It has been a depressing last few months.
The crash and recovery period took almost three weeks - I had to alter my bike fit after
the crash as I couldn't
feel comfortable in the old
configuration anymore. And then there was the fizzled out attempt at the Team Time Trial -
I still remember the puking feelingafter the first few kilometres of our first
"practice". I went around proclaiming that I would be a cyclotourist for the
rest of the year.
Seriously, though, how could I? We are in a sport that
encourages denial - we keep pushing ourselves even though we feel the dull pain of acid in
our veins and we still get up and ride after falling - the average citizen would have
given up after one fall! I don't know where the
compelling need to keep riding comes from - I'm just aware of such a need and so I
Sandman, who I am sure shares the same compulsion to ride
and race, was as enthusiastic as ever about the NTU race. We had the route checked out
quite a few times and did practice runs over it. We even discussed what color to wear -
dark is good - it doesn't make you stand out. I think it works cause after a race, one of
the Thommies came up to me and demanded to know how laps I had done. "I never saw you
in front of me!" said the Thommie. Hehehe, so it helps. Now, if I can only find a
bike jersey with urban warfare camo colours.
The NTU loop, for those who are unfamiliar with it, is
one nasty 3.6 km loop of rolling hills. It has numerous "wheel-clamps" (drainage
gratings whose groves run parallel to the road), at least 3 speed humps, numerous speed
strips, and rough road surfaces. Then there is the small rise that lead to a short sharp
hill about 150m long. At the bottom, there are two sharp bends - you can hardly see the
traffic coming from the other direction as you swoosh down at 60+kph.
The weather was great on race day. The sun came out for a
little while and thenthe clouds provided shade - balmy and not too hot. The usual
proceedings of the Vets, Mt bikers and ladies went off first. Max and I were accused of
sadism because we cycled to The Hill and waited on the slope watching people make their
way to the top. Hey, it pays to watch and learn y'know. I was hoping to get to watch the
Men's Open event go up the hill, but oh no!!! they were called to the starting line with
us mere Sports Cat racers.
I was worried that they might actually start the race
with both Cats and that makes it difficult for everyone. Well, no, they didn't. The Open
started 2 min before we did. Hehe, later, we would actually catch up and overtake them to
leading to some really mega confusion and "whose-your-daddy?!!" attitude from
the Open racers.
As the Sports Cat people congregated at the line, Max and
I started scanning the lineup for the Gaylanders that Spiderman had told us to watch out
for. The field was actually bigger this time - a lot of tri-geeks from the look of it -
but nope, no Gaylanders to watch out for - but there were Shredders, Thommies and a lot
more people than the last race.
Surprisingly, the start was slow. When the hill
approached however, the attacks started. I was surprised at how good I felt. I had done
what I could to lighten the bike - the pump, bag-of-tools, heart-rate monitor mount,
lights, bottle cages (I carried a half-full bottle in my pocket that I discarded after 3
laps). Haha, I even thought of shortening the chain like Eddie B suggested but I was not
eager to get my hands dirty so oh well. I discarded everything I thought was
frivolous - shades (might fall off), headband (too tight), heart rate monitor
(distraction) - these were more psychological crutches than anything else. I had borrowed
Doc's wheels - which are lighter than mine. All in all, I was floating up the hill every
time it came around. People were attacking left, right and center and I could sit and spin
up right behind them!
The Shredders were the only real team there - and it was
obvious what the two of them tried to do. One of them would attack up the road and his
team-mate would be sitting back hoping someone would chase. The guy up front would go
maybe 70 meters and keep glancing back wondering why no one was chasing. Ha! I've learned
my lessons boys 'n girls and I'm not going to be the sucker who chases!
Every time someone would break off, however, the Shredder
rabbit would chase it down for his team leader. His team leader was this skinny kid whom I
know from the Rodalink rides - his power-to-weight ratio is damn good and he climbs Marco
Pantani style with hands on the drops. I followed him closely up The Hill everytime.
After shooting down the bends, we would do a tiny climb
back up to the starting area. Sandman was really great. He would make sure that I got
shielded from the crosswinds and when a large break looked like it would form, he would
just pull up to it. Allez Sandy!!!! The psychological aid of knowing you have a pal in the
group is really something.
After the 5th lap and 5 times of impasse, the group was
beginning to get strung out. The cunning plan that Sandman and I had worked out was to
attack like mad on the 7th lap but that came about all by itself. I was still sticking to
"Marco" up the hill the 6th time when he must have blown or something. I could
hear him panting like mad - it telegraphed CRISIS!!! Now one thing I've learned so far is
that if someone is in crisis, you exploit it. There was a chance he was faking it but,
hey, if Virenque can risk it, a no-name like me can do it too :))
ATTACK!!! That was the only downhill where I reached
70+kph and only two independents came away with me - by the time we reached the start area
it was pretty clear a break had formed. Colin, the SACA secretary came up on his motor and
yelled "You guys have a break!!!".
The three of us agreed to help each other and started
riding tempo - we shortly overtook the Opens and man, some of them were unhappy.
Counterattacks from them started immediately going up the road - but the thing is we were
trying to AVOID them because we were told we could not draft them. That led to a rather
mixed up 2 laps of riding. But those guys were good, they could really surge up The Hill.
By the 8th lap, we were still managing to hold off the
majority of the Sports riders but all of a sudden two more were upon us. I know I was
really surprised; I had checked my six every minute or so and I never saw anyone but
Opens. I think they might have managed to latch onto some Opens and got pulled up.
Man that was bad news - now from an assured minimum 3rd
there was an assured 5th! What to do? Uh-oh, Mega Panic Time. The speed slowed waaaay down
when we were joined by the other two - we must have all been plotting what to do again. In
retrospect, I should have counterattacked at once - that slowing down might have given the
latecomers sufficient recovery time.
As it turned out, I started to attack late into the last
lap, but I couldn't shake them. They could always latch back. Impasse again up The Hill
even though I felt like giving everything I could - the downhill decided it. My sprint
sucks and these guys were sprinting for all they were worth down the hill. I came in a
very frustrated 5th - the 4th loser - to prevent me from banging my handle bars too hard,
they gave me a medal and a rain-jacked. oh, well, at least TA now has a road race pondium
I'd like to give a shout out to you TA guys for making
bike riding so fun and for all those Off Topic Jokes. Sandman and Spidey are great racing
and training partners full of tactics and strategy. Thanks to Doc for the wheels!