As I mentioned earlier, today brought career race #2 for Monsieur Forte, a.k.a. Sweet P, a.k.a. the Ruke-dizzler. (For those of you who still – quite validly – don’t know who I’m talking about: me.)
It was a lot like race #1 in distance and terrain: 48 km (eight laps of a 6 km loop) with a few rolling hills.
Shannon – the person with whom I share choreographed handshakes (and also my spouse) – insisted on coming despite being violently ill. (Aside: none of this would be happening without her; she is the greatest and most supportive partner a Monsieur could ask for. Aside over.)
As we drove out to Langley in relative silence (Shannon was preoccupied perfecting her I’m-not-about-to-vomit impression), I pondered last week’s race. In case you missed it, I crashed on lap 1.
When I showed up last week, I felt like an outsider. Everyone seemed to know where to go and what to do before the race.
I did not.
I wasn’t sure I should be there. Sure, I can ride a bike. But I wasn’t sure if I could race one. The crash-tacular result didn’t help matters, and I came into this week even more skeptical.
Thankfully my nerves abated shortly after the race started. It was a smaller field this week – only 15 or 20 strong – and a couple of my foes were about 25 years my senior. I think that helped.
The race started slowly. Everyone was content to feel out the course – and each other – for the first lap. I let myself get stuck near the back again, but I took extra precautions heading into every turn.
Nothing much happened on the first few laps, though, other than the pace picking up a bit.
Then, on lap four, someone made a move.
Heading into the largest of the (still pretty small) hills, I was sitting third. Part way up the hill, someone rocketed past both me and the two leaders. And he didn’t ease off at the apex.
This was it! The real racing had begun!
The two previous leaders picked up their cadence to start the chase. I followed suit. I looked behind me and saw that the rest of the peloton was doing the same. It took another roller or two, but the efficiency of the pack reeled in the one-man break.
When we did, I was still feeling pretty fresh – actually, I was finally feeling warm – so I said to myself, “Oh why not try to counter-attack?” (I’d read about it in a book once; how hard could it be?)
So I geared up – literally and figuratively – got into the drops, and sneakily picked up my speed. (As I’ve said before, I’m not a sprinter. My moves are generally going to be seated.)
I don’t know if everyone was tired from chasing the earlier break or if they were content to let the new guy go, realizing there was half a race left to reel him back in. Either way, I opened up a 20 meter gap.
I felt good, but not great. I considered easing off and saving my energy for closer to the finish.
But then I kept going.
The 20 meter gap became 30, then 40, then I stopped looking for a while. I got my body as aero as I could (something like this but, y’know, less good) and pretended I was doing laps of Stanley Park.
The next time I turned around, I had about 15 seconds on the bunch.
So I kept on pushing.
After about a lap and a half on my own, my legs and lungs were politely asking that we break for tea.
Request denied. On y vas!
When I started the second-last lap, my lead was about 30-40 seconds, I inexpertly judged.
I was pretty sure that, if I could stay away on the penultimate lap, I would be able to gut out the last one.
My power was really starting to go now, and I found myself in the small ring at the top of every hill. Yet my frequent shoulder checks didn’t yield any unwanted surprises and I started the last lap with an even bigger lead. (I suppose that’s the advantage of racing in Cat 4.)
As I started the final lap, Shannon was at the line, heroically pulling off the arduous cheering/not-puking combo. I looked down at my water bottles and realized I had more liquid than I needed.
I’ve seen Tour de France riders toss their bidons when they get close to the finish line in order to shed excess weight; so I went full-Wiggins and tossed my heavier bottle to Shannon (which she has photographic evidence of).
I was still worried that I’d get caught if I eased off at all, so I wasn’t as careful as I probably should have been on the slick roads. But disaster kindly lay dormant this week, and Monsieur Forte crossed the line a minute ahead of second-place.
In other words, I won. (Hooray!)
I soft-pedaled to the end of the road, then U-turned and headed back to the line. As I passed the other riders doing the same, I tried to act like I’d done this before.
One of the older gents gave me a nod and said, “Nice racing.”
That should make next week’s drive a little less anxious.
Epilogue: I think, by rights, I won some prize money (in the neighbourhood of $25-30!). But I also think I forfeited my purse by not going to the podium ceremony. (Shannon and I had to run to Costco!)
It’s probably for the best, though. I don’t want to lose my amateur status.