Tuesday night’s races started the way every Tuesday night’s race started. Me, slightly worried about my prospects for hanging on. Me, trying to rid in the middle of the pack and not the back. This is the usual run down. Twenty laps, same as last week when I managed to not only hit the front of the race, but hang on to finish, not with the pack, but at least on the same lap. Even with that “success” I was feeling slightly less than optimistic, but not entirely down on my chances of doing the same this week.
I stayed at the back for two, maybe three, maybe four laps – I’m not sure which. My sense of time passed and lap cards flipped is the first thing to leave my consciousness once the race starts. Then I had a notion to move up. My slight acceleration, coupled with the slowing of peloton brought me near the front of the race, or I followed a wheel belonging to someone I don’t know. I can’t remember. I was to the left of the group, far from the barriers and in the wind. Up ahead was the scattered remnants of an early break. Maybe I should go… I mean I’m up here… May as well… This is where the fitness is. I should think less.All those thoughts go thoughts take an instant, and in that instant another rider goes from the right side of the peloton. No more thinking, shift up and go.
The seconds it takes me to reach his wheel feel somewhere between an eternity and what twenty minutes felt like when you were a little kid. Not an insurmountable amount of time, but longer than feels comfortable. He sees me coming, and lets up to wait for me. I jumped into the wind, and I don’t want to take the first turn, but it is what I’m supposed to do, so I take my pull and bring us up to my teammate Nate. Its then that I take a quick look over my shoulder and see only Nate and other rider on my wheel. My first emotion is disbelief. After all these weeks of dying just to hang on, then getting dropped I’m not off the front. I know they’ve let us go, but it doesn’t matter. I’m off the fucking front in the big boy race.
I finish my pull, sit in, then take another. Going into the tailwind section my mouth is wide open, hoovering up the oxygen in front of me. Drool slides out the right side of my mouth then down my chin. “I’m going so hard I’m drooling on myself…this is awe…some… Don’t think, pedal asshole.” I try to lower myself over the bike a little more and keep pushing on the pedals. I pull off the front, we’re half way through the lap. I check back again. Three guys, or was it two – I can’t remember- bridge up to us, strengthened by the tailwind. I’m starting to doubt the my going with this move. I either know I can’t ride this break and still finish with the pack or I just think I can’t, which makes it true. I take myself out of the break.
Several laps later some one who knows my struggles in this race instructs me to follow Fast Eddie’s wheel, which I do for two laps. Near the end of the second lap, a point lap, I’ve followed Fast Eddie’s wheel close to the front. Eddie jumps close to the line, but I don’t stand a chance. He easily gaps be, his hands in the drops, upper body is still save for the rocking of his bars, his legs spinning so fast that if you took a picture they would look transparent. He scores some points and I manage to maintain the spot I he jumped from.
Several laps later, I don’t know how many I’ve gone from feeling like I can to not being so sure. But I did hit the front once more, working through the wind to get there. Now I’m at the back, glued to a world pursuit champ’s wheel. I think there is safely in her wheel. I’ve ridden it before, last year on long training ride. Then, with six laps to go I look up and see a gap opening between our wheels. I was thinking too much again. I’m done. At least that’s what I think. Which makes it true.