"Wha … no you didn't."
"Shows you how good I am at it. … There are these decisive moments in bike racing. And when the moment came, I gave up."
Every cyclist in North America can recite this quote from American Flyers, delivered by Marcus (Kevin Costner) to his brother David (David Grant) some 20 years ago. In addition to being chock-full of soon-to-be stars (Costner, Alexandra Paul, Rae Dawn Chong, Robert Townsend, Jennifer Grey), this film represents a right of passage for those of us confined to the indoor trainer for hours each winter …
I'm having an American Flyers moment.
I was reading Mike Necessary's blog, and the other week he posted a photo of himself with Mesa teammates Mike Lanyon and Josh Carter. They're down in Tucson right now, putting in 150-mile days and hitting the famed Shootout ride on the weekends … all to prepare for an assault on the Midwest racing calendar this spring and summer. And they raced last weekend, apparently with a V for Carter in his first outing of the year ...
Then I saw that ABD has announced their 2006 Elite squad, and the group laid down some killer times at the first indoor TT last weekend. I mean, crap, Puffer is their sprinter! He's usually my first major scalp at the first outdoor TT in April. If he's putting down a 14:28 in January -- and beating Mumford and Mead -- they are going to be flying this year. Hell, even 'Druber is riding again in California with Coxworth. (Scroll down for an interesting, albeit colored, recent history of Mack ...)
I can't compete. Uncle.
I hate feeling like this. The feeling that no matter what I do, it won't be enough. That ultimately, even though I know that the road isn't my focus, my heart will tell me I'm disappointed in myself during April and May. More than anything, it makes me want to hang up the Team Mack R-33 and hit the trails for the next 8 months until it's time to race 'cross again.
My favorite road race is in 2-1/2 months. And if you look back at last year's results, it paints a discouraging picture: the winner is a super-strong rider from Madison who is in a league of his own; 2nd and 5th were members of Tilford's team who can ride circles around most of us, and one of them went pro for Jelly Belly this year; 3rd, 4th, 6th and 10th were ABD riders, and only one of them isn't coming back; 8th was a Mesa rider who is now on ABD; 9th was a guy on the team that won the National Crit at Downers Grove. Oh, and Lanyon was in 7th and Necessary took 5th in the Cat. 3 race. And Carter rode injured in the early part of the season as part of the Subway Pro Team. (I was 11th, in the group with 7th-10th.)
That's some serious firepower. And while "anything can happen" this winter, I would venture to guess that each and every one of them will come back stronger in 2006. In the past, Bill kept trying to tell me that they're only strong because they ride through the winter, and that I will catch up by the summer as they fade. All due respect, but that's "bull-Shinto." These same guys who beat me in April were still kicking my ass in June and July, even before the August implosion. And they beat me then, too.
As Andy keeps saying, "It's all about motivation." And I feel like mine, when it comes to road rides, has gone out the window. I'm not afraid of these guys -- I know I'm competitive with them -- but I just don't feel the desire to go head-to-head with them right now. Instead, I'd rather spend my time working on my off-road skills, building up and dialing in the new ride and hitting Palos for the first time, or practicing at Montrose, or screaming through the Lagoons.
Self-defeating? Yup. I recognize that. I know myself well enough to realize that this is a short mental slump, and as the smack gets laid down at Hillsboro I will push hard to rise to the challenge. And do it again at Proctor. And with true objectives that are farther away, I will probably suffer a bit more, and may not have as solid a showing as last year. That's bike racing, and I need to take my lumps if I'm truly going to shine in October.
But in the meantime, part of me right now wants to try hitchhiking across the country eating nuts and generic fig bars from the supermarket, telling myself that I'm "living off the land." Until, of course, I finally break down and go for that Quarter Pounder with cheese … unless they're out, in which case I WILL go for the Big Mac instead. Fate be damned.
ONLY 325 DAYS TO 'CROSS NATZ!!