The Racing Season Begins!

Sigh. Spring is just about here, and this week has been particularly warm and beautiful, with temperatures in the 60s and lots of sunshine. Spring is wonderful. I’ve been thinking about how spring is almost as much fun as summer because there is so much possibility ahead of me and so much room for planning and dreaming. When summer, the end of school, and more free time arrive, it’s great, but I start getting anxious about using the time well and about how it will end before I know it. Right now I’m still in the middle of the semester and I’m working hard, but the end is in sight, not quite here yet, but on the horizon. I have much to look forward to and none of it has begun yet.

And then there’s the racing season. I love going to the races. It’s exciting, it’s dramatic, there are people to see, conversations to have, stories to tell. There’s standing out in the warm spring sun, and also in the cold spring rain, the latter of which is not nearly as fun as the former, but which is enjoyable in its own character-building way. I’m not so sure I love the actual racing part, though, as I’ve written about here again and again. It’s stressful in a way I don’t like. I don’t like the competition or the worry about crashes. I don’t like the feeling of not having done well. And yet I’m always there at the line, each and every week, ready for a little more of the stress and competition and danger. I may well give up racing one of these seasons, but apparently I’m not quite there yet.

I’ve raced twice so far and both races have gone well. In the first one there were maybe 25 riders and most of us stayed together the entire time. A few people tried to attack off the front to shake things up a little bit, but they never got anywhere. The race ended in a pack sprint, and I got 13th place. That was fine, but I could do better, I think, if I were better about fighting for position in the pack during the last lap, so I’m in a good position to sprint. But it’s exactly that kind of fight I don’t like.

Last Sunday’s race was an odd one. It was a rainy day, and while it didn’t rain during the race, it rained during my warm-up, so I was wet and cold when the race started. That was no worry, though, because racing always warms me up enough to be comfortable. One woman attacked early on and spent quite a few laps off the front, but the pack caught her eventually and we were together up until the last seven laps (out of 22 total). At that point, three women attacked. I tried to grab their wheels but couldn’t and so fell back with the rest of the group, at which point we spent the last laps arguing about who was going to pull out front and into the wind. Most people were taking their turns out front, but one woman absolutely refused to do her part. Tempers flared, people yelled at the woman, she yelled back, and it got ugly. And then we were at the end. The pack was very small, hardly a pack at all, and so it wasn’t hard to get myself in a good position to head up the final hill. I started sprinting in third position, which is an excellent place to be, and I was able to pass the two riders ahead of me (including the woman who refused to play nice) and win the field sprint, taking fourth overall (and winning a little bit of prize money). It was my best showing at this race, and I was pleased.

I had fun during that sprint, but it wasn’t enough to make me completely enthusiastic about racing. What I am enthusiastic about is regular old riding, of which I have been doing a lot. I’ve ridden over 1,200 miles so far this year, all outdoors, in all kinds of weather, and I don’t think I’ve done a ride I haven’t enjoyed.

9 Comments

Filed under Cycling, Life

9 responses to “The Racing Season Begins!

  1. I was wondering if you had started racing yet. I think I might enjoy the atmosphere–especially if I knew the racers–more than the actual race part, so I totally admire that you do this. I had no idea that you are able to talk like that during a race or that you took turns being out front, but it would be hard to be the one catching all the air (or whatever is the correct technical term). Congrats on doing so well in your last race-maybe this will be your best season yet, and it would be nice to take home some prize money, too!

  2. I love your first paragraph, because it’s exactly how I’m feeling right now. I feel like we are “on the verge” (there should be a poem with this title, and it should be written by Keats!) of so many wonderful possibilities, and yet I will be anxious too about making sure I use my time well before the summer ends. SOC and I have been talking about all the spring/summer rides we want to do, and today was the first day I’ve had the top down on the car since last autumn. Oh the joy!

    You’re doing so well with racing; you have a really healthy attitude about it all and I think if you get to the point where you don’t enjoy it anymore, it’s a good idea to stop. In the meantime, prize money = book money, so enjoy your 4th place victory!

  3. You have to grab their wheels? That sounds horrendous. No wonder you don’t like it much. Do keep safe, won’t you? And yes, I adore the spring for exactly the reasons you write about so well. It feels like the year is just beginning and the light and warmth and excitement of it all lies ahead.

  4. You give GREAT race descriptions! Sooo cool!

    Congrats on your stellar finish!

    (Litlove: “grabbing a wheel” doesn’t literally mean you reach out and put your hand on their wheel or bike. Rather, it means you get close behind someone and let them block the oncoming air so that you don’t have to work as hard to go the same speed. When you see bikers riding in a paceline, they’re using the others to block the oncoming air. Also, I think, there’s a sort of sucking that happens behind something moving fast through the air because of the way the air curls back in, and that sucking pulls the next person forward. You can see this if you watch a boat move through water or something move in a windtunnel with smoke or stuff to make the air movement more visible. One of the things the engineer types do with designing planes and such is to reduce that backward sucking because it can slow things WAY down.)

  5. Summer sounds lovely right now as spring is tricksy – you see sunshine and you think warm, when in fact you should be thinking wind. I’m looking forward to hearing about your riding again, it sounds so exciting and I agree with Danielle you’re very brave.

  6. Isn’t spring great! I am so happy it’s here. We’ve been having great weather and I got to ride my bike outdoors for the first time yesterday. Except for freezing my ears for a bit, it was perfect. Glad the racing is off to such a good start! How exciting to get fourth overall and win the field sprint. Is the prize money enough to have a book buying splurge? I love hearing about your races. I’d never be brave enough to try something like that so I am glad you are so I can be a voyeur :)

  7. I’m pretty sure that if spring meant the start of race season for me, I would dread it worse than I do now (for me, it represents the start of “should be out and about instead of curled up under a quilt with a good book season”). But I can kind of relate: Xu do love spring in Lancaster, quilt or no quilt.

  8. Go Dorothy! I feel your same sense of promise right now but mine revolves around gardening. What will I grow this year? And every day in sunshine makes me a little happier a person. All the possibilties …

  9. Danielle — it’s a sign no one wants to work hard if people are talking, but it does happen. Bike racing can be bizarre sometimes, because it’s very much a group/crowd event and can get very psychological. You can get a race where no one wants to be up front because it’s harder work up there and so the whole pack goes slowly. Usually in that case, someone will take advantage of the slowness and try to break away, though. Anyway, I got 11th last Sunday, which was okay, but no money this time.

    Debby — thanks! It was fun talking over possibilities for summer rides. I’m looking forward to them. I’m trying to make decisions about racing on a case-by-case basis, so it may end up that I don’t do many once the spring series is over because the other ones appeal to me less. We’ll see.

    Litlove — well, grabbing a wheel isn’t as dangerous as it sounds, as Bardiac explains, but it still can be a lot of hard work! So far my race has been safe, although there are other races that have had crashes. I’ll do my best to stay upright! :)

    Bardiac — thank you! It certainly is exhilarating, and it takes me forever to calm down afterwards. Thank you very much for the explanation of “grabbing a wheel.”

    Jodie — thank you! I start to write about riding more in the spring and summer, when it gets more exciting. And yes, spring can be unpredictable — it’s raining and cool today, sigh.

    Stefanie — I’m glad you enjoy reading about them! I won $15 last week, so it’s enough to buy at least one book, or more if I buy them cheap. How great that you could get outside the other day! Hopefully it will be the first ride of many this spring and summer.

    Emily B. — yeah, I love spring, but the racing part does make me nervous. It’s so nice to be out watching the races, though! I know what you mean about giving up the reading under the quilt, but why not just switch to reading under an umbrella out in the sun?

    Frances — your gardening planning sounds great! It’s wonderful to have so much to look forward to. I hope your gardening turns out great this year.

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