You can only count on three things in life: death, taxes, and the Canton Cup being windy.
At least this year it was warm and windy. Instead of hypothermia, I finished the race with a pounding headache. Said headache was temporarily improved by drinking the only liquid available at the finish...beer. Said headache has returned, as I type this.
I am generally not super-excited about Canton, what with the mile of pavement and all, but this edition of Canton had me STOKED because I was running dual Flip cams for the first time. That's right, nearly a pound of camera was attached to my bike, thanks to man hands Jerry. With both forward and rear views, I was sure to capture at least one amusing incident.
I started pretty decently when we were on pavement but became inexplicably skittish on the fire road soon after. I couldn't really see anything, so I was scared of hitting a rock. This makes no sense since I was riding freaking tubulars, and I managed to hit a rock so hard a few weeks ago that I knocked my bars out of my hands.... without flatting.
So dudes that wanted it kinda pushed in around me, which was fun from a video perspective. We were in tight (in both the literal and slang sense) traffic for a while, but then Peter Sullivan folded (not rolled) his back tire really hard in a turn and basically exploded. It made a cool farting noise, but I had to lock 'em up to avoid running him over. That opened a huge gap ahead of the crash and we got comfortably strung out trying to close it.
Eventually it came back together. The front guys were gone, but there was a 15-strong party train rolling around and obviously, I was on the back of it. Joining me in "accordion hell" at the back were Guenter Hofer and Greg Whitney.
I've raced enough cross to know that the back of a group that big is a baaaad place to be. And yet, I was having enough trouble just staying on that my legs made a plea bargain, and I decided to tailgun it for a while. Cuz maybe it will work this time!
First Greg was one wheel ahead; then two, then three. I watched him, thinking, gee, that's what I should be doing. So I passed Guenter (putting me behind only 13 other guys) and was like, phew, that was hard work. I let a gap open, Guenter came back around, and that was that.
In addition to the accordion effect, trying to stay on the back is extra hard when the group is that big because guys keep exploding and going off the back, trying to take you with them. It's like Donkey Kong throwing barrels at you, if you forget to jump one you'll end up 10 seconds off the group in no time. GAME OVER!
It should be noted that to win Donkey Kong you can just stand in place jumping barrels, you have to make forward progress. I did not apply this knowledge to the race. I just kept jumping guys who came off the back. Eventually my legs had had enough of this and a metaphorical barrel hit me in the face.
The barrel was actually me failing to ride the runup, which was stupid, because no one was riding the run up (including me). But I KNEW I COULD DO IT. And I wanted to make the crowd love me. So I stalled a few steps from the top; no problem, quick top-tube straddle and remount -- except I kicked my pedals backward, dropped the chain, and SHIT.
I had to get off and run a bit to gain speed so I could shift the chain back on. This left me 10 seconds off the back of the group (which was pretty ragtag at this point, anyway) and seriously bummin'. BUT I KNEW I COULD RIDE IT.
So the next lap, I was finally free from those pesky "drafting opportunities" and I nailed the ride up, just squeaking over the top while the crowd went wild. Several women in the crowd proposed to me. The heavens opened and a single ray of sunlight shone down, directly on me. It was so much faster than I instantly teleported into the lead of the race.
Actually I saved one or two seconds and no one was especially excited, except me.
Then I TT'ed around the course for a while with Bill Kenney. Even in a group of two, I still couldn't hold a wheel to save my life. Every time he took a pull I yo-yo'ed pathetically. I rode the barriers but he passed me by running them. Glorious.
Finally Kevin's verbal abuse of me became too much, and the finish line became too close, and I attacked the shit out of myself, Bill and the last lap. Too little, too late. Kevin's final heckle was "if you had ridden this hard half an hour ago you might still have a wheel to follow." So true.
I crossed the line and Colin Murphy, already nicely recovered after finishing 7th screamed in my ear, "WHO'S THE ALPHA COLIN NOW???"
After another mediocre result I am going to do the unthinkable and take a day (!!) off. No Putney, nor Orchard Cross, for me. I will use the extra time to figure out how the heck to get some amazing picture-in-picture video edited up from Canton. Stay tuned!