are sometimes smooth and silky, and other times tired and tight.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Caboose

Meet up before the race. Go for an easy spin to wake the legs from their 2 1/2 week long slumber. Sit in during the race. It was a good plan. A fine plan indeed.

Swerving p­ast people on city bikes, their thoughts clearly on the beautiful day, not the road ahead. I make my way through town.

My bike feels odd. My saddle high. My tires soft. I feel drunk.

Hardly a surprise. I’ve only been back “in country” for a day, after a 24 hour long trip back from the other side of the world. My excuses are ready.

WK and Mickey (the racer formerly known as KMII) are waiting for me at the meeting point. I pull up, shake hands, and we proceed on our merry way for an easy loop of the Ronde Hoep. The sun is shining. The wind marginal. All is good.

The warm up is spent catching up on the races that I’ve missed. Who was in form. Who isn’t. Breaks that stuck. Crashes missed. I find myself riding next to Mickey, into the wind. Each time this happens I wave the WK through. I need to follow the plan: take it easy today.

Our warm up complete, we arrive at the clubhouse. We collect our numbers. Say hello to a few friends and teammates. One of them is Banana Legs, who is back after his own hiatus. Another is a new member of the team. On training rides he’s been like the Energizer Bunny, he just keeps going, and going, and going.

I pass on riding a pre race loop, and pull up to the line. It’s busy today. Considering the weather, this comes as no surprise. The start is delayed to allow the overflow enough time to sign in.

Mickey pulls alongside, and a few rows further back is the WK and Bunny. I take another look around, surveying the field. There’s a familiar face next to Mickey. Someone who I’ve been in a few breaks with over the past year or two. I note that he’s traded in his Cervelo for a Wilier. Next to me are a group of juniors.

Eventually Andre steps out of the clubhouse, and sets us loose. Instinct kicks in. As soon as I’m fastened in my pedals, I sprint ahead.

I have no intentions of staying away. None at all. I'm fully aware that I don’t have the legs today. Besides, that’s not the plan. I see someone in the corner of my eye. It’s Mickey. I ease, and he passes, towing a few of the juniors behind him. I look behind and see that we have a gap. I get out of the saddle and dig.

It takes longer than it should. For a moment or two I fear that I’m about to be dropped. By juniors! Misplaced pride takes over. I manage to claw my way to the last wheel. Mickey is at the front, pulling the cast of kids along behind him, with yours truly making a cameo as the caboose.

I figure we’ll stay away for a lap. Maybe two. We’ll be reeled in, and I’ll settle into the warm embrace of the peloton. Then all will return to plan.

As I comfort myself with those thoughts, I see Bunny ride past me. Then past all of the juniors clinging to Mickey’s wheel. Then past Mickey. Mickey accelerates, and eases onto Bunny’s wheel. They start trading pulls. It’s not supposed to happen like this. I’m not supposed to be here.

A lap, or two later, some more company joins us. Reinforcements. One of which is Wilier guy. From my vantage point of the back of the group, I see that we have a large gap. Large enough that I don’t see the main peloton.

Twenty minutes in we hear that we have a gap of 30 seconds. A lap, or two, later it’s 35 seconds. Several laps later 45. We’re pulling away. Actually, they’re pulling away. Each time I take the occasional pull I struggle grab the last wheel.

My legs empty. My heart rate in overdrive. I accept my role for the day. Caboose.

I rethink my plan as thoughts of the Talking Heads pass through my head.


Suitcase of Courage said...

I like your style - Beautifully written, as usual. One complaint: what was the result? Or did I miss it? You came in last of the break, but beat the rest of the peleton?

Shaver said...

something like that.