When we last left off, I had just finished sucking at bike racing. This was well deserved, premeditated, sucking. Granted, I didn't know on the start line that I was going to suck, but if you'd been a socioligist, hiding behind a cow, trying to write a thesis on cyclists' prerace mannerisms, you would have jotted down "guy in gray and black is going to suck."
So we needed to fix that. I had chat with the SBZ and she pointed out that I either needed to get my act together prerace, or stop racing until I cared enough to get my act together. Ouch. I tried to argue that I had my act together, and was just a victim of neverending bad luck. She was not convinced. Neither was I.
Fine. I'll get my shit together. I don't want to suck on Sunday.
10pm Saturday -- I'm in bed, after drinking four pints of water in the last two hours. Hydration is serious business. So is getting up to pee three times.
8am Sunday -- Gotta get up to eat breakfast. Why do you need to eat breakfast at 8am for a 3pm race? So you'll be hungry at noon for a real lunch. Serious business is getting up seven hours before a 1-hour race to start fueling.
10am -- Both bikes cleaned, lubed. Valve extender located, so I can use all my wheelsets no matter what pump.
11am -- on the road to the race, lunch in hand. My act is so together it hurts. No, wait, that's my bladder.
The one caveat to all this preparation was that we were racing on the same course as yesterday, only backwards. The same course that we rototilled into four inches of mud that was now drying in the sun. You can put the right fuel in me, you can make my bikes work, but you still can't make me get stoked to slog in mud.
I decided that I would preride the course and see if it met my standards for being fun enough, or at least interesting enough, that I would not automatically hate life if I was racing poorly. The early prognosis did not look good, since our promoting overlords had decided against restaking any part of the course, despite the fact that were in the middle of a giant field.
I went to go pit for Linnea and I was decidedly on the fence about racing. My bike was already destroyed, the hoses were in use, and the course was a disaster. What's the point? At least Linnea made my life easier by stubbornly refusing a pit bike until the last lap, so I was free of washing duties.
But wait! My day was turned around by the actions of a few cyclocross gods. First, Adam Myerson prerode the course, and went to have a little chat with the promoter. I assume the chat was basically "I'm on the UCI 'Cross Commission and you're not. You should restake these horrible mud bogs. Don't question me."* And boom, the course became 30% more rideable. Killer.
Then, I get back to my car and Jerry is so stoked to test out his bar cam contraption that he has not only installed it on my bike, but also cleaned the entire thing. Seriously, I left a bike with 2 lbs of mud on it, and I came back to a totally clean, lubed machine with a handlebar cam attached!
Well damn. I better race that bike.
I was positioned in the mid-rear of the pack for the first minute. Then we went down the first downhill in four to six inches of thick mud, and the race exploded. It was like everyone forgot that we were racing for 60 minutes on a course with zero drafting and decided they HAD TO MAKE THE FRONT GROUP, regardless of who else might be trying to steer a bike through this quagmire.
For awhile we hung out with some other dudes. Guys like Ricky and Nathaniel rode in our group, or even behind me, until they remembered how to not crash into stuff, and then we never saw them again. No matter. Kevin is right there.
Then a spectator said "24th" to me as I rode past, and that changed "everything."
Verge points go 25 deep. Money goes 25 deep. Guess who has two thumbs and hasn't scored at a Verge race all season? THIS GUY.
Ok, so instead of worrying about Kevin I need to worry about not dropping two places. I'm not sure how this changes my strategy, though. So I kept riding as fast as I could, which wasn't very fast.
I briefly passed Kevin and assumed that I was going to "totally own him," but before said owning could happen, he passed me back, so I started riding like an idiot.
First I communicated very poorly to Linnea when I wanted a pit bike, so she was at the wrong pit while I was looking around angrily for my pit crew. "I'll get a clean bike around this corner.... PSYCHE!" is not good for keeping you focused. Of course Kevin had no clean bikes at all. So this wasn't much of an excuse.
Now I'm flustered, so on the only fast part of the entire course I managed to jacknife into the tape on a corner because I'm riding too aggressively. Shit! It's in my bars, dismount, flail, yank the stake out of the ground... and I'm free! Only eight seconds lost!
Oh but wait, we better make up that time by getting overly aggressive on the sketchy downhill and riding off in the grass/rocks/trees.
Soon after that, I noticed I was starting to doink my rim on more stuff than usual. Now I generally consider the rim-doink to be a good sign that your pressure is justright, but when you start doinking it once every 10 seconds, when there's only a solid object in the mud every 20 seconds, that's a bad sign. I was pretty sure it was going flat, but for some reason I wasn't losing any ground to Kevin. Huh. It wasn't until I came down the hill before the stone wall, and instead of going "doink" it went SLAMSLAMSLAMSLAM that I knew I was riding a flat.
Of course the benefit of racing in that much mud is that the flat didn't really affect ride quality or handling at all. By the time I got to the pit to get a new bike, I was still only 15 seconds or so behind Kevin, not bad for a lap with a tape incident, off-course incident, and a flat incident!
Now free of incidents, with two laps to go, I put Kevin squarely in my sights and hit the afterburners. In only half a lap I had narrowed the gap to 14.5 seconds. Victory was inevitable.
But then, disaster struck. Justin Lindine lapped me, because he is the real deal on a bike, not some joker laden down with cameras and ideas about blogging. And suddenly, we had under half a lap to the finish line, and I still had to make up 14.49 seconds on Kevin.
So I rode really hard for another four minutes, and got the gap down to 10 seconds, so I was just close enough to see the f-ing smirk on his face when he turned the last corner and confirmed that I was too far back to sprint him to the line.
No, wait, the goal was top 25 and I finished 23rd! So I got points, money, and a good time, racing my arse off for 56 minutes. Maybe I'm not burned out... the only way to tell for sure is to do six more double weekends. Let's go!