Monday, January 23, 2012

#CXMasters2012 A Softie Riding Hard

Shielding my tears from two young girls no doubt waiting for their Dad to cross the line, I broke down after the finish at the Masters Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville.  When I told my wife about wearing my emotions on my jersey sleeves at the finish she rolled her eyes.  She knows me.  I also cried on my wedding day.  My shoulders rattled with man sobs and sniffles.  A photographer snapped pictures of the newly crowned 45-49 year old Masters World Champ Don Myrah next to me but I swear he snuck a click or two in my direction.  I wiped my face, mixing tears with mud and put my head in arms atop my handlebars till it passed.  Under it all I smiled.  Like my wedding day, I was happy.  My friends and family will tell you I’m a softie.

I remember seeing the Cycling Dirt video of Adam Myerson after an east coast race.  Completely emotional, torn apart and crying, he was upset that he thought that day was his day.  Oh please spare me.  He made the lead group in the Elite race only to have one small thing derail his hopes.  He was crushed under the thoughts of all that training, practice and meticulous attention to detail seemingly being of no use.  All he wanted was that one good day on the bike.  I rolled my eyes watching the video.  It’s just bike racing.  There’s always another race.  That's what I thought until my day came.

“Do you want me to put it on you?”  Barb, one of the Worlds organizers and a Louisville race promoter, offered to drape the finisher’s medal over my helmet.  I chuckled and sniffed.  My buddy Jimmy talked about finishers medals on the trip down and how bullshit they are.  He told me he once turned one down, dismissing it by saying medals should only go to the winners.  I remained indifferent.

Smiling, Barb held it out, a white enameled medallion hung from a red, white and blue ribbon.  She recognized me as her “results runner” from the USA Crit Series at Cincinnati’s Hyde Park Blast.  Being close to many of the Papa John’s team riders from Louisville and knowing practically every rider in the Ohio Valley racing scene, she knew first hand all the hill repeats, practice dismounts, and garage trainer nights that brought me to this moment. 

The Pink Pony Pit Bike
The same feelings that Adam Myerson wrestled with on his bad day were welling up and spilling out from me.  It’s not just a bike race.  World Championship or not, it really has nothing to do with the race.  It’s all those hard-guy miles, intervals and practice carries that come back at the finish line to give you one last kick in the ass and slap across the face.  Just when the dues are paid, you get one last call from the collection agency, and like Myerson, I paid in tears. 

At the beginning of the season, all I wanted out of Nationals and Worlds was to be competitive with the best my age.  Seeing the names Fred Rose, Mike McShane and Jonathan Card on the prereg list, I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but after racing the USGP in Louisville that I could stay within 2 minutes of them.  Concrete, specific and (hopefully) attainable, I set my mark on the top 35 and the lead lap at Nationals and Worlds.  That’s not too much to ask from my Sven Nys prayer candle.

Then former Olympian, Don Myrah crushed the field on the 9am frozen ruts at Nationals in Wisconsin.  Even though we weren’t lapped, we probably would have been.  My teammate Mike and I were pulled, officially 2 laps down, 40th and 41st.  I hit the deck three times that day and more course marking stakes than I can count.  Still, I felt good with my ride.  However anticlimactic and disappointing, I still had one more chance, 500 miles, 2 loads of laundry, and 1 bike cleaning away in Louisville.   

"Onetago" Courtesy
“Onetago, onetago, one-to-go!”  The announcer shouted as I got the bell.  I buried myself on that last lap, gained three spots and lost two.  I went no handed over the line, clapping my hands, applauding for myself.  I cruised into the finishing chute on the lead lap and the 29th rider to cross the finish line at the 45-49 year old Masters Cyclocross World Championships.  I nodded, wiped my nose on my armwarmer and Barb slipped the medal over my helmet.  

No comments: