Thursday, July 7, 2011

Rules for Old Men in the Rain

photo courtesy John Clayton

With all due respect to the Flatwater Criterium, Norfolk Classic, and Papillion Twilight Criterium, last weekend's Tour of Lawrence was the first time since I've come back to Nebraska that I felt like I was in a real bike race. Maybe it was seeing Brad Huff in his Jelly-Belly kit, or maybe it was the throngs of spectators lining the start / finish line and creating walls of of sound on three of the eight corners. Maybe it was the other racers--both the masters and Elite 3 races had fields of over 50 guys, and everybody came to race. Maybe it was me--I stayed with the pack the entire race. But this day of criterium racing felt just as charged as the Merco or San Francisco events I used to race.

The new bike made its debut and performed like a champ; cornering was much smoother, and my out of the saddle efforts resulted in noticeably quicker surges. My back hurt a lot during the second half of the Masters race, so between events I borrowed a stand from Sunflower Bike and Outdoor and adjusted my saddle forward a centimeter. That helped a lot.

Aching spinal erectors were the least of my worries, however. Black sheets of rain started about ten minutes into our masters race and continued until just after we finished. I saw at least ten guys go down, and one of them slid on his back alongside me for 20 feet as I ripped down a long straightway at 25 miles an hour. I saw him after the race, and he didn't have a mark on him. The water was that deep.

 The Cat 3 race was also a crash-fest, but none of the carnage seemed to faze me. I was squeezing through gaps, moving up in corners, and covering surges like a racer who's been doing this a while. Which I have. It's just nice to rediscover that fact. I finished 17th out of 50-something after losing Lucas's wheel in turn seven when a Des Moines rider chopped me by diving for the inside of a corner. He took out another rider, so I watched Lucas pass a few guys for fourth. But I had the legs at the end. That's a first this year.

Once again, I marvel at the equanimity and decency of my teammates. These are good folks. 

Lucas Marshall, Matt Tillinghast, and E.O'B. Photo by Jill Tillinghast
After the races I drove into Kansas City and hung out until the wee small hours with Carole, Tiff, and Erin. Too much whiskey and way too much laughter helped squeeze the weekend well into the fourth of July. How in the world did I survive four hours in the car, two hours of crit racing, and five hours of drinking, noshing, and gabbing? Good company helps--in racing and in socializing.

After coffee Monday morning, driving back to Omaha proved harder than I'd imagined, especially since I-29 is essentially closed. But winging through northern Kansas and southern Nebraska has it's advantages, especially when my bike wasn't the only new blue addition to the family:

Meet Blue Roo Sally, the Aussie Cattle Dog & Abbey companion extraordinaire. Having these two waiting for me at home made the trip fly right by.

This weekend I'm off to Clear Lake, Iowa for a crit and road race with Bryan, Shim, and Leah. I'll race the masters and the Cat 3 criteriums and the masters race on the road.

I can't wait.

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