Monday, August 30, 2010

Building character

Saturday was the Sanpete Classic, one of my favorite courses. Usually. It was super windy and would have been a good day to hide in the group and make a late move. Before the race began, though, Mark T. found me and told me that my assignment for the day was to spend some time on the front. “It builds character,” he said.

Mark is a guy I respect as a cyclist, a climber, a coach, and a philosopher. But our philosophies differ somewhat regarding cycling tactics. Mark believes one has a duty to spend time on the front. When I wrote about winning by not spending time on the front, I was responding to my fellow competitors who didn’t seem too happy with me. But I was also responding to Mark.

Mark and I agree that bicycle racing is a way to test one’s self, and for better or for worse, I wanted to test myself in the break. So when Mark gave me my “assignment,” I had already made up my mind to accept it. When the first break went up the road, I was in it. Even if the break didn’t stick, it would hopefully wear out some rivals chasing it down.

We only lasted a few minutes before we were all back together. Then Steve and Will made a move. Just as that one was coming back together, I felt a little touch—it was my teammate Adam signaling that we were going to counterattack as soon as they were caught. We did and were joined by Louis and Mike from Canyon and Eric from Skull Candy. The good news was that these were all strong guys, so it might actually stick. The bad news was that we were maybe 10k into a 160k race, so if it stuck, we were in for a long day.

About 50k in, the wind was howling, and I’d had about enough. When I saw the main bunch behind us, I realized—with hardly any regret—that my day was done. I just wanted the race to be over. You can burn your matches in the break, or you can burn your matches at the end, but once they’re burned, they’re burned.

Not long after we were caught, teammate Scott and Louis got away in another break. How Louis had the legs for that, I have no idea. I thought I’d be riding in alone when Tim M. drove the pace with a tailwind. The only thing that saved me was that tailwind, because being off the back didn’t require any more energy than being in the group. When they turned into a crosswind, they had just caught Louis and Scott, so the pace went down, and I got back on.

With a little over 10k to go, Will and Jonathan H. got away, this time for good. I was hoping Will could get the win. Will has been top 5 in almost every race this year, but without a win.

When the late race attacks started, all I could do was pedal tempo and watch people ride away from me. Then I got stung by a bee*. Then I finished and found out Will was second, again, by half a wheel (Steve was fifth, Scott sixth). Then at the post-race barbecue, they were out of food by the time I got a plate.

*I hadn’t been stung by a bee in over 10 years, but I got stung twice this week—once on the face Tuesday riding down Emigration Canyon, and then on the thigh Saturday.

Mark T. won the Masters B race. I built lots of character.


  1. What doesn't kill you only maims you for life.

    Just how much character does one need to build? Seems like an infinite scale.

  2. Like I tell my kids, only winners get to eat. don't know me that well, so I'll follow up with a big ol' JUST KIDDING.

  3. Maybe it is time for Mr Big Ring to spout off his sermons in a higher category.(not talking about Art, he already does)

    did I just say that out loud?

  4. 160K? As in 160K! Holy crap. There goes my pride when I get a good 60K training run in.

  5. That race sucked. Did you see how many Pro-1-2 riders started, and how many finished. 6 of us were chasing 5 riders that just got back from the Tour of Utah. I pinned it from the first feedzone to the end of the race.

  6. Mark,

    Those were excellent conditions for building character! Glad to read you took the bait.

    You are right (and have been): riding on the front won't win the race, and might even prevent finishing, But you learn more about yourself on the front than you do in the pack. And what does one learn by winning a race? That such an outcome belongs to everyone except the one who crossed the line first ... which is also an important lesson.

    See you out there,

    p.s. StupidBike, sounds about right, more volume from higher up.