After years of trying, it finally happened. So many races, so many mishaps and incidents, so many times near the front.
Rockville was dry. It has not rained there in weeks. I have not raced there in two weeks. After my last mud filled debacle, I decided to switch to narrower tires that would not deposit half the wet soil of Solano County on my frame. My last tires turned out to be 42mm, not 38mm as I thought. I went with some nice 33’s, and the weight difference was amazing.
Roll call and we line up to start. C men, women, and juniors. To space folks out a bit, in the direction we were taking there is a silly sprint followed by a precarious 180 around a cone to run the course counterclockwise. As I do out of strategic planning or inability to do otherwise, the lady said go and I went full throttle, beat only by some single digit aged prodigy around the cone. Full gas on some pavement for a few hundred yards, through a couple turns, and we come to the first barrier. I looked back and I, or we, had spread the field well. I ended up leaving the pavement in second in my category.
The course had dried, with small ruts where there was deep mud a few weeks ago, and it was fast. Made for me almost. An AARP card holder filled with desperation and knowledge my health insurance was adequate. I would like to say the race was eventful. The first few laps were not. It was dry, fast, technical, and fun.
I came out onto the pavement at the end of the first lap and went the 75 yards to the first turn. Looking back, there was no one behind me. I continued onto the second of the four laps. As I left the pavement again there was a flash around me, not a word, no hesitation, the guy flew by. Some guy on a bike with fenders and a rear rack of all things, and he was cooking. Looking around I still saw no one so I just chugged away.
Third lap and it was clear the field was spread far and wide. I knew from the lap times that were being called as I passed the start I was moving faster than I ever had.
Then the fourth lap, the dear, dear fourth. Where my good fortune and ample watts were going to be tested.
There were four barriers on the course. They get moved every week to change things up. I can’t recall where I realized I had a problem, but it was before the last two. I tried to unclip my right foot to dismount and my foot just pivoted attached to the cleat. Clearly, I had lost a screw in my cleat and it was not going to come out. I was not about to attempt to bunny hop a barrier for the first time ever, so I awkwardly pulled up to it, stopped, lifted my front wheel over it while hopping forward, put my foot over it, then brought the rear wheel over.
It was very, very time consuming and I could see the folks behind me gaining ground.
The next barrier was going to be an issue. See, it was at the top of a 15 foot, maybe 25% climb that one could do on a bike if nothing went wrong. As it was barren, dusty, and rutted, a lot could go wrong. Going into it I wound it up and let it rip. I was not going to attempt to do some one-legged hop up the bump.
I made it, using the barrier as a brake by crashing right into it. I made it over with some folks watching and perhaps not understanding the reasoning for my technique, then came to the next problem. There was an even steeper drop with a sharp left. Even with full brakes, it was brutal. My permanently clipped in foot was going to be on the outside, so if I was going over there was no way to catch myself. Somehow, I made it, though I was being caught.
I threw myself up the final bump, made it to the top, and was left with a slight drop, 50 yards of chips, and a paved sprint in. Not leaving anything in doubt, I hit the pavement and let it rip. Caleb Ewan style head down, standing, full sprint over the line without a soul within 100 yards of rear for my first ever podium slot.
Though Rockville may not be the most prestigious, nor have the highest level of competition in the C’s, nor even have an actual podium, to paraphrase that wise philosopher Ebby Calvin Laloosh, I dig being on the podium, it’s like so much better than not being on the podium.
But wait, there is more. There were two of us there, and Cole was next, and it gets real.
Cole brought a spare set of wheels, an amazingly wise choice.
The A/B’s were off, and Cole was in full sprint mode, heading into the bushes sitting second wheel in an impressive group or racers. I sat there for the next 6 minutes waiting to see what would happen.
The leaders come out of the swamp. Perhaps a minute later a group of B’s, with Cole plodding along at the back of them, looking like something was wrong. Then I saw it. A flat front tire.
Getting to the start/finish/ Cole made an abrupt right, sprinted to my truck, grabbed his spare wheel, threw it on, then without having the benefit of a free lap jumped back into the race.
6 minutes went by, and here come the racers. The A leader, an amazingly fast guy with a body like, well, me, but still amazingly fast, The B leader, an amazingly fast bearded dude, a few more A’s and B’s, and then Cole.
Cole was catching up in a spectacular, quadtastic fashion. Literally running down the field
6 more minutes, they come around the corner, and Cole had moved up closer to the front, having passed a few more folks spread along the course.
6 more minutes, and here they come again. Cole was now sitting in second in the B’s. In 3 laps he had gone form nursing a flat back the start near last in his category to sitting second.
Maybe 4 laps to go. The B leader had a sizable lead of maybe a minute. He was starting to look gassed. The laps started ticking down. Every time Cole was slightly closer, slightly closer.
Last lap and Cole was maybe 15 seconds behind him. The leader clearly new it. As they came around to the finish Cole took second, a few seconds behind the winner. It was an amazing chase, even more crazy considering the time lost changing a wheel. If I was that guy next week, I would face the very real possibility of not winning.
Overall, a spectacular race day