Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Uhh, now what?

When you’re out for a bike ride, typically after a ride, when you get back home – there’s always that dog that is from the house that is about 80% of the way up the hill. This is a nice little dog, but he never ceases to engage you in the famous “dog sprint” where you have to haul up that hill as fast as possible because this little ankle biter is on a mission! What would he do if I stopped? Well, nothing I bet - he just chases. This is a very well motivated and driven dog, intent catching you – but I don’t think he’s thought too far ahead and of what he would do next. I liken myself to that dog, this summer, since getting the green light on my cycling career from the doctors again; I’ve been dead set on cycling, with the seemingly unattainable goal of racing well in the elite category with the pros. I might not make it in the end, but I sure enjoy that ride!
The night before the race, my good friend from the University of Guelph Cycling team and I made up a feast before the race, we fixed and cleaned bikes ate like champs, the usual. At the end of that night as Dan was leaving I mentioned how all I wanted was to hang onto the elite riders up the hill (Ontario Cup 6 is tomorrow and it involves a gruelling climb up the escarpment, once at the start of each lap all the way to the top) on the first lap. Dan said that I would have no problem, that I am a different guy now than I used to be when we first met, that now that I am riding I exuded purpose, direction, and determination, and he was quite happy to watch me grow into the rider I am now (Dan was quite exorbitant with his words I felt, but nonetheless that comment has stayed with me, and it means a lot to me).
I kept nice and calm before the race, mostly because I was already definite dead last, and the only reason that I’m racing elite is because if I back down I’d lose integrity. Without integrity what does a person have?
On the race startline I was shocked again that I was sitting with the top riders, about to do 5 laps, and people would really watch my race. I made some cheerful jokes about all of us holding the pace until the top of the hill, and a couple of the guys joked back that that was a great idea! Too bad nobody did. Race started up and I was at the back of the pack; I surely wouldn’t keep pace up that hill, so I decided not to get in a pro’s way.
Back of the pack, off the start, figured that I belonged here (Rick Melhoff Photo)

Once we hit the bottom of the hill however, I got muscled out to the right side, where I knew that there was a skinny line with good traction to chug up. The hill can be divided into three tiers, the first is the longest, with the steepest section, then it flattens for a little bit and you cross over a creek (which I rode through the deepest part every lap to try to cool myself off) then it kicks up to another tough section (by this point you are very tired and feel like dying), it flattens out again, and kicks up one last very steep section. 
My wicked fast friend and fellow Xprezo racer Jon Slaughter (Rick Melhoff Photo)

I was in utter disbelief that by that first relief section, I had passed about four guys, and was sitting back to mid pack. I continued up the hill after that at the pace of the pack, not wanting to burn my matches for the five lap race. At the very last tier of the hill were spectators and a commentator. The fans were amazing, and the commentator was awesome! I didn’t even know some of the people cheering my name, but that shows how great the atmosphere at one of these races is!
Even organizer Sean Ruppel, having fun at the top of the hill with the megaphone!
(Rick Melhoff Photo)

Lap 1 of the race I struck up a friendship with another rider; Cory Hancock, his calm racing style kept me in check, and calmed me down. I remained in good shape until I decided that I was too fast for Cory (my appointed chaperone for the event) and bolted off on my own to catch other guys. Suddenly I was riding sloppy, and about a lap later Cory came up
“Look I caught you again”
Hmmm. Obviously I’m doing something wrong here. The last three laps I brought my pace right down to something that I figured was easily sustainable and rode mostly on my own, yelling at the 17-18 year olds if they passed “Lousy Kids! Hey...are you guys going to university in the fall? Guelph is nice!”  I had some issues with my bike through the race however; my rear shifting seemed pretty compromised. The best plan of action with this I figured was just to switch my front gears, and leave the back one in an ok ring. Obviously this slowed me down a bit, but not as much as a broken chain would...

Feeling the trail, the bike, the groove, and luckily not that tree! (Rick Melhoff Photo)

Until going up a hill on the last lap, about 1.5km from the finish, I shifted, and kept riding. About a minute later the shifter finally responded, and snap there goes my chain! I didn’t even have time to think! At least it was the last lap! I decided to run instead of fix the chain, and coast on any downhill sections that I could. I managed to run up the rest of that hill, coast down to the bottom of the ski hill, run across it and up the hill a bit more, coast down, and then run up to the finish line without being passed by another elite rider!
I finished 17th. Unbelievable. You’re kidding right? No, really?
Yep. 17th place. This is beyond where I thought I could ever be while I was in university, let alone the first year back after my head injury! My goals since I was about 17 years old and started riding have been accomplished, I’m that dog that chases the cyclists, and now it’s as if somebody has stopped and given me a treat, now what?

At the top of the escarpment, feeling good. Feel like this picture's appropriate here (Rick Melhoff Photo)

           Thanks are what! Thank you to everybody who has supported me on my way back into cycling! For the Eric Batty, one of my biggest supporters, he is an amazing coach, and managed to bring me back into the game after a horrible month of July with weeks off my bike and my breaking teeth fiasco! His continued support and flexibility is just amazing, because I know that I am not organized to get myself there on my own. Thanks to my family, always helping out financially, or at the races physically, you guys helped me through everything every step of the way! Emma, Johnny, and my sponsors have been wicked, hooking me up even with no past results; I hope that you have found the investment worthwhile! My friends have been wicked support too, thanks for putting up with my crazy lifestyle, and huge shout out to Dave Paradis who has been on a number of last minute road trips with me this summer, without him I wouldn’t get to some the best races and weekends of my life, and without everybody’s support, I wouldn’t have had a good time doing this!
                Unfortunately, I won’t be making an appearance at provincials, so this ends my Ontario Cup saga for the year. I managed to reach my goals, and overshoot what I thought was possible. Before the race I was scared, and talked to my buddy Aaron, a veteran of the circuit. He said no buts, defy the odds. In my opinion, I have, but without provincials to build towards I’m rattled up! Eric had a simple solution for this, a crazy and simple solution. The East Coast Open and Ontario Marathon Championships are both on this weekend. Big races and big opportunities.  I’ll be at both, here we go!

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