured above) broke away early on, bridging up to another solo rider. In the front of the pack I sat up briefly when he attacked to allow some separation. Thereafter, without any pressure to pull, I was able to jump onto attackers' wheels, keeping everyone together.
Refusing to pull through disrupted the rhythm of the pack, as the rotating riders would invariably have to jump around me whilst I pedaled softly.
For the most part, I stayed out of the hurt locker, a new experience for me; I could actually think. Usually, I can only beseech the Almighty and wait for my vision to shrink to a few degrees around the fovea.
Last lap: I was 5th wheel going downhill when a gap opened up behind the front three. On the back straight I jumped and bridged up. With 500 yards to go, I was sitting 4th and 40 yards clear of the riders behind. Too bad we were charging into a headwind and nobody wanted to lead out (me included). We slowed up instead and got swarmed by some fresh legs. I squeezed out a pathetic sprint for 8th overall. Tom came in 2nd.
I was totally, absolutely, little-kid-on-his-birthday thrilled.
Dawg Days didn't go quite as well, but I rode strongly throughout the race, which averaged over 25mph, and had enough left to take a mini-flier with one to go. (Yeah, ok, so I died on the back side, but I'm focusing on the positive here.)
Ahhhhh... CAT 5 competence!
* Yes, I am aware of the singular/plural agreement issue: perhaps it should have been Dawg Day, or Day of the Dawg, since it was an event that occurred between one rising and setting of the Sun. Somehow, that sounds more like a Yoga holiday--in which everyone spends their afternoons with rears hoisted skyward--than a bike race. Maybe it should have been the more explicit, if longwinded, "Hottest, most Sultry Days of Summer" bike race. Whatever. We did good. Grammar nazis: go suck on some split infinitives. I'm going to be dangling prepositions all afternoon; ain't nothin' you can do about it.