Confirmed Douchebag

Tuesday night we rode around in circles for a while until it was time to ride really hard to a crack in the pavement, at which point we stopped. That's the short-form race report.
 
A slightly more wordy version is this:
 
The road racing season is wheezing its way to a close. The new pavement on our criterium course at the old Kulis Air National Guard Base added a couple unexpected races, which the non-climbers among us have appreciated. Our previous crit courses were on the sketchy side, with fall-away turns, road furniture, and other obstacles. The Kulis course has nice pavement, negotiable turns, good sight lines, and is relatively easy to control.
 
I was so excited that I showed up an hour early. The race crew wasn't even there when I started doing laps. They made the decision to run the course backwards, which added a new element to an already fun race. I threw in a pair of bike socks and a water bottle I won in the Tour Anchorage awards ceremony raffle to make things interesting, because racing is always more fun when you are fighting for something of little or no value. My original suggestion was to put them out as a sprint prime, but award them to the 4th place rider or something random like that. Watch the pack try to shuffle itself around and maybe give myself a breather in the process. I'm devious that way.
 
The early race was going to be just the Novice and Intermediate classes originally, but the majority of the Masters field decided to race it as well because of scheduling.  I figured I'd jump in, play around a little, then pull out so I still had something for the big kids race. The "easier" race is nice because while you're getting a good workout, you're not so gassed that you can't throw in strategic digs and play with positioning. Chasing the Open Men, I'm usually flailing off the back, so nobody is there to admire my daring escapades.
 
It took about two laps before I got antsy and wanted to test the legs. I moved up the side on the gradual uphill section and upped the pace a tad. Well, actually I hammered it a bit and established the break of the night. Ed, Markus, and a Novice rider came along, which was fine with me because I didn't want to ride alone that long. We started rotating the lead, each taking a pull for a lap before retreating to the back so we could stuff our lungs back in. The Novice rider sat at the back and didn't interfere, getting a free ride as we lapped the rest of the shattered field. Smart riding by him.
 
It was Markus' turn at the front as we hit the prime lap, with me on his wheel. They decided to give it to the first guy across the line, and I wasn't interested in winning the swag I donated. Ed apparently had enough water bottles and socks, so he didn't make big lunge for the line. Our Novice tailgunner was happy to sit where he was, so Markus led the paceline across the line and scooped up the goods worth nearly $20. So much for making it interesting or getting a mid-race nap.
 
About this time I was debating dropping out and saving myself for sacrificial rites in the second race. I'd spent the first third of the race in the smallest cog because of shifting issues, thanks to my highly-refined wrenching skills and my casual disregard for bike maintenance. I'd grind up the hill each lap, hammering out of the saddle. It was beginning to take its toll on me. Imagine my surprise when a push of the level resulted in an easier gear, and I could spin up the hill. Slowly I started to recover, and I decided to hang in there for the finish.
 
Towards the end Markus started attacking in strategic points, trying to open a gap. Each time I would respond and ride back to his wheel, then verbally assault him for his insensitivity to my needs. Each time I would sit on his wheel when he tried to pull off, telling him if he had that much excess energy he could pull another lap. Sometimes Ed would get frustrated with my bickering about honor, fairness, and paceline etiquette, and would go to the front and lead another lap. We all know that's a bunch of crap, that alliances are created and discarded as necessary to achieve personal goals. Sharing the workload is a matter of expediency rather than a virtue learned in kindergarten. When the time comes, you slit the other guy's throat.

"Racing is licking your opponent's plate clean before starting on your own"
- Hennie Kuiper
 
Sprinters are about the worst people in the world, because as a rule they rely so heavily on the work of others to win. They sit in the draft and conserve their energy, only working enough to stay in contact and position themselves for the last couple kilometers. Their whole race boils down to the very end. Sprinters are a bunch of leeches, bleeding the strength of stronger men before robbing them of their reward.
 
Jens said I am a sprinter, so I've come to realize that that means I'm a douchebag. Point taken, Jens. Germans aren't known for sugar-coating things that aren't pastries or candy.
 
On the penultimate lap, Markus put in another dig that spread my entrails across my bike's top tube. Markus is the sprinter of reference in the Masters 45+ field, so he's a marked man. Everyone knows it. He's also got a solid TT and climbs pretty well. If you want to be in contention for a sprint finish, you need to be on his wheel or in the vicinity. He's generally got the instinct, timing and snap to close the deal...  unless you're a bigger douchebag than he is. Tuesday, as the laps started adding up and I was able to respond to each attack, I felt like I was that douchebag.
 
I ground my way back up to his wheel and sat there. He slowed down. I slowed more. He resigned himself to leading the last lap, although at a gentler pace than before. I watched his cassette, looking for the shift. When it came, I watched the legs, looking for the tension. When he launched at the last real turn, I was ready and on his wheel through the winding, uphill section. When the time came, I violently threw my bike from side to side like an angry toddler and stomped on the pedals as hard as I could. I almost rolled a tubular in the last bend, then hammered it across the combination finish line/pavement crack for the meaningless win. I didn't trust my front tire for the next turn, so I skidded to a stop and caused the flagger to dive for cover. I might have cut Markus off, whose anaerobic bike handling skills likely exceed mine. I probably strained my spleen in the effort. I probably shortened the life of that expensive tubular tire by about 500 miles.
 
No matter. I was now a confirmed douchebag.
 
...and no, I didn't race the second race. Sometimes you gotta stop while you're ahead.

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