I had rushed out of the house today, eager to get to the Saturday start at the Scholars Inn Bakehouse for noon today. The weather was surprisingly warm, 56 degrees as I cycled by the time and temperature sign on the north side of downtown today. I wasn’t sure what sort of turnout we would have today because the racing season has just begun, but it’s still like a delicate bulb just sticking up out of the soil. Hopeful. Full of promise.
It’s a long season and it starts quickly and you’re either ready or you’re not. Today was also the St Louis weekend and OSRS #1. Several of our riders would be at one or the other. Next weekend brings us Hillsboro Roubaix and Lindenwood (Collegiate) as well as the USACrits opener in Delray Beach, Florida.
Last night, I had the distinct pleasure of addressing a small dinner party of little 500 riders at the Scholars Inn restaurant, small talk really. I was relaying some of my stories from my early years when I was close to their age, my hopes and aspirations, how we trained. We talked about motorpacing and epic rides. I talked as they ate their fillet mignon as they dreamed of one race in April. They seemed interested in my replay and reminisces of some of the kermesses that I did in the ’80s near Roubaix, my races in Flanders and Belgium on cold and stormy afternoons. But my words seemed stilted, somehow unimportant. What could I (an old man really) possibly say to these young men about their sport. It’s no longer mine. I just had the good fortune of not saying ‘no’ to this opportunity in 1988 when a friend, who was racing in Connecticut and was part of the US Olympic training camp asked me to join a small group of riders on a trip to Belgium for a good part of the season. But times were different then. Few riders went to Europe to race. But I knew that it was a game-changer for me. And I remember those days now, 25 years later.
I rolled up to the start today and was met first by James Calvetti (Bakehouse). Then RJ Stuart (Texas Roadhouse) arrived, then Jeff Thompson (Bakehouse), Ryan Knapp (Panther/Bakehouse), Hans Ibold (Joes), Aaron Prange (Bakehouse) and a guest. Jeff Buchsbaum (Bakehouse) started with us and then Jon Atwell (Panther/Bakehouse) joined. I saw a number of groups on the road on the way over, some heading north on Cascades others already at the climb on Hillview near my neighborhood. I always wonder why they don’t join us, especially on a Saturday ride. When I was younger, I would have jumped at the chance to have been in a group that included last year’s Little 500 Champion, and 2 cat 1 riders who have raced internationally and hold several international and regional palmares.
We left and headed out to the Morgan Monroe State Forest. Two clockwise laps were on the docket for this afternoon and we rolled out two by two into a strong headwind. We chose this route because it will also be the Wednesday Worlds route later in the week, so it served as a reconnaissance as well. We were steady but held a brisk pace through Hindustan and then up through the Forest proper. A couple of riders elected to roll off the back and the rest of us carried on through the TT course. I was able to weather the storm seeking shelter in the small group and made it through these sections that seemed easy(er) for the rest of the select group. We rolled on through to the descent on Beanblossom and then west on Anderson through the newly marked sprint points, this one claimed by Atwell.
I turned left and south on Old 37 while the group went north for another 14 mile lap. I was heading home to get the motorcycle to motorpace Atwell and Knapp, our local Panther/Bakehouse elite riders. I had the benefit of a tailwind and made short work of the 4 miles or so back to my house, took a quick cat-bath in the sink, dressed in warmer clothes and fired up the moto to meet the boys in the forest.
I arrived on Anderson, doing the course in reverse and saw the group near Shilo. I turned and dragged them through the sprint line again. At the end of Anderson the group, all but Atwell and Knapp, headed for home. Now the real work would begin for these two as the temperature was dropping and the winds were increasing! We had a brief conversation about the plan and expectations. We’ve motorpaced before, so these two new how I drive and already felt comfortable behind the tender bar at pro race speed.
We headed up the climbs to the top of the Forest. We were planning on doing two out and backs (20 miles) on the rolling and challenging TT course and then recover behind the moto back to Firehouse hill. It was a deceptively simple plan (always the most profitable) behind the evil motor today! I was to keep a steady pace out to the turn around, between 25-30 mph. It would be 28-35mph on the way back. Each of the riders would take long turns on the bar then launch an attack as the other rider slipped into the primary position. The motor would continue its steady speed until it caught and rolled past the attacker, who would (sometimes frantically) latch back on to the train.
After the session, we held a brief breakdown meeting and then headed for home at a recovery speed of +/- 25mph. In the end, we had covered over 30 miles in excess of 25 mph. Not a bad day of training – especially after 35+ miles prior.
So, what does it take to compete at the highest levels nationally? That’s hard to explain, but you can experience it- when you’re ready- behind the business end of a Suzuki 800 Intruder set up to safely put you in to a race simulated, desperate situation right here in Bloomington!