So I won race on the weekend. An occurrence not dissimilar to Halley’s Comet, it doesn’t happen very often, so perhaps not surprisingly I’ve taken a bit of time to reflect on what exactly happened. And how.
Funnily enough I felt decidedly ordinary before the race. I had no co-conspirators from my club to help out. I hadn’t exactly been training the house down either. In fact, I was even on my heavy wheels with 25mm all-weather tyres that I’d been too lazy to take off the day before. Yet even without slick rubber, deep carbon rims or any team-mates I still managed to win a bunch sprint by 2-3 bike lengths against riders who typically beat me. How?
Some weeks when I race – no, make that most weeks – a variety of shit seems to happen at the worst possible times. You know what I mean; you blink at the critical moment and miss the eventual winner’s wheel. You look left just as the others burst right. You get boxed in by a guy clearing his nose and wear a booger as the break takes off. The rider in front of you punctures or crashes. Or for no apparent reason whatsoever the guy you’re trailing just plain stops. There are numerous ways to miss your chance. But it’s only now, when I look at just how everything went absolutely right for me yesterday that I really appreciate the role timing, strategy and, yes, a bit of old fashioned luck plays in these things.
First of all, for a change I managed to conserve my energy for most of the 65 minutes which preceded the final sprint, resisting my usual temptation to interpret – and therefore try and chase down – every attempted breakaway as the race-winning move.
On the second to last of the 2.6km laps I managed to move myself forward to about 8th or 9th wheel, again without having to burn any matches; not too close to the front, but close enough.
I then waited for the surges from behind to come and half way through the final lap they duly did. I’d already picked out three guys who I thought could possibly help drag me into the final dash, and as one cruised up alongside me with about 1km to go I jumped happily on his wheel without the slightest need to jostle for it. As past experience had taught me, this guy was going way too early which was bad news for him, great news for me.
With about 700m left we were now into the long final straight and I still had plenty of gears and energy in the tank. Just as I could sense my pilot was beginning to fade I looked over my right shoulder and voila! Somewhat incredibly in a field of nearly 30 riders another of the three strong guys I’d been watching loomed up beside me at exactly the right moment. You beauty! Once again a natural gap had opened and I was able to jump into his slipstream without losing any speed or rhythm.
A racing miracle was unfolding for me and I could begin to sense it might just be my day as I began shifting into the bigger gears. This guy was in one hell of a bloody hurry and seemed intent on burning all his matches in one colossal ‘genie’ – but again he was burning them far too early. Fighting my own instincts to take off I somehow stayed patient behind him, remembering all the missed opportunities from races past. Until he began to fizzle out in the last 250m. Time to go!
I swung out, put my head down and sent my heart-rate heading towards Alpha Centuari. Not being at all accustomed to winning anything, I waited for the chasers to come. But while I could hear them and I did catch sight of one or two out of the corner of my eye with about 50m to go, none could get past. Today was my day. Whoo f$#@ing hoo!
Of course, just like Halley’s Comet, it may be many years before I experience such cosmic alignment once again. If ever. Especially if I follow the advice of many of my mates and put my hand up for promotion to the next grade.