Another year, another race, in the books. Sadly, it will most likely be my last (pending how much I want to piss off my parents with an extra semester of BS classes to extend my graduation date). And what a race it was. Unfortunately, in order for me to describe exactly all the emotion and mental toughness that every single person on that track faced that day, it would be one of those situations where "you just had to be there".
After watching Chuck Taylor dominate the 60's alumni race, and nearly dominate in the 70's, we went out for a small team ride. Shields and I exchanged some hot-headed words, not because we hate each other, but because our adrenaline was pumping, and we both are very stubborn and of course, always right. All in good fun. Kevin was there in between us, being the level-headed guy that he is. After we both cooled off a little and shared a few laughs, we headed to BBC for some pre-race bagels. After some time to relax, we headed to the house for our rider's send-off. The send-off was absolutely incredible. Picture this: you ride down the driveway and see a huge group of guys and gals bunched up by the street, all cheering for you, and forming a human tunnel for you to go through. I was absolutely overwhelmed with emotion at this point (no, I didn't cry), and the hair was standing up on my neck. It was at this point, that I felt like I could literally kick Lance Armstrong's ass on Alpe d'Huez. The adrenaline rush was absolutely surreal. Thank you to all that were involved with that, you don't know how much we (the riders) appreciated it!! After heading to the track, setting up our pit, and doing our final team briefing, we all started to ride our trainers and focus on the task at hand. Since rain was imminent, IUSF deemed that the pre-race parades should be cancelled, in an attempt to avoid the weather that was rolling in by the minute.
Chuck's domination during the 60's race.
Our first 50 laps were good. Shields started the race for us, and kept up with the very aggressive pack. After several laps of a brutal pace, he came out for an exchange with Kevin. After Kevin did his set, I got into the race and tucked in, to do my signature long sets with the pack. Tuck in and ride baby!
Tuck in, or lead the pack, whatever you gotta do!
Our section was the best I have ever witnessed it to be. After coming in from my sets, they were on their feet, cheering and yelling, and really making any feelings of pain or fatigue vanish instantly. Our crowd brought a whole new dimension to the race that I have NEVER felt before. Laps 50 through 90 progressed the same as the first 50, with us doing clean exchanges, hanging with the pack, and trying hard to set the next guy up with a good race position. Then came lap 90, and my turn to go out. We had all been faced with a stiff breeze on turn 3, but during my first few laps of that set, I could really feel it kicking. I remember being between turn 3 and turn 4, and hearing the crowd on the front stretch explode with sound all of a sudden. I had no idea what was going on. Then, I was hit by a torrential downpour, that engulfed the entire stadium. Buckets of water fell from the sky, and instantly slowed the race down, and made the cinders start flying. I could not have been more pleased. I'm not a huge fan of riding in the rain, but I AM a huge fan of riding in pouring rain. I instantly took advantage of the situation and resultant slowed pace. I got to the front of the pack for a few laps before coming in to Kevin. After Kevin did a short set, we sent Shields out. This all stopped at around lap 100, when the race officials decided to yellow flag the race. Four laps later, they decided to red flag it entirely, after a huge clap of thunder ripped through the sky.
Team pic after lap 104, in case IUSF decided to call the race
It was at this point that chaos ensued. The crowds all dispersed, the riders all looked at each other dumbfounded, and the torrential downpour continued. We hurried to the soccer locker rooms under one of the bleachers to take refuge and begin the long and impossible task of drying out our soaked clothes. After spending about half an hour out the elements, we received word that the race was going to restart. We immediately got back up to the track to start to warm up. It was absolutely freezing. The rain had dropped the air temperature by several degrees, the wind had picked up a little, and the fact that our clothes were soaked didn't help. The race restarted, and we managed to stick with it for 200 laps.
My favorite picture, quite possibly ever. Look at the cinders. IN HIS TEETH.
Love the outline my glasses made...
Team pic, after 200 laps
In the end, we placed 19th, out of the possible 33 teams. From the outside, that result looks hardly good, at any level. Consider though, that this is our first year with Chuck Taylor at the helm, and is the highest race finish we have had since our house was allowed back on campus in 2005. Add in the fact that we all rode a safe race, and had an absolute blast doing so, and that 19th place goes a long way. The race started dry, but finished out as a complete slop-fest. I mentioned many times that it was truly beast weather. I will remember this race for the rest of my life, and can't wait to see the HD Net video recording of it (if anyone has it on their DVR or something, please let me know, they don't send out their DVD until August).
I feel truly blessed to have been part of such a dynamic team, with such a great coach, awesome alumni support, and support from the house that has only been on the upswing since I started riding. I don't think most teams can say they have the combination of things that we have. I am very optimistic of the future, and know that we will become a contending team in the coming years. And by contending, I mean a team that can race with the top 5 teams, and give them a run for their money!
Speaking of the future...Shields, Kevin, and I went to Chuck's house this last week to put in place a new team captain. All good things must come to an end, as did my tenure as team captain. Ladies and gentlemen, Kevin Newkirk is my successor. It was a unanimous decision. We had a rookie ride this last Wednesday, and had several new faces show up to take a ride with Chuck and Kevin leading. At this moment in time, we have two spots open on the team for next year, and if the new guys take their training seriously this summer, we will definitely have an interesting jockeying for those two spots in the coming months. I can't wait! I'll keep up my blogging during the summer months, and hopefully will have someone to update about besides myself. Chuck, Kev, and I have some big plans for the fall to get the rookies motivated and inspired to work up for next years Little 5. The coming months will define our performance next year. It's not a complicated thing, just get on the ride and turn the pedals. Let's get this going!!