I’m sure I could go on and on about my favorite rides and races.
Something perhaps to-do with how the Tour de Fish is one of my all-time favorite venues – though it has only recently seen its second birthday. Waxing poetically about the incessant turning, technical midsection, or taking shelter from the cross/head wind on the front straight. OoO let’s not forget about the two podiums at Somerville. Complete with its cheering, wide boulevards and the relative safety until the second to last turn on the last lap.
Maybe I should elaborate on my first twilight criterium. Iron Hill as it were. There were no nerves, just sheer excitement! The fight to the front in staging to be near the front before call ups. Hearing “the champion [of this], the champion [of that]” during said call ups, only intensified the feeling. Wait! The crowds! 5 and 6 deep for a majority of the start-finish line, all in a roundabout way there to see YOU. Someone they deem actually being a pro.
Truth be told those races were great. My favorite race would perhaps be looked upon as lame taking into consideration the aforementioned events. The day was March 30, 2014. The rain persisted the entire car ride north to the Criterium de Bethel in Connecticut. The weather was dreary and much reminiscent to that of cyclocross, or Seattle. Seemingly that’s Bethel’s charm, I’ve never experienced an unseasonably warm, sunny, wind-free day there.
Lauren Dagostino had just wrapped up her massacre of the field in with a solo break.
25 starters in a race I historically do abysmally at. Add in the wind, rain and sub 40 degree misery I was in for a “great” day. The whistle blew, cleats clipped, and then every exposed orifice filled with grit from the road spray. Lucky for me I wouldn’t have to contend with that for much longer. 3 laps are all it took before I was watching the back of the field ride away. The rest of the race would see me and my bartape unravel as the glue and I succumbed to the day. 30 something laps alone I got to see what was the field lap me something like 7 times.
Thankfully I have a lot of courage, will power, and didn’t give up. Or I’m merely an idiot. Little did I know going round and round in misery there was light at the end of the tunnel. Funny enough it wasn’t my bell lap many, many laps earlier than it should have been.
Bike racing has a funny way of rewarding those who don’t give up. I finished 10th on that day, 15 other guys quit. Having been one of the first to get dropped I didn’t see anyone else quit, just the break streaking by me.
What makes this my favorite race is what makes cycling my favorite sport. It’s 100% a war of attrition. That day I undoubtedly sucked. I just kept pushing through the dissatisfaction of my plight and came out the other side with a half way decent story to tell. My reward is knowing I did something heroic-ish. If it were Eddy Merckx, it would still be revered today by people in Rapha clothes.
There is a lot of suffering in bike racing, many hours are spent flogging yourself on a trainer all winter. Someday’s you’re lucky enough to lose the feeling in your fingers and toes on an outdoor ride. And while your ascendancy to being cheered for on the television might never happen, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen may never utter your name. If you pay your dues, bottle your misery, eventually you’ll be faster than the old you.