All My Fault

"Mike I'm in. I signed up today."
Beastmaster Markus is riding the Tour of Fairbanks. All 12' 4" and 155lbs (my rough guesstimate) of him is going to make my life that much more painful for four days. He can out-climb, out-time trial, and out-sprint me 99% of the time, and the other 1% is explained by freak weather phenomena and mechanicals.
He's just better than I am. He started racing decades before I did and obviously didn't waste his late 20s to mid-30s building a resume of cellulite and self-loathing. When we started racing together, I thought we were more or less on the same level. Then he found a whole universe of overdrive gears I didn't know existed. This seems to be happening to a lot of racers I used to consider my peers. One day they're wheezing alongside you, desperate to hang with the pack, and the next they're up the road calmly discussing the charcuterie at a local restaurant with the other members of the breakaway. At least I imagine that's what they talk about, having never actually taken part in their discourse.
Another level.
I was the one who pushed him to enter. What I actually meant was for him to race during a year when I was unable to attend due to a pressing ingrown toenail issue. Some other year. I guess our signals got crossed there. I'll take the hit on that one.
It's fun to race with Markus. He's a nice guy, and always the first to congratulate other racers once everyone stops throwing up. He has an eye for tactics that I haven't developed, and the fitness to put those tactics into action. While I don't agree with his philosophy of not spending his entire household budget on gadgets to make himself go faster and instead focusing on healthy living, that's his cross to bear. His family is always there cheering him on, which I need to find a way to have classified as an illegal performance-enhancing substance. His son is turning out to be a very strong racer, which means one day soon he'll be putting the spurs to us in combined fields. Nice people all around, the kind that I can't work up sufficient competitive hate for. Curses.
As the field takes shape and my battle scars slowly begin to heal, I'll adjust my expectations accordingly. My approach will be to try to win every stage, even if it's impossible, because you never know what will happen in a stage race. Injuries, allergies, mechanicals, and other unforeseen issues have influenced the outcome of more than one race. That's bike racing, and it's not always fair.
Hackers like me are always waiting to take advantage of that fact.


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