I've had what you could call "the spook" about road racing for a little while. There were a few ready and relevant excuses for bailing on Black Hills and Jeff Cup, but in truth I was no less busy or anything coming into this past weekend. I thought about doing a mountain bike race in Richmond just to get the racing thing going, but my wife delivered the kick in the ass I needed to get me back in the road game.
Basically, I don't give a shit how I do in races. What I mean by that is that it's great when I do well, and I don't spend all this time and effort and resources training and going to races just to ride around in circles - I endeavor to ride and finish well, but when I finish the race it's not necessarily measured by how I did. Guys have been racing for a few weeks now (some for a lot longer) and are fully in the game. My last road race was Lost River, in July. The most I could have hoped for yesterday was to be in the mix a bit and get my feet back under me.
After three or four laps I was surprised to find myself wanting to get going, and started actually, you know, racing. What a concept. At one point I remember being down in the drops, hitting it hard, mentally making that noise of a motorcycle running through the gears, and thinking "holy shit, this is a lot of fun." Having Mike back in the game and riding well was a hoot. We didn't get to race together at all last year, and for us to be so involved with each other in the context of bike racing without getting to do it together has sucked. At two to go, I made that mental commitment to giving a maximum effort for the remainder of the race to see what came of it. With about 2/3 of a lap to go, I was lingering near the front and a Kelly guy started stealth shifting. I was on him like white on rice and we were off on the gambler. Dude was crazy strong, and ripped us off the front (and it's such a low percentage move that you often get a little free rope), and f-ing HAMMERED for like a minute. I pulled through and wasn't quite the speedboat he was but we were hupping along, into the downhill. And then the immediate aftermath of the downhill proved the immutable rule that 50 guys go faster than two, and we were swallowed. I managed to finish behind nearly everyone who finished, but very happy that I'd gone to a bike race and really raced my bike. It was awesome. The race was fun and fast and well raced, Bike Doctor (aka the Legion of Doom) pantsed us all really badly, but it was just really fun. Immediately after the race I told a friend "I didn't even really remember how fun this could be." And this was Dolan, the boring race that everyone loves to loathe.
About 30 minutes later there was a bad crash with serious injury in the 3/4. After what happened in CT a few weeks ago I'm just praying for a good outcome to this one. It's a dangerous game, but a fun one, and there but for the grace of God go any of us. To be put back under the spell like I've been contrasts pretty starkly with that.
**UPDATE** Word on the injury is concussion and broken hand(?), which compared to what people were fearing is just a great outcome. Very happy about that.