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July 17, 2007

I'm back, sort of.

Ordinarily today's road race at Alpine Valley would have been my favorite of Superweek. But after two uncharacteristically challenging group rides last week -- getting dropped when I ought not to have gotten dropped, wheezing when I ought not to have be been wheezing -- I knew that I'd lost quite a bit of fitness since the Snake Alley crash in May. I'd be lucky to be pack fodder.

Within the first 5 of 60 miles I was on the brink. My heart rate soared to 193 in the flats. One single hard effort sent me floating to the back, where I clung to keep contact. I had mechanical worries, too. I got a bad case of speed wobbles on the first descent, and the bumpy second descent loosened the screws of my bottle cage.

Just as I was contemplating how to safely secure my cage, I heard a loud "Pisssssh" and felt pressure give away behind me. "It's me," I said and raised my hand for a new rear wheel from the support truck. Unfortunately I hadn't put a wheel in and there were no compatible wheels available. I wouldn't have been able to get back in the race anyhow, but it would have been nice to get a training ride in.

A rider from Austin, Texas, stopped to give me a lift back to the start/finish. I had a nice chat with him, then balanced the karma by taking Ed's car and giving an Australian rider a lift up the feed zone.

Maybe there's a good race in my future, but I doubt I'm going to get the fitness back this year. I haven't had any quality intensity in six weeks, just spotty endurance rides. I don't feel that taut invincibility that comes with being in shape. Maybe I'll be fine by August, but those are all short crits, and even at my peak I'd have trouble.

The good news is that the shoulder is fine. It didn't even cross my mind during the race, and it is now rare when it twinges or throbs.

And that's all fine. What I have lost in fitness I have gained in perspective. I felt happy out there, and I felt safe and protected in the fold. Maybe next year.

Photo taken: July 16, 2007