Cheesy RIder - Palmyra RR May-27
I have a report from Palmyra WI, a small town out in kettle moraine country. Team Velocause are running a rare road race on memorial saturday. To spice up the report I’m including quotes from 'The Rider' by Tim Krabbe. If you haven’t read it, put down this and your chai latte or IPA and proceed to the nearest bookstore immediately (or I can lend you it).
Anyway, road races, hmm. I dont have the best experience with these. While riding through the countryside is far superior to tight criterium courses, there are inevitably hills, organizers simply cannot resist them, and my 190lb body doesn’t really do hills. This course is 9 miles and we have four laps. And yep there’s the hill, just after the start. It’s a grinder, but it’s not that long and nothing like as brutally steep as ones around Galena.
Off the line it’s me and Joe S representing HAC, a smattering of other Chicago riders and a lot of lean looking guys from the top wisconsin teams. Off we go bumping over two railroad tracks and on up to the hill. First time up it’s ok, big ring, smallest sprocket lug it up in the saddle. Resist temptation to drop to the small ring.
‘Shifting is a kind of painkiller, and therefore the same as giving up. After all, if I wanted to kill my pain, why not choose the most effective method? Road racing is all about generating pain.’
I’m always amazed how I can hurtle down the slightest hill far faster than anyone else, what (lard) goes up must come down - and fast. Hence I’m thrown to the front on a slight descent and take a dig as we head south, soon I’m joined by Joe and we are swapping the lead, a poppy red tete de la course.
Its rolling idyllic countryside as we make our way around in dappled sunlight. Finally we reach the 4 mile finish straight. Here we have a following wind, and downhill sections give you back some of that energy cruelly paid out. Result is a 40mph blast as you swoop through curves, avoid huge but well marked potholes and drop down to the start/finish.
My plans are simple, don’t get dropped on the hill, if you survive 4 ascents then we can take an assessment and see what’s possible. But above all, don’t get dropped on the hill. So that’s how it goes, I survive 2 more ascents, 2 more laps, a sketchy line (mine) through a full speed corner that has me trading paint with another rider and we come up to the final ascent. Joe has disappeared so I’m on my own.
I’m smart enough to be at the front, and I even pull away very slowly on the run up making it clear this is not an attack. Down the gears and into the pain cave. Halfway up riders are streaming by. At the top I’m last in our depleted field but not gapped. In the red and hanging on.
‘My whole life had only one goal: making that last wheel, here, now. I was wasted.’
Four guys have attacked and got away 100 yards. We chase and as my heartrate drops into a range that will continue my existence on earth, I’m helping out with a few pulls. The four remain tantalizingly close. As we turn into the wind I’m second wheel in our chase but I simply cannot (or will not?) help the pursuit into this wind, I suck wheel shamefully.
‘Racing is licking your opponent’s plate clean before starting on your own.’
But wait. The lead four seem to be fighting over who will pull them through the headwind too, and the gap is dropping by the second. A turn and a quick attack has us all together. All to play for. Did I say all? My back is majorly smarting, I’m a bit hot and feeling and looking a bit ragged in the saddle. A last drag on my bottle and it’s time for the 40mph run in.
Nothing is quite as exhilarating as taking curves and dodging holes at such insane speed with 23mm of thin rubber between you and calamity. The centerline doesn’t exist on these farm roads, and its concept is, well, let’s say liberally interpreted on the descents leaving me mid pack in about 12 riders left.
The finish isn’t in sight yet but the sprinting begins and I go with it, finally coming over the brow of the last downward hill. There’s the line. 200 yards ahead. I go for the left, and finally wind up to full gas to make some places. Pass one rider then another then suddenly I’ve got the big MO, a speed advantage built up as I worked up the shelter of the field, so I slingshot by the rest of the sprinting mob and cross the line an astonished first with a probably unnecessary throw. Exhaustion turns to elation. First place.
‘Because after the finish all the suffering turns to memories of pleasure’
Indeed, Tim Krabbe. Win or lose, (and be fair to me, I write up the far more numerous shoulda/coulda/woulda losses and the epic fails too) that’s why we do this.