Any given Sunday
It was pissing rain by the time we arrived at the course on Sunday morning. I planned to race so I went out with Sam to ride the course, got around 3 times and then flatted in a really major way. Sam was on another part of the course by that point and he had the car keys so basically I got stuck standing in the pouring rain for about 25 minutes.
By the time he came back I was soaked to the bone. That was when I realized that I’d only brought one set of riding gear and I was wearing it.
And it was soaked through.
So I played the day like a rookie and ultimately opted not to race.
But enough about me, let’s talk about the *real* racer in the family.
I let Sam sit on the trainer for about 5 minutes too long and then we were both confused about where the start line actually was. By the time we found it most of the field had already lined up.
“Fuck!” Sam handed me his jacket and sped away to try to work his way into a good start position. So much of the race is about the start. He ended up being pretty well buried in the sixth row. It was still raining. Keep in mind, this is Sam’s second cyclocross race ever and his first race in the rain and mud.
He got off the start as well as could be expected and pounded a big gear along the back stretch to try to pass as many riders as possible right off the bat. By the time I saw him coming over some of the gnarly technical sections in the back he was about 20 deep in the pack.
“Keep picking people off!” I screamed, “You have to move up!!!”
Watching Sam ride is one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen. He’s gritty and angry and fluid and strong and graceful. It was so powerful to see him doing something totally new on the bike, challenging himself to stretch the limits of his two-wheeled mastery.
I ran from point to point along the course, back and forth across bumpy grass fields and parking lots, snapping pictures all the way. I was still wearing my riding tights and shoes. I was cold. I didn’t care.
Josh ran with me and told me how it was just like when he used to cheer for me in cross-country. Always running across, cutting the course, trying to find a new spot to cheer – the top of a punishing hill or a long, desolate flat stretch.
After a while the categories become so mixed up it’s hard to tell who’s where… Masters C riders are mixed in with regular C riders and by the time they’ve gone around the course three times it’s impossible to tell who’s who, especially when the front group of the Masters catch the back group of the C’s (the masters start a few minutes after the regular C group). Then each group starts lapping people and, from a fan’s perspective, it’s a total clusterfuck.
There were 85 people in Sam’s field alone and probably a similar number in the regular C category. 160 riders on the course and my head was spinning!
Because his field was about double what it was last week at Barlow I was hoping for a top 20 finish for him but not expecting much more. When he came across the line I knew he was completely exhausted because he just dropped his bike in the grass.
I have never, ever, ever in my life seen Sam drop a bike purposefully onto the ground.
“I left it all out there,” he said, “I gave everything I had today.”
He had chosen to wear white (brilliant) and he was covered in mud from head to foot. Later in the car he said to me, “I want to wear white again next week – I like wearing white.”
“Then you’re going to have to buy a new jersey,” I replied, “You don’t have white anymore, you have brown.”
(I want to wear white? What is he, the Bride of Cyclocross? I will talk him out of this, rest-assured.)
We drove home in the driving rain and went straight to Hedge House where we discussed a myriad of important subject matters including my race next week (which I am now 100% committed to), our need for a Vanagon Camper (changing clothes and staying warm in the car was really difficult), and of course, how well we thought he placed.
“I think I did pretty well,” he said, “I was keeping track of my guys. I think I was top 15 at least.”
“I’ll tell you what,” I replied, “If you got top ten I think you should put some yellow bar tape on your bike.”
I have never seen Sam glow the way he glows after having a good race. Never.
This morning we jumped out of bed like it was Christmas morning. We raced downstairs and he checked his mail for the results… and there they were.
Sixth place!!! In a field of 85!!! On his second race ever!
Goddam, that is sizzling hot.