I have been able to ride the last few days outside. It has been warmish, even though it seems a little windy. Let me tell you, wind isn’t your friend when you’re at my fitness level. I’ve always liked the wind, but when you’re out of shape, it sucks.
I was thinking yesterday about riding smart. Cycling is a sport that rewards, sometimes, the riders that pay attention and ride intelligently. It is a weird sport because you can ride the smartest race and still get killed.
I was thinking about a race I did in Tyler Texas, back in the 90’s. It was called Beauty and Beast. There was a road race and a criterium the next day. I had just started racing MTB full time and wasn’t currently sponsored. It was a pretty big weekend and lots of the best road riders in the country came.
I did the race a couple times and don’t exactly remember the whole race. I do know that before the race I rode out the course, backwards and checked out the finish. It started and finished in Tyler and there was a fairly steep hill coming up to the final corner.
Coor’s Light was the dominate team. They were controlling the race and were setting tempo at the front. I knew most all the guys on their team, ridden on the same teams as many of them.
I don’t know if I was daydreaming or what, but I was pretty far back in the field, maybe 20-30 riders and it was pretty much stretched out in line. We were going down a slight hill and starting up another one, in town, when I noticed Roy Knickman, a team mate from the Levis days, swing off and sit up. I was thinking to myself that it was weird for Roy to be just sitting so far out.
I looked up the hill and suddenly realized that it was the final hill before the last corner, which was only 200 meters from the finish. I immediately panicked and jumped in my biggest gear. I got a good jump on the guys ahead of me, right when the Coor’s Light guys were accelerating at the front.
By then, the field was splitting. I was coming up the inside pretty quickly, but moved to the outside towards the top. I was passing guys super fast, like I was going maybe 5 mph faster than everyone else.
Towards the top, Davis Phinney was leading out Greg Oravetz. Both of those guys were faster than me, normally, but I had momentum. By the top of the hill, I was on the far left and came by Davis, then over the top of Greg, right before the final corner. I had a lot more speed and won the race by a pretty huge margin, considering.
I was thinking yesterday that if I had been my normal observate self, I would have been in “a better position “, at the back of the Coor’s Light train, and started the sprint behind them, maybe finishing 2-5th at best. But since I was completely out of position, I was grasping at straws and ended up winning the race. In the end, it was good I started so far back.
Plus, if I wouldn’t have seen Roy pull off and sit up, I would have never known that we were on the final hill, at the finish. I was lucky, once again, maybe not just lucky. I was observatory that Roy was doing something out of character unless he was spent and done doing a leadout. I wouldn’t have won without seeing that.
So, I’m not sure this is a post about lack of racing smart and getting a good result or using race smarts to get a good result. I guess a little of both. But like I said initially above, the sport is weird and the results don’t always reflect how smart you race.
On a side note, and I’ll try to find the article, Velonews put a big picture in of me winning the race and the article had a part about since I won such a big early season race, would it give me more options for sponsorship. I answers that absolutely not, but in the article, it I said that for sure it would help. I thought that was funny.