Show up, do my job, keep my mouth shut, and ride

I’ve been experiencing a lot of flashbacks with May approaching. That was the month my world turned upside down. Last night was a very good gauge of where I am today compared to this time last year. I’ve got a lot to be happy about and yet I’m pretty down.

Last night was the first race of the Summer Series put on by my team, Palmetto Orthopedic Associates Cycling Team. I knew it was going to be an interesting night as my coach instructed me to “double-up” — meaning I was supposed to race the Masters 35+ race followed immediately by the Pro 1/2/3 race.

This race in 2010 I was instructed to double-up then as well. Only I was to race the Cat. 4/5 race followed by the Masters 35+ race. Funny how my experience back then is so close to my experience last night.

The Masters race went pretty much as I expected it to go. There was a bit of cat and mouse in the beginning, but a break stuck and three of my teammates ended up in it. At that point my job simply became controlling the front.

I went to the front and watched for attacks. Much like the Cat. 3 race in Charleston I became an anchor. As an attack would start off, I would latch onto a wheel and just sit there. As we headed into the backstretch invariably the headwind would start wearing down the rider I was shadowing. Another attack would come by and I would jump on that wheel.

Other than a few times when I slipped back to recover or those times I found myself setting a tempo on the front of the field, that is how my race went. I can recall two different reactions: 1) I remember thinking how easy it was to race on a team like POA. Here I was rarely having to stick my nose in the wind and I had guys pulling me around the course. 2) I actually felt sorry for them. How disheartening to be working so hard to try to bridge up to the break just to look back and see a red and white POA jersey on your wheel.

There were really only two times with a little excitement. Once I was shadowing two other riders. This was getting towards the end and you could tell people were starting to get a little tired. We were going through a sweeping turn wheel-to-wheel with a slight gap to the field behind us. The second rider started to go around the guy on front.

I moved up to the wheel of the guy being passed. Suddenly they bumped. I didn’t think anything of it because it wasn’t that hard of a hit. However, I believe because of fatigue the rider directly in front of me started wobbling and slowed dramatically. Because he was wavering, I didn’t know which direction he was going. I tapped my brakes and went around him to find the wheel of the passer. Whew!

The second bit of excitement was more fun than exciting. A prime was announced and the field picked up a bit of speed to see who would get it. As we went into the wind on the backstretch, my teammate, Randy McCreight, attacked on the left side. Then I saw my teammate, John James, counter to my right.

We were near the third turn and I knew if we could get there first, we would have a good chance for the prime. The impish part of me decided to ride John’s wheel and see if I could nip him at the line. Three POA riders came out of turn four pretty much alone. I saw John make his move around Randy and I followed.

We went to Randy’s right and left. We were looking at the other racer’s wheel as we crossed the line. It was really close! However, John won the Hincapie Sportswear merchandise prime. I hope he enjoys his socks or whatever it was!

I finished the Masters race pretty much coasting across the line. At this point, my position didn’t matter. I was just pleased with the way I felt I had contributed to the team. Unfortunately, we didn’t take the win, but had a good showing.

Moving from the Masters race to the Pro 1/2/3 I was feeling pretty good. I had told Blair before the race that I didn’t plan to go hard in the second race. My goal was to get in there and learn to ride at the pace of a Pro 1/2/3 field and stay out of trouble.

Right out of the gate I knew things would be different. I started about mid-pack and before we even made it to turn one, a streak of green went by on my right. It was Thad Dulin. He was starting things early! As we continued into turn two I could see Thad up ahead stretching out his lead, but with the field starting to ramp things up. We weren’t going to let him get away so soon.

At that point I started focusing on merging in with the riders around me. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would I get worn down by higher speeds? My only thought was to conserve here in the field in hopes that I would make it to the finish.

I looked down at my computer. We were now 15 minutes in. As we moved down the backstretch I could see the break of three riders between turns three and four. There was our POA representative. I started counting heads. It was Jae. Good.

The thought of just finishing started to fade. I now knew I was going to finish the race. I began to move my way up in the field. It was a pleasure sweeping through the corners — especially turns one and two which are really one continuous, slightly banked section. We were flying through there as though on the straights.

Then, with five laps to go, I got caught flat footed. The field suddenly surged and I was left reacting a bit slowly. At that point it was a time for catch up. My earlier confidence took a bit of a hit and I became aware of my lack of experience. Rather than holding my position I slipped back a bit.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel pleased as I heard the call for the final lap. I can race with these guys! I’m not saying I can beat them. I’m not saying I don’t have more to learn, but I can race at that level. To successfully double-up was a huge confidence booster.

(The following is edited from an earlier edition to make a correction where because of an incorrect assumption I charged someone with doing something they did not do. I have apologized to that person and am changing this record to reflect what actually took place.)

Coming out of turn four I slowed. Then I saw a sizable gap between some riders and the finish line. “Shoot, why not pick up a spot or two.” So, I accelerated past three or four riders to the line.

I guess I wasn’t supposed to do that. Behind me I heard, “What?! Sprinting for *expletive* 20th place?!” Another rider passed me as we cooled down on the back stretch. “That was a dangerous move, Jonathan.” He said.

It would appear that I went diagonally across the sprint lines and though I thought I was clear, it must not have been clear enough. While I certainly wasn’t sprinting all out, I was going faster than the riders around me.

That is why I feel a bit down. While physically and tactically I felt I had a pretty good pair of races, there was some interaction during the race that really has me wondering why I’m out there.  When you are trying to learn and you ask questions just have them thrown back in your face, it doesn’t make for a very enjoyable evening.

I’m not sure what it is about me that sets some people off. I try to be respectful of the riders around me. I don’t think it is too much to expect that in return. My wife tells me I’m a pretty nice guy. I’m a little shy and don’t talk a lot. Maybe some people take that as arrogance or something.

Bottom line is that I can’t control other people. I’ve got to act and respond correctly myself. That is the thing that bother’s me the most. I didn’t. I reacted in an inappropriate manner. In the future I guess I’ll just show up, do my job, keep my mouth shut, and ride.