Alex Stieda, the first Canadian to wear the yellow jersey rides with the Rapha boys. As all Rapha films are, this one helps burnish the mystique of the sport and of the brand. That’s quite alright as the Continental films are probably better tributes to the sport than those compendiums of race footage one can buy by the bucketload from an online catalog (or download in these days).
This is one of the finer videos I’ve seen and like all good inspiration, it got me wanting to go back out for another attack on the hills, despite the fact I’m thoroughly thrashed from the morning jaunt I suffered through earlier. I started thinking about my big rides. Not distance big, but memorable big. I’ve been racing since 2005 and while my interest in racing has flowed and waned, often due to other events in my life, I do still ride as if I’m training for competition. It’s what I do.
My biggest ride was one of the only two races I’ve ever won and my first race I ever finished: the Mentor-to-Mentor road race, held on Kentucky Route 8 the weekend after Schabobele in early March. The Mentor-to-Mentor was a pretty casual affair, but most Midwest races were back in 2005-2007. The field of Cat. 4/5 racers was about 25 total, which goes to show how small the sport was at that particular time. I remember how grey and chilly the day was.
Early March in the Ohio valley is a time when the clouds hang low, like being underneath a grey tarpaulin suspended just over your head. Trees are still barren, the grass is still brown and soggy in the spots where rain and snowmelt collects. But as lousy as that sounds, it’s a great time to race your bike provided you have the proper attire. As a novice to the sport, I would wear a Banana Republic merino wool sweater on the cold rides and some big hiking socks with cleat cutouts over my shoes. It was great. By the time I started racing, I had some more proper attire, but I still looked ragged. I often still do.
As the race proceeded, our group of racers was whittled down steadily. I hung out, not knowing really what I was doing, but I’d work occasionally and surge the pace to keep attacks from happening. That was the basis of my cycling economy -– hang in there and try to keep it fast. I remember drinking Gatorade, as I was really into the stuff at the time. I should get back into it, as I seemed to do better when I was drinking it.
At the mile-to-go sign (an orange cone on the side of the road), our group was plodding up a steady grade and I was feeling like we could be going a lot faster. So I jumped out of the paceline and started going as hard as I could go. I got the blood and metal taste in my mouth after a bit and pushed harder. I looked back and saw a few riders trying to chase me down, so I pushed even harder. And I was the first one across the line. Who was there to celebrate my magnificent win? An official and Jason Reser, a Cincinnati cycling fixture. He offered congratulations and let me have some of the Combos he was eating. I remember the flavor: pizza.