I’m a simple person.
I like cream in my coffee.
I like toast for breakfast with butter and jam.
And I want to win Telo.
I’ve come to terms that #3 is never going to happen, but every week rebel mightily against reality. I have it in my head and there are 24 or 25 chances a year to win and this is the week.
When I say win I don’t mean set a new PR or make the breakaway. I mean cross the finish line first.
It’s a very simple concept, except that after innumerable starts, it’s never happened, and as I get older and slower and apparently a bunch dumber, the chance of winning, which was always infinitesimal, keeps getting smaller.
As Derek the Destroyer says, “Your race results are largely decided by who shows up,” and at Telo there are always at least four people who can sprint faster than I can, if not forty.
Yesterday, there were seven.
Before the fake race started, Derek, explained the race strategy, which went like this:
- Frexit wasn’t there.
- Smasher wasn’t there.
- EA Sports, Inc. wasn’t there.
- Hair wasn’t there.
- [Complicated race analysis] + “follow my wheel.”
The analysis part actually meant something, but for me, once the race started I knew I would forget everything. But I remembered “follow my wheel.”
At the last moment Alx Bns showed up, along with the Hun, and then at the very last minute Surfer Dan, and of course Heavy D., none of whom I was ever going to beat in anything, much less a sprunt. However, with [complicated race analysis] + “follow my wheel,” there was a chance that something good might happen.
Until Ronnie showed up. Ronnie is the current Pro/Cat 1 leader in the CBR Sprint Cup standings. He’s about 25 years younger than I am, and about 30 times faster. We started the one-hour beatdown at 6:00 PM pointy-sharp and everything was fine until it wasn’t.
Somewhere between 6:NOAir and 6:VOMIT I looked up and there were only eight riders left. Ronnie and Derek had methodically attacked until there was nothing left, and each time they got pulled back someone else would counter.
With three laps to go Derek said something to me that I couldn’t hear so I nodded as if I did. The entire race I had followed Rule 1 of Steve Tilford’s Bike Racing Ten Commandments, which was “stay off the front.”
With one lap to go everyone slowed down and got ready for the sprunt. Patrick Barrett slotted in behind Derek but I somehow got back on the wheel after Turn 2, into the headwind. Derek motioned for me to stay there, as if anything other than a punch to the face could have dislodged me. We entered and exited the chicane and everyone bunched up on the right.
At just the right moment, Derek jumped to the left, into the wind. Miraculously, I was in a small enough gear to accelerate with him. Miraculously, I was able to follow. Not so miraculously, he then began pulling away. Miraculously, I realized that if I didn’t get on his wheel at that very second I would be finishing eighth out of eight. Not so miraculously, waves of doubt and pain overwhelmed me. Miraculously, my legs kept pushing. Not so miraculously, I wanted to cry. Miraculously, I didn’t crash into his back wheel as he whipped through Turn 3. Not so miraculously, I couldn’t see or breathe or think and then boom Derek went wide, leadout finished with one turn and 400 yards to go and the last words I heard were “At least you got second, Seth!” and I had no idea what that meant because there were eight of us and I could see Ronnie’s shadow on my wheel and I whipped through the last turn and it was weird because Derek’s leadout had been so vicious and fast that even though I was gassed just by turning the pedals the momentum kept me going and as I waited for the swarm to pass me it didn’t and only Ronnie was left who easily kicked by for the win without much effort and in that split fraction of a second I was about as happy as I know how to be and parenthetically as I write this several hours later I still am.
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