It’s remarkable to note sometimes the cumulative affect of compound training. Hours on the bike become days of training, become months of scheduled cycling designed to move us from one phase to the next, become years of high quality miles. More importantly, these miles become years of a brotherhood that becomes woven into the fabric of who we are and the people that we ride with become part of the text of our lives and the source of the memories that make us what we are.
When I sat down to record what is likely to be just another training race report I noticed on my calendar that I jotted down “#21” in the margin. I did this probably back in early March, before Little 500, before the early season races, before the 90 degree days and drought descended on Bloomington. I have joked before that I am planning on peaking in 2015. But there is nothing funny about getting popped on the climbs or dropped after a few hard accelerations as the fittest among us climb and sprint away. In the final analysis, I am lucky to be as fit as I am and able to at least play in the field for some or most of an event. This is not conciliatory in any way. I am grateful. Glad to have been there, in your cleats and to have been allowed to fall gracefully from the elite bastions of amateur racing where my name was mispronounced by announcers and mispelled by newspapers across New England.
What I do have is this deep well of memories that holds me up when the going gets tough. I raced the Indy Crit recently, neither ready for the Masters event or able to really participate at the level that makes one confident in their chance for success. I was there to finish. An unenviable position for a racer. At the event I noticed a rider warming up who bore a remarkable resemblance to an elite star racer from my home in New England in the eighties. His name was Paul Curley and has several palmares including multiple national championship jerseys in several disciplines. I have a few old scrapbook pieces from those salad days, one is the Pro 1-2 start list from the Tour of Marthas Vineyard in September of 1988! I had just returned from Belgium a few weeks prior and was eager to test my legs against the best US racers. Paul was there, so was IME International’s Graeme Miller, Budlight’s Lane Rogers, National Team member Peter Vollers, Cannondale’s trade team, the Macormack brothers, the Canadian National Team, an Italian (Milan) national team, Ed Beamon from the Navigators. I remember getting away that day in the winning break, on the windswept dunes of the Atlantic with a small group of 8 or so riders, including Paul, chasing a late 2 man break and finishing 6th.
I met Paul on the start line of the Indy race, 24 years later. It turned out that he was traveling through Indiana with a US Military Veteran’s bike tour and thought he would ‘jump in’ an event. We shared only a few words, and those were on the start line. I re-introduced myself. “I don’t know if you remember me, but we raced together in New England.” He said, “Sure I remember you! I had heard that you were out here in the Midwest. Glad to see that you are still racing.” I remember telling him, in the few moments that we had, about the Scholars Inn cyling team and how proud I was to be a part of it and about how Bloomington is the center of cycling in the Midwest. The gun went off and I was able to get the hole shot and Paul and I rounded the first corner together in the front of the field as a smile formed on my lips.
Today’s Wednesday Worlds was the 446 circuit. I met the group at the Sample Gates, pockets filled with Bakehouse granola. A small group of about 20 riders were in attendance, including 6 or so women. Despite the promise of a granola prize the women decided to opt for another route. We headed off, in the usual fashion to the start line. Hans Ibold (Joes), 2 Aldefer riders, Tim Nixon (Upland), Karim Abdelkader (Mob), Wes Harris (Speedway), Tomas Golasz (DRT), Mark Powell, a couple of Wright cyclists, Cam Johns and a few others from Scholars were ready for the contest. Along the way we picked up a fit looking Ryan Knapp and Jon Atwell. I could feel the granola leaving my pockets already!
We started out fast enough but the initial lap was controlled and steady. It was hot (still 90 degrees) and the wind was strong out of the north, dissuading most attempts at breakaways. But the speed was fast enough at nearly 26mph on the first pass across the line. Knapp flatted in the broken up debris on 446 on the second lap near the top of the climb. Atwell was able to attack a couple of times in the second lap but the group was able to bring him back but with much difficulty. On the midway granola prime, Ibold left the stable early and was nearly able to stay away for over 3/4 of the lap but the professional Atwell timed an attack perfectly and made it to the midway prize first! The rest of the event was an exercise in attrition as the group diminished to 8 and then swelled again as lapped riders were re-engaged. Atwell had a mechanical on the 5th lap and Knapp rejoined after his repair. Just before the final corner, in the small false flats of 446 into the wind, Atwell attacked and only one rider responded. Mark Powell a newcomer to Bloomington after a month in Europe training in the Alps answered the call. The pair was able to stay away and Atwell conceded the victory, and the granola after Powell showed the pluck and fight to get to him and stay on his wheel until he came around for the win! As for me, I was glad to have been able to chronicle another 24 miles with some of the people that I will remember for the rest of my life.