Mt Hood Cycling Classic: Stage 2 Race Report… My way.
You want the straight up, suit-n-tie race reporting?
You want some pretty pictures? Check out the Race in Pictures over here.
But if you want the real skinny, crazy-Swift style? With a little salsa? Then stay put – because here it comes…
The truth is that Paul Mach is a shooting star. I’m not kidding. He’s soft-spoken and quiet and (maybe?) a little surprised at what his legs are doing right now. I ran into him before the TT and he was all game-face, 100% business. He seemed a little nervous – and I didn’t blame him a bit.
Out on the lonely road the wind was full-force and angry. Ripping. Wild.
Mach rode into it with a set jaw and a calm determination. I thought maybe he was too quiet, too reserved, too nervous – but he rode away and came within 3 seconds of the formidable Chris Baldwin, who stole the day’s glory. I wonder how long the cycling journos will be able to resist abusing his last name – mach speed, after all, is almost too tempting to resist.
Baldwin rode with a crazy kind of zen calm. We drove by him in the car and I leaned way back into the driver (my long lens and all) and made a photo. Chris looked straight ahead. No glasses. Eyes fixed on the road. Form perfect. Mouth open. Breathing.
After the race I looked for him as boys with shiny legs and tight spandex spun circled around me. 153. I recognized his number.
“Chris? Chris Baldwin, right?” I walked up with a camera the size of my torso and an audio recorder in my hand and introduced myself.
When you see Chris Baldwin you think, why haven’t I met Chris Baldwin before? He’s got a perfect face, immaculate eyebrows, a good jaw. More importantly, his expression is kind and welcoming – even when you’re the press after a gut-busting time-trial into the wind.
And he speaks. As in, he’s articulate.
Today after the TT? He had the sort of calm confidence that is the opposite of arrogance. He said, “I got the best out of myself today.” and he nailed it because, really, isn’t that what we’re all after? To get the best out of ourselves?
To also best the field is double bonus and Chris was quick with praise for runner-up, Paul Mach. He repeated it several times: “I’m really impressed with him. I’m really impressed with what he’s been doing.”
A guy like that thinking outside himself in a triumphant moment like that? That’s what makes pro bike racing fun to watch. These aren’t normal guys – in fact, they’re somewhat genetically superhuman – but at the core? They can still teach us what sportsmanship should look like and what it means to win with grace.
Baldwin and the OUCH boys will march into battle tomorrow against a Bissell squad that looks intimidating. Mach feels unstoppable and Swindlehurst is still the lurking sleeper. Sandwiched inbetween them is Morgan Schmitt who climbs and podiums with a quiet nonchalance. The three of them are backed by domestiques with the legs of an army – Omer Kem and Graham Howard.
15 seconds separates Baldwin and Mach. 15 seconds that will be closely guarded by the Bissell troops. 15 seconds over 92 miles and 10,500 feet of climbing.
I watched Golstein defend her title at Mt Hood last year and I will be honest – I wanted her to win.
She has the heart of a lion. Terrific. Terrifying. Incredible.
Goldstein is a fighter – literally and figuratively. Kickboxing world champion at 17 was the prelude to a bigger battle – the one she faced when she went down in a near-fatal crash at the Cascade Classic in 2005. You can read about the details online if you really want to know, but the point is that she was hospitalized for the better part of half a year and her face was shred along the concrete and she still woke up and said, “I’m going to get back on the bike and win again.”
Body crushed and a bones broken, her spirit is the dominating kind. It doesn’t take no for an answer.
I was standing in the officials tent today when she rolled up, asking about results. I knew that she’d wanted to win the stage as she had last year and I was holding the paper that told me she’d missed the mark. I spoke softly and said, “Pitel by five seconds.”
Goldstein reveals little, if anything. Ever. But there was a momentary flash in her face that was rage mixed with disappointment. Just a fraction of a second later, the look was gone and I could see her thinking about the next day’s battle. The long Wy’East stage with it’s monstrous climbs. I could see her figuring out how to win. How to attack. What the next move was.
When Edwige Pitel rolled into view, Goldstein was poised and gracious. The two stood on the podium, smiling – but there was a quiet storm in Goldstein’s posture. I noticed it. I am not sure that Pitel did.
In the morning we’ll wake up and the two women, separated by only two seconds, will roll to the start line of a 92 mile showdown. Sparks, at some point, will shoot out from the front of the peloton as the two tiny climbers make molehills out of mountains on their way to personal and professional glory.
Somewhere in the background (about 2 minutes back), Melissa McWhirter will either throw a hail mary or settle in for the race for third place.
I can only sit and watch from the car – hanging upside down out of the passenger window to get the right angle – or standing up in the sunroof with the Mt Hood wind in my hair.
Either way, I’ll be there to mark the explosions with my lens and pen.