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March 2, 2007

It snowed this morning, part of what is hoped will be winter's last throes. As Ellen drove me to work, gusts of wind whipped the snow and sent it dancing across Lake Shore Drive like huge white wraiths.

Last night was my last fiddle class. It was part of the non-cycling off-season merriment that I wanted us to enjoy before it was back to obsessive interval workouts and weekend roadtrips to backwater racing venues.

Each Thursday we headed to the Old Town School for class, fiddle for me, banjo for her. Folk is a major departure for me. I took 10 years of Suzuki, but I hadn't put bow to string in 15 years. The class was fun, and the mechanics quickly came back to me.

The other night Ellen and I played together in my living room. "You're getting good, honey," she said. "It almost sounds like a real song!"

After months of weight lifting and churning through countless NetFlix and Tour stages on my trainer, the racing season now resumes. My countdown to winter camp in San Luis Obispo sits at 1. The kits are washed, the Clif bars are stacked high, and "The Rider" is packed for its annual reading. I leave at 3:30 tomorrow morning, and 14 hours later we'll be on the road. It will be Leslie's first trip outside since her original test ride.

Last year's camp was a revelation, in which I surprised myself and others. More important than its physical training, it gave me the confidence to have a good season. This time the pressure will be to prove last year wasn't a fluke. The day I return, racing begins in Kenosha.

You know how whenever a plane crashes, there's always one guy who's alive only because he changed his flight at the last minute? I'm that guy. A major computer upgrade is launching Monday at work. There will be pain. There will be suffering. But I will be far, far away, suffering my way up the Pacific coastline. To get farther away from the situation I would need a boat.

Yesterday I remarked to a co-worker that I'll have to do 25,000 feet of climbing next week. "What do you mean you have to?" she asked. "What happens if you don't?"

I could only look at her blankly. How do I even begin to explain the hideous obligations of a Cat 3 cyclist?