We’re doing 80 in a 45 with two bikes on the (saggy) roof rack and one on the trunk.
And on that board, there’s a picture of me.
The sirens blare. He’s on our tail. I move over to the right lane. He follows.
Maybe it’s mercy or just a “Big Dumb George” mistake, but sometimes he misses.
And then he suddenly switches lanes to ticket another. Miracles do happen.
When you race with teammates, you don’t rely on miracles. You control your destiny. Things aren’t easy, but they’re easier. Because with numbers comes power.
I’m not talking about a flock of sheep fighting off a wolf, but a pride of lions hunting a crippled water buffalo. Think Sinead and company in any MWCCC race. Or Liebovitz and the Marian crew in the 2011 Collegiate Nationals Criterium Championship.
For too long, I’ve been on the wrong end of that spectrum. I've been the lame water buffalo—buoyant, bloated and slow. And all year, I’ve had company—huddling with my fellow bovines.
We’ve hidden together from rain and gravel, skirted real training and complained about our lack of filling feed. I've learned to see the world from dull, domesticated and entitled eyes.
But Saturday, something changed.
It’s a miracle what a satiric blog post can do—for reader and writer. Because this weekend, that cow became a killer. I was aggressive and started the breakaway. I fought for five laps off the front to finish behind two Texas Roadhouse riders despite what my SRM told me was impossible.
Because you just have to ignore the numbers when there are five TRHS riders, eight Alderfer Bergen guys and one Bissell master in a field of 24 starters. And it takes more than persistence to get a good result. You need to know the field, the wind, the course and you need the big GH to miss the board.
Saturday, GH flinched. And in that moment, I countered an attack, caught a wheel and was joined by a TRHS monster.
For five laps, I worked my ass off to stay with the break. I took my pulls, but I also prayed. Lots can go wrong in five laps, especially on a broken bike.
In the end, I finished third. And it was a vindication. Racing has never justified my existence, but a good result rarely has hurt anyone. (Unless there is USADA testing for the winner.)
I know; 3rd place isn’t a big deal. The super-duper fast guys weren't at the Fat and Skinny Tire Festival, but at Tour de Grove. Regardless, I raced hard and smart, and I finished on the podium in a tough race with a strong field.
And the rest of the car did well too. Axie rode like a beast to finish fourth in the rr and fifth in the crit while Robin killed it in both races—winning the sprint in the rr and taking the solo win in the crit. Sometimes, success begets success. In a car with pros, you can't help but do your best.
I would like to think this weekend speaks to the future—of races won and riders crying in my wake. But they say you cannot connect the dots looking forward. And for a moment, I'll agree.
The 2012 collegiate season is a year away and much can happen in that time. Come February, I may not be racing for the Northwestern University Cycling Team or doing any collegiate cycling at all. It’s far too early to say with any degree of certainty.
Regardless of what February brings, one thing is clear: There will be no more huddling with the water buffalo.
Coming soon: "Profiles In Courage": The past informs the present in a series of satirical vignettes.