Playing Bikes.

Thursday was a long day at work, involving evacuations and bomb dogs in addition to the more mundane drudgery, so I was a little stressed and worn out when I finally left. Scattered drops of rain were already starting to hit my windshield as I drove home. All of this added up to the honed-to-a-fine-edge condition I refer to as "peak performance". I was chomping at the bit to climb into bed and forget all about the Kulis crit I had signed up for. Still, I had entered my name and paid my money, so I pinned on my number and headed out to the race.
 
Since I had put the race bike to bed in anticipation of rain and my upcoming vacation, I pulled the fenders, saddle bag, and frame pump off of the Storck. I'd done a couple longer, more intense (relatively speaking) rides in the last few days, so the legs were in the same shape as they are a couple days into a stage race- sore and lacking snap. Again, "peak performance". My goals for the night were to ride around in circles for 45 minutes plus one lap and try not to get dropped.
 
I was "thrilled" to hear that due to the small fields, the A and B packs were to be combined, because my overall extremely positive attitude was geared towards being dragged around by those more physically gifted than I and bleeding out of my eyes.
 
Luckily, none of the "double my FTP +10 watts" heavy hitters were present in the A field, so the pace wasn't especially high. When the A riders got gaps and nobody closed them down, I didn't complain. I also didn't close them down myself, because going slower was perfectly fine with me. 45 minutes at 18 MPH is exactly the same amount of riding time as 45 minutes at 25 MPH. When the first prime came, I took it with a sub-par effort around some sketchy riding. The second and third primes I picked a bad wheel or blocked myself in.
 
The legs weren't completely shot, but the focus wasn't there. That win-at-all-costs mentality from the Fairbanks crit was missing. I just wasn't 100% into it. Like every other Kulis crit this year, I was playing bikes instead of racing. This played out at the finish, when though my own inattention found myself on the front going into the last uphill corner. I held off sprinting and waited for someone to come around, hoping I could catch a good wheel. When Dave Henke's deep carbon wheels came roaring past, I found my train. Latched onto his wheel was one of his teammates in the glorious colors of Kazakhstan, and I mistook the wheel-sucking A rider, Justin Neff, for the B rider that was my main competition for the night. Figuring my race was done, I sat up, not inclined to destroy myself for second place in the last race in a series I had lost weeks ago through flat tires, flat fitness, and spotty attendance. I'd been playing bikes for every other race I had entered, so there was no reason to break the trend. Then I noticed a third Kazakh rider coming past, and realized my mistake. With my cadence already below 60, I just ground my way the last few yards towards the line. The photo finish showed he got me by a tire width across the calibrated jagged crack in the pavement we use as a finish line.
 
Meh. I was stupid and beat myself. 
 
The sun came up this morning and the reports of my crushing defeat in a small weekly crit were pushed from the international headlines by Britain leaving the EU. I'll get on my bike and pedal the same squares I always do, hoping that it will somehow make me a faster rider. Hasn't worked so far, but you never know.

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