The Thursday Morning ride was on the early pitch of Norway Hill. The guy from Recycled Cycles had shot himself out of a cannon when the climb started while four of us made up a chase. I hung in the draft of John and Derek debating whether or not I should “strike out for glory” as the Eurosport commentator says, or if sitting here was where I needed to be. The last three weeks had me putting in miles like I was getting ready for races again. This week I took a couple of days off, then rode easy for a couple of days and today I was feeling pretty good, for being overweight and under raced.
I hung there, in the wheels for what felt like a long time. I had moved up next to John, the two us trying to pull what little advantage we could from the Derek’s lead. The road ahead twists and the guy off the front keeps vanishing from our view, only to reappear a moment or two later. At the moment he’s been gone – out of sight – for a bit. I was still in the wheels, not comfortable, but not struggling either, which felt like a big accomplishment. Like the first time I hung on – barely – in a Cat 1/2/3 race. Sometimes the smallest victories are the best ones.
The pace was high as we came to the stop sign where we would turn right. Derek said something that was either “right turn” or “your turn” I wasn’t sure which so I assumed he was telling me to take my turn at the front. I came through on the inside line as we turned right at the stop sign.
Maybe it was because I felt bad about sitting in for so long. Perhaps it was because I had taken some time off and had freshish legs. Or, what happened next had to do with the fact that I haven’t been racing, and wanted to reacquaint myself with that pain again. But it could be as simple as just wanting to catch the guy from Recycled Cycles who was off the front.
The force I put in caused John and Barry to pop, or decide that it wasn’t worth it. Later, John would tell us that he needed a bathroom break and he pulled over. Derek and I took up the chase.
I was spinning, little ring, in the bottom third of my cassette, but not near the big cog. I knew we’d dropped the other two because it became quite. I alternated riding with my hands on tops, or in the hoods. Going to the hoods each time I needed to convince myself that I could hang on with this pace.
The pitch of the road would relent, giving the impression of flattening out, but always continuing its upward slope. The story was the same. The Recycled guy would disappear behind a curve, then come back into view a moment later. He was going slower than when he’d first started, but still kind of a long way off. I kept thinking I should go, I should go, I should go, but I don’t know what’s up ahead so I stay put. I also know that I can’t drop Derek.
I’m heaving my breaths now, but my form wasn’t failing. My hands are on the tops again, but I haven’t started doing that thing where you climb with your whole body, pumping your arms and torso, willing the bike skyward. It never works, so I’m happy to not debase myself with such terrible form. My breathing is so loud that I can’t hear how well Derek is doing behind me. He comes around and gives some words of encouragement “Nice work”. He is spinning smoothly, hands in the drops, and now I know how he is going. I drop in behind him. Did he tell me “right turn” or “your turn”. I need to sit up.”
There’s the seed of doubt.
I need to sit up I think it again.
Rest weeks give the mind a time to catch up. Earlier in the week I read an essay about Kierkegaard and how his doubt caused him to believe even more strongly than he did before those doubts surfaced. After reading that I made the jump – as I am warrant to do – to my own riding, meaning life. When confronted with my life I always stack up the evidence of my past behaviour, and often times I end up doing the opposite of what I want. Always setting myself back. What if I took all the evidence and decided that despite the fact that, for all intents I am a fuck up, I decided to believe that I’m worth giving myself what I want.
I’m blown, I should sit up
There is the evidence.
I keep on Derek’s wheel.
I come through one more time. The guy from Recycled Cycles is stopped at the sign reading Norway Hill. Hit the top next and pull over into the grass trying to catch my breath. Derek does the right thing and keeps pedaling. I push off after him to spin out my legs. Did he say “Right turn” or “Your turn” ?