Monday, 14 November 2011

Schooley Mill and the Learning Curve

The most important lesson from this weekend is that you take the tubulars off before you wash the drivetrain with degreaser. Wheels that had been rock solid through a zillion turns in Saturday's practice all of a sudden weren't so good after being bathed in Greased Lightning on Saturday afternoon. There was plenty of glue left everywhere it should have been, it just was no longer capable of doing a damned thing. The front, which was glued at the exact same time with the exact same technique but no Greased Lightning and that one won't come off for love or money. Few feelings in cycling are worse than ruining your wife's race through nothing other than your own idiocy. DUH!!

There was a bit of a dark cloud over the whole team as Friday's email from Paul told us that thanks to hitting a leaf covered rock on an easy road ride on Friday, his season was over. A guy with absolutely ninja bike skills having the season of a lifetime thrown to the ground and broken by something as dumb as that. That it happened to him on Veteran's Day kind of doubles the blow. Everyone was a little off without our badass in chief there to lead us along.

The problem with the learning curve is that it flattens out. From Granogue, where I was having a standoff with my bike at the top of the hill each time, through DCCX where I started to feel a tiny little bit competent, to Kinder where I saw I could put together a good race, and to Ed Sander where I had a good race, the improvements came thick and fast. My first race, Winchester, had me like half a lap behind the winner. Yesterday, I easily saw the winning group finish - because I was close behind not because I was half a lap behind in a spot where I could see them. That improvement came rather easily. Yesterday, I had a good spot on the start grid (2nd row) thanks I guess to points earned at Ed Sander. I'd expected to start in the 80s based on registration rather than 15th. It felt heavy, like I was supposed to do well, rather than fun, like lets see how many guys we can knock off here. Don't get me wrong, the race was fun as hell (this was before the women's race so I was as-yet guilt free), but it wasn't as carefree as it has been. I think some of that tension showed through in how I raced. Getting 7th from 48th on the grid feels a bit more fun than doing it from 15th.

It's less megaton bomb tactics and more hand to hand combat when your worst spot through any of the turns is like 12th. You open the throttle all the way during the (pretty darn short) power sections and you don't pass anyone, you just hold your place. Erik Leaver came ripping through and gave me some ribbing about spotting me 100 spots on the grid, which he did, and a fantastic job he did to get there from where he started. And of course I had to shoot back that I was spotting him a year of cx experience for every spot on the starting grid that he gave me. And the whole time I was thinking about Paul too, and not wasting a race being a softie when he was lying in bed, high as a kite on pain meds and unable to race. But there I was between like 10th and fifth the whole race, and it felt like not losing 7th, and keeping the string of improvement alive, was more valid than going hell for leather and getting up to the lead 4 at risk of blowing sky high. They were within reach, I just wussed. Sorry, Paul.

So I guess next week I get another cushy spot on the grid, but my race will only be measured in whether I let myself go for it all and maybe crash and burn, or if I play it safe again. For a sport that's SO much about the legs, most of cx is played between the ears.

7-0 against crossresults this year, but now it tells me that I should be doing well. Screw crossresults. I'd much rather be here next week, 7-1 against cross results and having raced like a hard guy, than keep my precious score alive and race like a wimp.

And yeah, it's going to take a pair of farm tractors to get the wife's tires off when I'm done with them.

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