I've been racing cross, training, and working my behind off at school these days.
I decided at the last minute to write a thesis, so all my lack of free time is spent reading books, articles, and chasing sources for it. I knew I was in for this, now I need to figure out how I can cut all corners in my school work without sacrificing my grades so I can be sane this semester. I see my friends maybe once or twice a week because I stay in and get my work done, and so I can ride early.
I'll post more on cross when I get a moment to breathe, but for now here's something I wrote for a creative non-fiction class that I'm taking.
Click. Clank. I push the shifter over, and the bike obediently responds to my directive.
The chain moves from the teeth on the chain ring back towards the cogs on the cassette and shimmies its way through the rear derailleur before finally arriving right back where it started. My consistent pedaling perpetuates the cycle. It’s the only pleasant sound of metal on metal that I’ve ever heard.
My mind wanders for a brief moment as I stare ahead of the pack. I try to admire my surroundings, but feel a nudge on my arm as a racer tries to over zealously advance position. Rubbing elbows at 30 miles an hour on contact patches as wide as your thumb, that’s bike racing.
The derailleur pushes the chain over to a smaller cog. My legs protest to the sudden change in resistance, but I disregard their annoyance. The anticipation is building around me, and the others are starting to get restless.
I stand up to stretch my legs and keep pace with the faster riders in the group. I feel a push on my right side. Instinctively, I lean over to that side, using my weight to counter the force. No destructive sound of metal on metal. Crisis averted.
I glance sideways to my left and see myself nicely hidden in the pack. The other riders are all around me, and I am shielded from the wind. Perfect.
All around the industrial park, the industrial park, the industrial park. All around the industrial park, so early in the morning. My pre-race espresso starts to kick in and I can feel my heart rate rising. Caffeine makes me antsy, and suddenly I’m claustrophobic in the swarm of cyclists around me. I check my 8 O’clock position. I have a wheel length between my rear end and another rider’s front wheel.
I try to calm myself down. I need to wait for the hill to advance. I need to stay concealed, but the adrenaline is flowing like magma through my veins. The close call has made me anxious to get out of the pack of racers riding shoulder to shoulder.
Someone else seems to have had the same idea and I see a rider shoot out from the side. The effects of caffeine, adrenaline, and restless legs hit me all at once, and I chase after the lone rider.
We crest the hill, and try to make our escape. A few others bridge up to us, and the break away is formed. My legs protest to the effort by quickly saturating with lactic acid. We take turns at the front to split the load. I push through the pain for my pull before rotating off and jumping back in the line. I turn around to look at our lead.
There’s the field, thundering towards me. The break is lost. Dejectedly, I allow myself to be swallowed by the field and wait for the sprint. I lick my lips. I will have my glory yet.