Pyrrhic Podium II

The hits just keep on coming.
I had forgotten about the race until I chanced upon a notification the day before. A little fun race around Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson whose participants vary from hardcore wannabes like me to the occasionally active on mountain bikes. Usually that all sorts itself out within the first 50 yards, and then the rest of the selection happens over the next 20 miles of the race.
Rain was in the forecast.
It was supposed to be a recovery day.
I signed up anyway.
As expected, we shed the vast majority of the field within seconds. Due to the flat nature of the first part of the course, the pack was larger than it normally is. Although I recognized a couple of the riders and recognized the obvious skills of a couple others, most of the riders were a big question mark for me. I should have paid better attention.
Once we got in the hillier section, a couple digs showed me who would be competitive, so I faded back to the pack and started rotating through the pace line. No need to work harder than I had to on a recovery day.
After the turnaround I was riding second wheel up a mild incline when the guy at the head of the pace line stopped pedaling, stood on the pedals, and turned around and looked at me. I had confused a strong rider with a good rider. His speed dropped rapidly, our wheels touched, and I was on the pavement in a heartbeat. I have a bruised and abraded tire track across my back from the rider behind me. Another one went over my neck. Several riders went down in the pileup. Thanks to wet pavement and the clothes I was wearing, my road rash was limited. After a minute of sorting out injuries, we continued on. I knew I had to keep moving to avoid tightening up.
By the top of the hill, we had narrowed the pack down to 4 riders, and with nothing of any real significance between us and the finish, I knew it was going to come down to a sprint. Until I went down, all I was looking for was a good workout. After I got up, I was looking for a result. If I'm going to lose some skin, I'm going to get something out of this race- even if it's only bragging rights.
"You remember that guy who went down, had a whole bunch of riders use his body as a velodrome, and then won the race?"
People remember a guy like that. Maybe only for a week, but they remember him.
I rode conservatively, marked the opposition, and took the sprint when my main competition went too early. Done and dusted.
Not the most satisfying victory, and I'd gladly trade it for some of my skin back. However, in a sport where wins of any sort come few and far between, it was another positive indication that I'm riding well. I'll take that.
I'll also take a lot of Ibuprofen tonight.


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