Louisville Bicycle Club
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Second Time Around
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Strange Encounter
November-December 1999 Newsletter

Second Time Around

by David Stewart


I can remember my first ride with the Club. It was a Monday night ride that started at Big Rock, went down to River Road and came back. It was going to be a long ride. The schedule said ten miles. I knew it was more than ten miles. But I thought I could do it. And I had a quarter in my saddle pack in case I had to call Sweet Deborah. I was uneasy standing there in my running shorts, holding my hybrid. There were all these people around me talking. They were dressed in real bike clothes. They were holding road bikes. And they walked funny in their bike shoes. I was pretty nervous.

We got our talk about bike handling. I raised my hand that I was a new rider. Then we took off. There was this rush of color as people pushed off into the street. The initial clacking cacophony of shoes clicking into clipless pedals reminded me of a mainsail going up on a sailboat. That sharp, cluttered sound of beating canvas and grinding winches. Then powerful silence as the boat fell off and the wind filled the sail. Suddenly, I was surrounded by cyclists moving easily down the road. Everyone seemed to be having fun and I began to relax. I thought I could do it after all. And when I got back, I had done it. The ride, and my achievement, was exhilarating.

I went bicycle racing this summer. I lined up with real racers. Now I had the Lycra and road bike, too, but I was just as uneasy as I had been on that first Monday night ride. The official’s whistle blew, there was the same sound of riders clicking into their pedals and then, again, sudden, powerful silence. No, actually I noticed this time there wasn’t silence. There was the sharp whisper of stressed chains and the mingled hiss of tires. Like foam rushing by the hull of a sailboat with its rail on the water. It’s a fine sound.

Confidence, someone once said, is what you have until you know the facts. So, at first of a race, I thought, “I can win this thing.” Then, down the road a ways, I began to think, “I can stay with the middle of the pack.” And finally, “I’ve got to find at least one person to come in ahead of.” Guess what I did? I finished with the pack. Most of the time. I finished ahead of other people. Most of the time. And I had a wonderful time. Just like that first Monday night ride, it was tremendously satisfying.

Now the weather is turning cooler and I’ll not do any more races this year. I’m not pushing as hard on rides and I can feel the burnout that hit me in late summer begin to lift. As is the case with cycling, I have time in the saddle to think. To reflect on the season past. To decide what I would do differently. And to decide that I want to do it again.

Here are my thoughts:

  1. I used a training program. It worked great. I rode stronger and longer than I have ever ridden before. But I planned to peak too early. By mid-August, training and racing had ceased to be fun. This year, I’ll rest longer. Next year, I’ll race later.

  2. I don’t need much outside help to stay motivated. It’s the way I work and it’s the way I play. I set goals, track my progress and meet my goals. But it was a comfort to go to races where I knew other people. I enjoyed riding with Scott Anderson to and from races. It gave us both a chance to talk out a few of the butterflies.

  3. I enjoy the success of the people I race with. I remember the slow-voiced, soft-spoken man with the full beard from Eastern Kentucky who talked with me at the start line before a crit as 40 of us sat on our bikes waiting for the official to decided if he would race the 50+ men with the 40+. My friend was a wild man when he rode, just the opposite of his pre-race manner. I remember the heavy-set guy in the yellow jersey that I knew I could beat who out-sprinted me at the Indy Fairgrounds. It has been great seeing Michele Miller grow stronger and stronger. I used to be able to keep up with her. She and Denise Everett will be the ones to beat next season. Scott Anderson has always been a great wheel to hang onto on the flats. This year, he’s stepped it up a notch on the hills. You have to hustle to hold his wheel on a climb. If you can manage it. I’ve watched Bill Sanders get faster and faster on the road. Not bad for a guy that plays in the dirt as much as he does. This fall I’ll learn a little mountain biking from him. Next year, I plan to beat him in the Time Trials. And I’ve learned to set my own “bar” higher watching experienced riders like John McCormick and Walter Lay. I’ve learned a lot from each of these folks. They taught me the value of persistence and experience. They’re the ones who made me realize the importance of mentoring.

  4. If you’re a woman, a junior or a 50 plus racer, there’s not much action in this region. If you’re male, in the 18 to 45 age group, there are some good crowds out there to race with. At the right venue.

  5. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the Indy Racing Series. Without dealing with any of the criticisms, I do know that Dan Daly puts on a lot of races that are attended by a lot of racers. Driving two hours to Indianapolis is a nuisance. But without that series, it would take a lot more driving to race every weekend. For the good of “local” bicycle racing, the criticisms need to be addressed and Dan needs to be complimented for his persistence. And we need a promoter like Dan in this area. The right person with the right approach can make a difference in racing around Louisville and Southern Indiana. They can make some money, too.

  6. We need more racers. That applies to all the teams from this area. That applies to Juniors, Citizens, Masters and all the others. I ride with a number of people who tell me they would like to race. Many of these are people who could race and beat me. I want to encourage all these people. I suspect that all of us who race bicycles, whatever our ability, faced the same hurdles at first as these people who are tempted but haven’t taken the plunge yet. I think each one of us who races needs to mentor someone who has expressed an interest. Talk about the issues. Take them to a race. Show them the ropes. Cheer them on. It doesn’t matter if they’re the same category, the same sex, the same age. It matters that they are interested in bike racing. The more people we can put on a course, the better it is for the sport. Lance Armstrong’s win at the Tour de France will be a powerful incentive for bike riders in general and racers specifically. We need to make the most of the moment.

  7. The worst part of racing, I’ve decided, is shaving my legs. It’s bad enough keeping my face smooth. I lost more blood shaving my legs than I did racing. It makes showers a lot longer. And if I didn’t shave my legs often enough, Sweet Deborah would fuss when I climbed into bed. Then, if I wore shorts when I left the house, my kids didn’t want to be seen with me. At least I didn’t feel compelled to do piercings and tattoos. At my age, you have to draw the line somewhere.

So, I’ve learned to deal with the butterflies. I’ve learned to get over the embarrassment of not doing as well as I wanted to do. I’ve had good times. I’m faster than I was and I’m healthy. I’ll race again next season. What does it all add up to? Sounds like a win to me. A win whether I crossed the line first or simply the attempt and finished. Either way, a win. That is what counts, after all. Won’t you come race with me?


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Web posted: 17 October 1999
last updated: 18 October 1999
by Duc M. Do