Today was a small but important milestone on my road back to racing. And I am not talking about contending for wins. At its best, my ability to sprint is about equal to the acceleration of a fully loaded tanker truck going uphill.
But bicycling really is a team sport and my place on the BiKyle/Mazur Coaching Main Line Cycling team is helping the riders who can climb/sprint to win races. Today’s race for the 55+ riders was 20 laps of a one-mile serpentine loop at the Rodale Fitness Park in Trexlertown PA. The twisting circle is wide, smooth and has a flat, straight run to the finish. Perfect for sprinters.
Only 18 riders started our race and three of them were in the 65+ category. Three members of my team, Dave Nesler, David Frankford and I, were on the start line. Nesler is a good sprinter, but there were a few very good sprinters in the so Dave would need to go before a pack sprint and stay away to win the race.
The race started off slow with a few attacks that raised the pace. When the speed dropped below 23mph, someone would occasionally attack. Above 23mph the pack stayed in a line and rode wheel of the guy out front. Riding out front of a pack means working about 30% harder than everyone else. The guy out front is giving up energy. The sweet spot is to be in the middle of the pack, surrounded by other riders who block the wind.
With six laps to go, I rode from the back (where I was resting from the last attack) and asked Dave if he would be better off with the pack going faster or slower. He said slower. Less than a minute later, Barry Free took off at the front and I followed him. Once I was on his wheel Barry sat up and the pack was on us in a few seconds. Rather than drop back, I stayed on the front of the pack, keeping my average speed as close to 23mph as I could--fast enough that no one wanted to raise the pace.
About 1/4 of the way around the final lap, the pack went around me to the left. I started to swing to the right to get out of the way, but Dave decided to attack down the right. He yelled, I inched left and he took off.
His move didn't last the whole way around. I did not see the end of the race, because as soon as the pack went around me, I rode at half speed for the rest of the final lap.
Dave didn't win, Chip Berezny sprinted to the take top prize. But at least I am back enough to contribute to the team.