Off the Front

Two laps in and I was already hurting. I made a sporting go of it on the first hot lap and found myself in a short lived break that went clear at the start of the lap. Not the best place to start make a go of it, but after a week of taking the bus I needed the race to be really hard. Our short lived break fizzilled out before I could even take a pull. The group looked promising. Two guys who looked strong and one rider who I knew to be strong, and she was the one who initiated the move. She also belonged to the strongest team, which meant she was just setting up one her teammates and probably wasn’t in it for the entire lap.

The Tuesday Night worlds at Portland International Race way had started the week before, but I missed it on account of not having a ride. The previous week of rising tension meant that I needed to leave the safety of the pack in order to dig deep so I could try to reignite some of the form I was building before the crash. Truth is, the pack didn’t feel all the secure to me. Each wobble of the rider in front of me sent my brain in to a panic and it took all my control to not to grab the brakes.

The rest of race was like that, except my nerves left me closer to the back than I wanted to be. I’m anonymous was all I kept thinking to myself.  At the end of last season I was always on the front, and rarely finished out of the top ten and now, when I’m supposed to be at the top of my form I’m at the back.

Half way through lap ten of eleven I realized how close to the back I really was. Four sets of wheels separated me from the back. I couldn’t handle it. The pack was strung out in a long line. All the colors of the local teams lined up near single file. The front was nearly indistinguishable to me. The yo-yo factor brings us back together and I start making headway toward the front, gingerly threading the gaps between wheels.

Back on the home stretch I find the wheel of the strong girl I followed into the early break attempt. Her wheel pulls us along the concrete K rails that line the side of the track with the pack on our right. I know she getting ready to go off the front. I know that we won’t make it. That the purpose of this attack is to give her team room to breath on the last lap. Still I follow her wheel.

Near the front she taps the left hip of a teammate. I let a gap open, knowing one more person would help the coming move. He didn’t take it so I did. Then we were off the front. I knew it was doomed and I didn’t care. She finished her pull and I put head down and took my turn. 400 meters later she was too far back to take a pull. I’d come through to hard. I kept looking back in despetation, but I was alone. I put my head back down put in another dig. One last gasp of life before the pack chewed me up and spit me out the back.

The next time I look back the pack is bearing down on me. Then they pass me in a rush. My hands have gone from the drops to the tops, I’m done. A teammate offers his wheel, but there’s no acceleration left in my atrophied legs.

I latch on to the back, where another teammate waits and tries to pace me back into the back. I look back for the strong girl, wanting to ride in with the person who put me out there in the first place. I catch her out of the corner of my eye, but Nate and Soraz Eddie are telling me to keep going. I do what’s right and latch on to Nate’s wheel and let him pull me to the finish.




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