I left Watopia for a ride in the real world. It would be my first Tuesday Night Worlds with the Greenville Spinners. It would be my largest group ride since I raced back in February on the same course. I was interested to see what would happen.
I got off work and the wrestling began in my mind. It would take me 30 minutes just to get to the location for the ride. Once there I would be a bit of an outcast since I am not on a team and do most of my riding alone. The social aspect of the ride would not be a major attraction.
The other thing that caused me pause was that the group is a very mixed group with semi-pros to juniors and everyone in-between. Everyone is supposed to have race experience, but that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been wrecks on these ride/races. On a windy day, it can be pretty hairy! Note: I just learned that a rider did go down and suffered multiple injuries (abrasions and broken bones).
The easy thing for me would be to just hop on the trainer or go out and ride my normal routes alone. I knew at 6PM the Tuesday Night Worlds training race would start on Zwift. Doing that would save me over an hour of my evening.
As I walked out the door of my office, I knew what I would do. The weather was beautiful and the wind was low — unlike it had been in the days leading up to this one. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t head out to Donaldson to ride.
Once there I paid my five dollars for the police escort, porta-johns, and rental of the parking lot. I ran into some folks I knew right off the bat and enjoyed some conversation before heading into the field to get ready to roll out. Here was going to be the test of the work I had been doing on the trainer.
We rolled off and I expected that on the first lap we would allow everyone to get their legs loose. Well, I had to amend that to less that half a lap! Things started picking up right away and it was on.
At first I played it smart and just sat in the field hiding from the wind and trying to find good wheels to follow. I was only able to do that for a little bit. It just isn’t my nature to just sit there and ride around in a training ride.
The way I see it is that if it is a training race, I should be learning something. I’m not going to get an education sitting back in the back. I would rather get up there with the fast guys and hang on for as long as I can. When I get into a real race, then I’ll think about sitting in and conserving.
It was on the second lap (of five) that Matt Tebbetts moved up to the front. We were climbing “Golf Course Hill” when he attacked up the white line. I saw him moving past and I was about fifth wheel. I jumped over and followed his attack.
We had a gap almost immediately. I looked down for a moment and saw my heart rate at 174 bpm and by computer reading a steady 400+ watts. We were nearing the turn at the top of the hill when I exclaimed, “Matt, I can’t hold this.”
Matt and I go back. We were on the same team together. I remember fondly our last Category 4 race together. It was a criterium in Spartanburg, South Carolina. We went one-two with Matt winning with me marking any moves to attempt to bridge over to him. With a kilometer to go I attacked and took second.
After that day things changed. I crashed and broke my neck in my first Category 3 race. That set me on a path out of competition. Matt took a different path. If anything, he became more committed to the bike and it shows in the way he looks and the way he rides the bike! Here we were in the break, a guy who just rides his trainer and another who had just the week before won the 40+ amateur race at the USA Cycling Professionals Criterium Championships.
We held the gap down off of the the Golf Course Hill and up the next climb to the right hand turn to follow. Matt had been coaxing me along taking longer pulls as we attempted to maintain our gap. I took a fugitive look beneath my arm to see the field. They were closing. I was just a dead weight on Matt’s wheel.
Here we were two laps in. I was well into my threshold. There was just absolutely no way I could maintain this pace for three more laps (each lap 7+ miles long). Perhaps if there were more of us we could manage, but not just two. “I’ve got to go back!” I shouted up to Matt and then waited to be enveloped by the group coming up fast.
Not much exciting to add from that point. I got in and recovered. Before long I was feeling better so I moved back up to the front. I chased down two breaks bringing the field with me. Then finally I covered a break that was followed by a counter attack that I also tried to follow. I knew at that point I was in trouble.
Every racer has a certain number of matches in his box. Tonight, I was out to find out how many I could strike. Well, I slid open the cardboard box of my fitness and looked inside. It was empty.
Realizing I was hurting, I let up and tried to recover some as the field started to pass me. The problem is I couldn’t find a gap in the line and I kept fading back. When I finally did get in, it turned out I got into a group that was falling off the back of the main field.
I tried with one other rider to bridge over, but it was a futile attempt. At first, we seemed to be making headway. Then we just seemed to be stuck one hundred yards off the back. Finally, the field moved away.
It was time to call it a night. Still, I felt pretty good about the effort. As usual, my fears about the ride were unfounded. It was great to once again ride with guys I’ve ridden with over the years. Pushing myself up on the front assured me that I can still do this.
Next goal? Do what it takes to finish.