From Jaws to Moby Dick

23 Jan
This can happen when you don't heed the signs

This can happen when you don’t heed the signs

They call me Ishmael. Well, not really, but months have passed since this shark-obsessed racer last facetiously discoursed on ocean monsters and other such metaphor. As 2013 came and went, winds of change swirled, ushering out cherished comforts, replacing them with new keep sakes, temporary adornments, and new grounding for the coming season.

Over the Labor Day weekend Ishmael ventured to St. Louis for the long-running Gateway Cup, a series of Criterium races in the Arched City. Racers from all over the country attend, giving the event a National-Type feel and competitiveness. By that point in the season I had won several races so confidence was abundant. Yet there had been a change in my racing.

The first half of the season came and went as a joy. Wins came to me in unexpected ways. I enjoyed the process, allowing each race to unfold, playing my cards just right a handful of times. But after win #5, the charm of Ishmael became Ahab’s ambition. I began racing more aggressively, taking turns just a little tighter, moving in places I did not normally squeeze into. An edginess crept into my racing that had not formerly been present.

This is the Darwinian beauty of our sport. Winners need that edge, for it is often quoted that you must risk losing in order to win. I mostly agree with that sentiment. Many, many racers, perhaps more sane than I, are happy to sit in the big bunches and remain out of harms’ way, hoping for a top 10 finish. Yet those who consistently win take the chances by attacking off the front, regrouping, and attacking again. They often are also the most aggressive in corners, fighting for position near the front, and definitely when it comes to fighting for position near the end of the race.

The guys who have been winning for years make this look easy. They slip through cracks and crevices in the peloton that only they can maneuver and they hold position like a bull fighter toying with his prey. Meanwhile, plow horses like me struggle to hold position, expend more energy than necessary to get back into position, and more closely resemble a bulldozer grading some soon-to-be-developed residential tract.

As expected, racing in St. Louis was ultra aggressive and several crashes occurred throughout the weekend. Half bull fighter and half bulldozer, I took some chances on my first day that I knew I shouldn’t have. For my Sunday race I vowed to remain in my comfort zone. But as Dr. Wilkes likes to say, ‘there was blood in the water.’

I was involved in crash with two laps to go in the Sunday race. Having been near the front when I was taken down, I took the brunt of several riders behind me who barreled into the carnage that was me on the road. Curled into the fetal position, I took several front wheels into my back which caused some rib issue and somehow I had a tire run over my right index finger such that it became dislocated. But wait, there’s more….. And my frame was cracked. Dammit.

Signs; if you don’t heed the signs life will not be so subtle in getting your attention. I often remind my friends and clients that life is always giving us signs. Relative to cycling, if you get ready to ride only to discover a flat or some other mechanical, that is life saying it’s better to take a rest day. Skip the group ride and take care of other matters; home repair, spouse appreciation; child’s practice, or much needed recovery. The signs were there for me leading up to my trip and even on race day as I discovered a flat rear tire when I arrived to the race venue. No problem; I swapped the wheel and warm up began. I paid heavily for not heeding the signs; both physically and financially (new frame).

In reflecting on the damage I realized I had ignored my own teachings and shared these thoughts with my friends. Wise counsel from Larry Stevens and David Wilkes advised me to skip the remaining races I had targeted for the season and for once, I listened to my wise friends. Thank you, guys.

Although racing had ended, Autumn heralded new beginnings, including a new team for 2014, more on which in a follow up entry to this one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: