Maybe there’s something hidden. There something that starts with you every race that determines how you’re going to do. It’s waiting inside. It knows already what you’ll look like when you cross a gap or when you turn the last corner.
Chasing. A chase like I’ve never been on before. Eight guys are up the road and all seven of us on Team Sharecare are at the front of the peloton. I am the kid watching in awe as these men, my teammates, are doing what they have been doing for years; inflicting a very impersonal torture on the rest of the peloton as we proceed with our business of claiming back the front of the race. They are cutting out pulls from the wind and taking seconds of advantage from the breakaway. The teamwork pulls the bunch up to speed from a cool 26mph to a cruising 28. I watch as my computer tells me what my legs already know we’re going fast. From a fierce 30 to an almost violent 34mph we go and these guys are in control. I try to do the same. We shut down the breakaway.
The catch is punishment for the ambitious eight riders as our speed sends them to the back of the field. The chess pieces reshuffle themselves on the board again and a counter attacks goes. I am the pawn. But even a well placed pawn can put the king in check. Get it to the end of the board and you’ll choose what it becomes. Last night after I took third in the amateur field and my teammate told me some brief words to remember. “The wining break is made of those that went just one more time. One more time than the rest. It’s as simple as that.
I cover a move. No-go. They follow. I cover another one. The field comes again. Alright, one more time and then I’m really cooked. I go with a few others and before I can look back we are away. We’re gone for a lap and our lead increases. I can’t see the field on the turns. We work together for two more and we’ve got one minute of advantage.
This might just be your chance. And it could be your only chance. If you get caught you’ll go back to being the pawn for the rest of the race and maybe the rest of your life. You’ll have to wait until you get that next guaranteed opportunity. Guaranteed. Right.
It’s my novice enthusiasm that foolishly makes me realize that this is the winning break. I rally the troops because they don’t know it yet but we can win. Or can we? Who cares lets just friggin go. I’m doing my job up here. “Come on you bastards lets win.”
-If you make a break rookie, just follow the gold rule. NEVER GET DROPPED FROM THE BREAK.-
80km done and It’s Saint Patricks down here but there’s an old Irish man old man roaring with delight up there. He must have pulled a few strings with lady luck because this break is sticking past 90km and so I guess it has to be something special today. If you want to talk about tenacity, how about an Irishman named my Grandpa Barney Calvey. He was 93 when he passed after surviving two heart attacks, being on the drink for half his life and smoking for more than that. I think there was even a stoke or two as well but that man loved life so much he just refused to fold his cards like the rest did before him. And guess what boys I’ve got him in my corner today. So now it’s a fight.
The field has their own plans too. They are coming for us. It’s the last lap, 2km to go, and the mass of 70 some riders is just SEVEN seconds behind us.
It starts to rain and I ask the break with a shout “Hey who wants a wet sprint finish when we get caught? Sound a bit dangerous?” I’m answered only by a head wind that hints to the guys who can still think in our breakaway that it’s the perfect time to attack. And of course into the devilish wet wind some brave soul does. He’s gone. Hard. All of the sudden a guy is 20 seconds up the road on the last lap and everyone looks at me.
Well you rats, you just let the race go. Don’t look at me.
Here’s the key half-millisecond-moment from every race you’ve ever done that happens inside your head.
Is that a gap you can cross? It took you 98km of suffering to realize it’s not your lucky race? Well the luck ain’t in the numbers son. Every dog has its day but, damn, there’s a lot of dirty dogs behind you waiting to have theirs and for every four that Fortune gives and she takes 400, so go on then, it’s your time to catch that wheel.
Stand. Pedal. Headwind. Just me. Silence. Fly. Corner. Lean. Tailwind. Not there yet. Push. Look back, no don’t look back. More. Pain. His wheel. Almost. Legs explode. Lungs explode. Nothing left to explode. Keep going anyways. Almost.
I’m on his wheel with 1000 meters and he hears me. His elbow flick says pull though. We make a truce based on mutual hurt that can only last half a minute at best. In this dire moment, in the small space between two riders, we are become partners working together in the most minimal fashion that two humans can possibly participate in. Something barely resembling work towards common interest happens as we take two pulls each the whole time our daggers drawn and hidden with anticipation of each others coups de grâce.
Playing cat and mouse at 500 meters brings the rats back. As the breakaway we had previously shed makes contact with us one of those rats counters with a nervous jump lasting less than 100 meters. Someone will have to do better than that as we all come back to a stand still. We’re rolling a dangerous dice here fellas that pack of dogs is literally chomping at our heels. Why doesn’t one of you just lead us all out? No? 300 meters to go and a tail wind. Hmm. Well it’s not perfect but I like my odds. I go all in. I see the line but I hear the wheels. He’s right on my hip with 30 meters left and the last lap attacker crosses the line and puts his hands up. Pipped. He’s top dog today and I am just another mutt to finish. The wheel that crossed ahead of mine and gave me my 2nd place seemed so unnaturally even with mine as if I had it, really I did. It doesn’t matter now how close it was 2nd is 2nd. I’m a pawn again. After the race my teammates give me a congratulations.
But I don’t regret not winning because a bike race is a mighty game. There’s winning and then there’s how you raced and I’ll take how you raced every single time over winning. I’m happy with it. I look back and it seems like I planned it out the night before; as if I it were written on a piece of paper that I packed along with my shoes and helmet. It always seems like that when you do well. Like you have no choice. And sometimes I believe that’s the truth of it. Success can be inevitable. Failure is something we are responsible for. You never have to think that much when you do well. You always think way to much when you loose.
Everyday you wake you’re a rookie and you get the chance to transform. Define your moment in whatever you do. Just go one more time. It could be your day. Even pawns get lucky. Victory adheres to those that can bear to defy life’s capriciousness.
Thanks for reading