Up until about 8 days before this race, I had no plans of going to Wisconsin for the Subaru Cup, because air travel is expensive and I'm a Cat 1, so I can get pretty much the same race experience out there that I do here. I figured I would let Linnea go out by herself to do the pro thing and I would sit at home and count my money.
Sometime around the Pinnacle, though, I started to notice that I had put together some pretty decent races against New England Pros in the last month, so maybe I should try to do something interesting with this alleged fitness, before it disappeared? I bought some tickets to Wisconsin and prepared to (obviously) win the Cat 1 Open race there and get me a pro upgrade.
... and next thing I know, I'm on the 10th row of the starting grid with 100 Cat 1s, and there is no way I am gonna do anything except stare at butts in singletrack for the first lap. So that PRO upgrade is out the window, good thing there's still a bike race to do here.
(Some people might say, "A real man would win, even if he started 70th." I say, if you can do that, you are a huge sandbagger.)
We were packed tight in the start grid, because it bottlenecked hard in the first minute, so the guys at the back (which would be me) were so nervous about this that we just kept pushing up until our handlebars were hitting the seatpost of the guy ahead. I see no way this could go badly.
So I avoided the first crash in the start. But, I got held up a bit, which definitely kept me out of the second crash and also put me 15 seconds down after 30 seconds of riding. But I'm not bitter.
15 more seconds of riding got me to the first bottleneck, which was a mere 3 riders wide and was currently being occupied by 6 bodies. I ran through the woods along with everyone else, and the race was on.
The first lap was angsty. I was part of the problem. Staging had been first-come, first-serve, with some people coming really early, so a lot of decently fast people (like myself, I'd like to think) were mired in traffic at the biggest race of our season and NOT HAPPY about it. Every time we'd hit a doubletrack section, half the guys around me would start sprinting, and we'd leadfrog over a rider or two and then jam on the brakes and bump each other on the way back into the singletrack.
On the long switchback climb in the woods I couldn't even see the leaders, but I *could* see at least 40 people ahead of me. So happy about this. There was nowhere to pass, which allowed some of us to save up enough oxygen to "encourage" the guys who were slowing traffic down.
Near the top of the "mountain" (265 vertical feet of the best skiing in Southern Wisconsin!) I put the cherry on top of my douchey first lap with the douchiest pass I've ever made. There was some stakes and tape coming into the singletrack with a line of guys waiting for it, but screw it, I just passed two people on the doubletrack and I'm JACKED UP ON ADRENALINE WOOO BIKE RACING, right? So there was a tiny space between the guys and the tape, not wide enough for my bars, but tape is stretchy and I'm excited. So I get two more guys (who were patiently waiting for traffic) by stretching the tape, and poking them with my bars when the stakes prevent me from stretching the tape. The final bar-poke is more of a bodycheck, which of course leaves me riding into the woods, just fine, and the other rider with a foot down.
I'm not proud. I just can't be trusted once stakes and tape are involved, my brain is just like, "what would Myerson do?"
This awesome move did not free me from traffic, just moved me further up in it. I got more dudes on the next doubletrack, got another dude on the downhill, got more dudes in the field, got held up on the climb, passed some more guys, held up on the descent, and finished lap one right where I started it: lookin at BUTTS!
But! Starting the lap means the feed zone, and the feed zone means GIRLS. Specifically, Linnea's brother's girlfriend and her sister, who were assuredly having trouble reconciling my boasting with my mid-30s position. Time to flip out! I ignored the water (it was only 85 and humid, why would I need that?) and passed like four more people in the feed zone. Once I was out of their site, I had clear space ahead of me for the first time in the race... and yet mysteriously, had to slow down.
So lap two was the traditional "wtf was I thinking?" lap, where you notice that it's really hot out, and your pacing strategy was terrible. The course was fun, and the climbs were mostly shaded, so this wasn't half as miserable as when this happens at, say, Mt Snow. But my meteoric rise through the field was definitely over. A spectator told me I was in 28th, which made me sad, especially because I couldn't do anything about it.
For the rest of the race, I just reeled in whomever I could, threw as much water on my head as possible, and rode through the feed zone as fast as my little legs would allow. This "strategy" was good for apparently seven more places, because I finished 21st.
I was kinda bummed about this until I saw the results, and discovered that I had passed and beaten GOLDEN BIKE GUY from last year. Hey, if GOLDEN BIKE GUY can only get 31st, then this must be a fast field! Good for me! Or something.
Also notable on the results was pro xc skier/Olympian Garrott Kuzzy. I did not beat him. But I was only 2:30 behind him, which is about the amount of time I would lose every 5k in a ski race with him. Seems like a win to me.
After the race I was totally messed up from the heat and humidity, so another 4 hours in the sun watching Linnea and then the pro men was a great idea. I especially liked this idea when the sun went down and I was like, why is my skin still so hot to the touch?
Linnea did not have a very good day racing bikes, but since she's an awesome girlfriend I didn't have to do anything properly boyfriendy like comforting her. She was just like, "that sucked," and I was like, "yeah, it kinda did" and then we silently agreed to never speak of it again. Until I wrote this blog. Whoops.
I have some bar cam footage from this race, which I may edit into a glorious movie about other guys' butts someday.
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