Sigh. Spring is just about here, and this week has been particularly warm and beautiful, with temperatures in the 60s and lots of sunshine. Spring is wonderful. I’ve been thinking about how spring is almost as much fun as summer because there is so much possibility ahead of me and so much room for planning and dreaming. When summer, the end of school, and more free time arrive, it’s great, but I start getting anxious about using the time well and about how it will end before I know it. Right now I’m still in the middle of the semester and I’m working hard, but the end is in sight, not quite here yet, but on the horizon. I have much to look forward to and none of it has begun yet.
And then there’s the racing season. I love going to the races. It’s exciting, it’s dramatic, there are people to see, conversations to have, stories to tell. There’s standing out in the warm spring sun, and also in the cold spring rain, the latter of which is not nearly as fun as the former, but which is enjoyable in its own character-building way. I’m not so sure I love the actual racing part, though, as I’ve written about here again and again. It’s stressful in a way I don’t like. I don’t like the competition or the worry about crashes. I don’t like the feeling of not having done well. And yet I’m always there at the line, each and every week, ready for a little more of the stress and competition and danger. I may well give up racing one of these seasons, but apparently I’m not quite there yet.
I’ve raced twice so far and both races have gone well. In the first one there were maybe 25 riders and most of us stayed together the entire time. A few people tried to attack off the front to shake things up a little bit, but they never got anywhere. The race ended in a pack sprint, and I got 13th place. That was fine, but I could do better, I think, if I were better about fighting for position in the pack during the last lap, so I’m in a good position to sprint. But it’s exactly that kind of fight I don’t like.
Last Sunday’s race was an odd one. It was a rainy day, and while it didn’t rain during the race, it rained during my warm-up, so I was wet and cold when the race started. That was no worry, though, because racing always warms me up enough to be comfortable. One woman attacked early on and spent quite a few laps off the front, but the pack caught her eventually and we were together up until the last seven laps (out of 22 total). At that point, three women attacked. I tried to grab their wheels but couldn’t and so fell back with the rest of the group, at which point we spent the last laps arguing about who was going to pull out front and into the wind. Most people were taking their turns out front, but one woman absolutely refused to do her part. Tempers flared, people yelled at the woman, she yelled back, and it got ugly. And then we were at the end. The pack was very small, hardly a pack at all, and so it wasn’t hard to get myself in a good position to head up the final hill. I started sprinting in third position, which is an excellent place to be, and I was able to pass the two riders ahead of me (including the woman who refused to play nice) and win the field sprint, taking fourth overall (and winning a little bit of prize money). It was my best showing at this race, and I was pleased.
I had fun during that sprint, but it wasn’t enough to make me completely enthusiastic about racing. What I am enthusiastic about is regular old riding, of which I have been doing a lot. I’ve ridden over 1,200 miles so far this year, all outdoors, in all kinds of weather, and I don’t think I’ve done a ride I haven’t enjoyed.