The 2010 Mineral Wells Stage Race started off wet. Soaking wet really. Day two brought some hope, as the drive home Saturday afternoon briefly flashed with some sunlight. The bulk of the slow moving mass of rain seemed to be moving east, so of course I drove into it just west of Ft. Worth. I-20/I-30 westbound lanes were full of cars in various states of distress. The drive was sketchy and I felt the spooky pull of the hydroplane on several occasions.
Looking at the radar later, it seemed things may just have a chance to dry out overnight, and generally, that held true.
Another early morning start, but at least the road was somewhat dry and I wasn't working to avoid sucking wet grime off the wheel in front of me. The first lap was pretty casual, likely due to the longer Sunday route, a repeat of the Sat. RR with an additional lap (~24 miles). I was glad to see things were starting slowly. Attrition had reduced the field notably as well, and I can't say I blamed anyone. After the thorough soaking Saturday I wasn't that excited to do it all again the next day. Lap 1 was generally uneventful. Then it began to rain again. Great. And that is how it would go the rest of the day. Groundhog Day. Well, not quite. It was a little colder. So much for a good thing. We raced on. The pace picked up. Eventually a guy rode off the front. Nobody chased. he built up a little time and then another rider attacked to try and bridge up. Nobody chased. We ride on. Early into the final lap things started to get animated, and there were several small attacks that were quickly soaked up. pun not inteded but appropriate. Eventually a small group including a couple of the top GC men broke off. I was buried in what there was of the pack trying to avoid the wind (did I mention it was windy again as well?) and watched as they tested the break, found it to their suiting and pushed forward. One of the other top 5 or so saw what was happening and shot up from the left side to join the party and make sure he wasn't left behind. The rest of us sat in. With several team mates protecting the break I didn't feel obliged to try and improve my GC position although I wasn't feeling too bad. I also wasn't feeling good enough to do the work in a small 4 or 5 man break for the next hour, and wasn't sure it would stay away for sure. After a minute of thinking about it, I realized it probably would. The remaining team members would protect the break. The new chase group contained top GC players who were obviously riding well. Yeah...that would probably do it. Try and go with any additional shots would be my new plan. Or sit in and get this swamp-fest over with and chalk up a good weekend of racing-training. Definitely leaning towards the latter.
We hit the big climb for the last time, dropping some more riders and turn into the nasty crosswind. The group starts to echelon which is cool with me. I rotate up, take a fair pull and start to fade back. Then the guy next in line decides to put it in the gutter and start drilling it. I fade back to the back but am working hard to keep the cadence, hit the back gassed and spend the next several minutes fighting for any degree of draft. Seriously hurting I start to fade back, finding no draft without practically riding in the grass, which isn't a good sounding option. I am dying a thousand deaths. I glance at my heart rate which informs me I am at about 168 or so beats per minute. Thats it? Thats only about 85%, not bad at all. This surprises me, but the suffering washes out any real care at the time. Guy up front continues to drill it, or perhaps he is taking turns with one of his teammates who was on his wheel. This move baffles me somewhat, as it doesn't appear to be an effort to organize a chase so much as to put the group in the gutter and inflict some pain. Which is a great move on me having just been on the front, but I am a non-factor so that makes no sense. Do they think they are going to shred the group? Probably not, maybe drop a few off the tail end, but the rest can sit in the line and let whoever is up front blow himself out. At this point it doesn't matter, I fade back, watch the wheel truck come up next to me, the boundry that marks being in the race and being out. The group is tantalizingly close but I am about shot, and know that the end of the line doesn't offer me any real protection anyhow...so I begin to resign myself to the realization that my weekend is about over. The wheel truck slowly passes to my left. As it does, it is like a sweet vacuum envelopes me. I can actually rest for a moment from the pummeling the wind has been giving me. The truck is moving slowly and I am able to stay off the right rear quarter and enjoy the reprieve. Drafting a vehicle in a race is illegal. Of course this type of move would never get called out, and frankly, I don't care right now. Nobody cares. And then the line in front of me disintegrates, I catch up and join back in, not completely decimated. It is like I have survived a serious of punches in a heavyweight fight after taking a stunning initial shot. With only about 6 or 7 miles to go, I figure that may be the last of such moves. It is. The rest is resting until the final mile or two, the cat and mouse attacks, covers, counters etc. Eventually a rider attacks and pulls away. A big guy joins him. I try to get up and over to his wheel. Another rider has the same idea. He is closer and I figure to get on his wheel. Good plan except as he catches the wheel in front of him, he fades, gapping both of us. The group crawls in for the bunch sprint and I swing in with them, towards the back. Glad it is done. I finish with a someteenth place, which is fine with me. Surprised by the number or riders who have fallen off on the last lap. Glad it is over. Soaked and cold again, but not feeling to bad.
This is the reward, signs of progress. Feeling better on day two. All skin in tact.
I will take it. On to the next challenge. Which will be...???