The Old Man and the Bike

It was cold today.  I had earlier visited the Little 500 track with the temps hovering in the high 20s and a smattering of young men going through the paces, some on long sets, others on exchanges and others doing fast single laps.  A few of them would make it out to the inaugural 2013 Wednesday Worlds tonight on Knightridge and 446.

I had recently given a book, The Old Man and the Sea to a dear friend who was vacationing in the Florida Keys this week.  It’s Hemingway’s account of an old man with a deep respect for the sea and his adversary, describing this epic struggle for existence.  I would think about that story often today as I was pulled into the depths by these young lions on the bike.

I drove to the course earlier in the day and swept the corners during some of the snow squalls that were prevalent until about 2:00 pm.  But the forecast was for gradual clearing so we decided to keep this date with destiny.  I had also picked up the taped line rules (duct tape) that we (me and Colin Allen) had laid down earlier in the week, leaving crisp, clear, straight finish lines worthy of the effort that a Wednesday Worlds requires!    I also drove stakes into the ground at the 200m marks for a few of the course finishes in town and added an orange ribbon to each so they can be seen from a long way off!  These will come in handy when we are motorpacing for sprint leadouts later in the spring season.

After self-assigned sweeping duty, I got on the bike and headed back to the Sample Gates to meet the group.  I was delighted to see over 20 riders heading towards me.  I snapped a picture on the east loop of Knightridge, and if memory serves I recall, Ryan Knapp (Panther Bakehouse), RJ Stuart (Texas Roadhouse), Paul Smith (Motion), Austin Venhuizen, Phil Sojka, Nick Sapp, Drew Coelho, Jacob Read, Cam Johns, Colin Allen, Kevin Newkirk (all Bakehouse), Brant Powell (BKB), Luke Momper.  A couple of EP  and a few more BKB riders.

ww 1 rollout

We ran only 4 laps today, opting to keep it short due to the overcast conditions, cold temperatures and early sunset as DST has just occurred.   The Bakehouse graciously provided a midway prime of granola and a bag for the finale.  I had brought a bag for the women as well, but none showed today.   I did see Lindsay Rodkey braving the conditions on the course as I was heading back to meet the group.  Momper flatted in the early laps and a former local rider (Nick Lenard) came to pick him up in a car, so I gave him that bag for his good deed!

We hit the line at speed and immediately the pace picked up to just under the redline.   A few shots were fired across the bow by some of the collegiate riders but all were countered as we settled into a single line past the cemetery and then delicately into the first corner.  There was a stiff cross wind off our left quarter up the shallow climbs to the top of the bluff, forcing us onto the beat-up shoulder of 446, which we gladly accepted as we sought shelter.  Attacks were launched up the climb by Cat 1 Knapp and a Go-Pro (video camera) toting Stuart!  Stuart lead the group through the corner while his personal team photographers and entourage were on hand to memorialize the occasion!  This effort split the field essentially in two.  About dozen men would be in contention for the remaining three laps.  Several  attempts were made to get clear for the coveted midway Bakehouse granola prime!  Sojka and Stuart answered the call with Sojka getting the prize!  A few counters were launched once we regrouped.  Just before the final lap, Smith, Sojka  and Powell were able to break free from the gravity of the group on the fast downwind sections.  Read was able to bridge after much difficulty and Knapp put in a long effort on the headwind climb that left the rest of the chase in tatters.  I was far enough back in the sprint that I couldn’t see the outcome.  The unofficial report on the group’s return was that Smith had won the inaugural event, Sojka second and Read third.

But all of this really doesn’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things.  What matters is that a group of young men came out on a day not fit for riding and put in a hard effort among friends and foes, teammates and adversaries.  Even some of us, twice as old as the average age were able to answer the call after all these years and witness the incredible athleticism of these up and coming great racers and those who wish to be.