The carrot

A few days before I started this tour a friend called me from a Midwest city. He told me he was gonna have his race and it would pay more to the winner than last time.

I was glad to hear this because I won the race last time. The last time it happened was two years ago but it was supposed to be yearly thing. Going back one year he’d said it was going to happen but in the days leading up he canceled.

As I rode away from NY I was already in a slight, faint hurry to get back. To get back in time to grab my race bike and bus to that Midwest city.
I had more worry than hurry though.
I knew there could be a repeat of last year, say it is so. But when the time comes there is no go.
That would have been worst case. Rush around enjoying this tour a bit less than I could and then what I rushed for was nothing in the end.
Of course there was a best case. Find a smooth way to get to the race after enjoying the tour as much as I could. And then the race and prize is real. Plus a win if at all possible.
I had days where I felt worry about not knowing how to predict what really was no better than a coin flip.
Some days I barely thought about it. But really I only took one full, non weather forced rest day. And that was with a reason. There were some half days.
Anyway. I got so lucky. Even getting doored and how much that cost me in damage costs and time from crippling my top speed. I was lucky. I got to what might be the best city between NYC and the Canadian boarder north and caught a cheap ride to NYC. Grabbed my race bike like I imagined. Traveled to the race. But that was only the easy part, now I had to win. Other wise I was just spending money to hang out and delaying my trip.
Since I’m not always the fastest, i rely on making less mistakes than my competitors. So the last thing I want in an open streets, chose your route, check point race is some one faster than me following me and mimicking my decisions and route to just out sprint me at the end.
But this time the race was different. No clues before hand. Except for the hour before the start. The 11 checkpoints were disclosed less than an hour before the go. Not much time to make sure my route was not only the smartest but one I could do without being followed.
I made a plan for my first 3 CP’s leaving the 4th as a possible last or keep it 4th. As a way to break off a copy cat if needed.
At the start I was the only one in road shoes. Brand new ones at that. After I get clipped in I’m gone. Most of the other rider, all fixed and breakless, were in street shoes and running toe-clips and straps.
Lined up on one side of the courthouse square and all our bikes laying on the edge of a stage 50feet away we edged closer as we heard the 3 2 1 GO!
I ran, we all did but as I stopped to pull my bike down I slipped and fell on the smooth tile. Pulling my bike down on top of myself. I was the first one to crash.
I got up quick and was stepping in my chosen direction cutting through the madness. And as I hopped on I felt alone. I clipped a shoe in and heard nothing else close to me. I was in the street a second or two later. I’d made sure the road was clear for me to go then I looked back and I was alone. Not one person followed me. There were not a big number of racers, only a few really but I’m sure they all knew I’d won the last time and in my mind the chances of being able to ride solo off the start were about none.

But there I was around the first corner and looking back a block later and not a soul. Two blocks and still the same. So now it’s just a matter of not stopping and not messing up the route I planed.

I was nervous because there were some hills and I was not hitting them crazy fast. Maybe I was losing time.

After I did my fourth check point which was on the top of a 6 level parking structure, I realized my over all route would be much shorter if I saved it for my last. Was that a mistake?

I had a chrono running on my watch but I never looked at it except at the 27 min mark. And I was not quite half way finished. The good thing was even though I saw other racers I never got held up at CP’s because of any.
I was doing the 9th of 11 and it was a further out spot. A friend signing nagged me about being slow but his tone changed when I told him “only 2 left”.
And those two were in a near straight line along my way to the finish.
At my 10th I had not scouted it prior and unnecessarily jumped a fence to get to the center of the running track where the CP was. Running out to the track infield I felt super slow and the run back and jumping a 5 foot fence. Not all that smooth.
At the last CP I was super worried about being on the wire of not making 1st place, there was nothing for second, (as the organizer says, second place is first loser) all I remember is a crowd of people (non-racers) to navigate to get signed. One guy I didn’t bother to look at or acknowledge was saying “that’s one serious bike” over and over till I was gone.
After 11 signatures I ripped just a few blocks, not more than eight blocks to the finish and just in that time it started to rain but no slowing down, I was trying to find it to speed up. By this point I had my legs dialed, my balance and my route were not even a thought anymore. I could see the road and any on oncoming traffic in my mind. The only thing in my brain was “speed up, go faster”.

All those days on the road gave me plenty of time to think. And in my last race. The Race Against Time in NYC a month before my tour started I raced against a friendly rival and lost to him because on the last few blocks I had looked back and seen no one so I’d let myself just ride it in. But as I approached the finish he swung around the corner just a second in front of me.
Had I not let myself scrub on the last blocks into the finish I’d have had him. Lessons.

Although, the race is not always won like that. So as I was burning the last few blocks it was not in my mind.

One last turn

One last block

I don’t even drop my bike, I ride right in the front door of the bar. “anyone else make it in first?”.

And there I was. All alone. The organizer was not even there. He had to relieve a CP worker so he didn’t make to the finish until after second an third arrived.

The next racer to show up said he’d given up because he still had 3 CP’s to get when his girlfriend texted him “doug won”.

The next racer to finish was over 20 min behind me.

I caught the carrot I’d been chasing all around Canada. Now I can go back to ny and swap my busted front wheel for a good one off my pile of bike parts, get on a train back to VT and continue my tour.

After five days in my home town and sitting on a bus to ny as I type this. The whole thing feels like it was easy.
I know it stressed me out a bunch at times. I’m lucky. I ended up in the best case.