Racingby Dave Stewart
I have a mistress. I realize that this is a rather public venue to admit this. Many who know me well are already aware of this, however. My mistress, as Sweet Deborah calls her, this “other woman” in my life, is something that my wife both recognizes and permits. Sweet Deborah, decent and loving mate that she is, knows I’m also in love, in a different way, with bike racing.
I visited this “other woman” in May in Indianapolis. I loaded the bike, related accoutrements, Missouri the Hound of Belgravia, and Sweet Deborah into the car for the sprint to Eagle Creek. Jamie Gray passed me when I slowed for the law enforcement officials pulling speeders over. That is so typical of a Cat. 3. We made it through the work zones, any of which could have made us late for the race and finally pulled into the park with only a minor adrenal deficit.
Eagle Creek is one of my favorite venues. Set in a wooded, peaceful park, the close, tight course threads through the woods on a narrow, undulating road that bursts up a brief rise and out into the full view of everyone watching at the Start/Finish. It then dives into a tight left hander and weaves at an increasing speed into a downhill that will again surface at the Start/Finish.
Roads wind through the park. You park just off the pavement within a doors breadth of the trees. Just like the course. Parked cars with racers dressing, sweating on trainers or riding through to the “Fast” Eagle Creek course (coming up later in the summer) to cool down wind through the area like a group of racers looking for position. Families tote chairs and pull dogs straining at their leashes to the Start/Finish and the comfort of the shade. Already, the cool of the morning is melting under the noonday sun. I put my bike together. A lean man with a Spanish accent parks behind me and pulls a Colnago out of the back. He tells me he moved from Nashville to Indianapolis last October. He misses the mountain biking in the hills of Tennessee and bought the Colnago this spring. There’s no mountain biking here,” he explains. He rides around the bend and disappears. When I see him again, I recognize his number. He’ll be in the same race with me.
As I warm up, Jude Clark, Jim Whaley and Chris Heintz pull through in their cars, greet me and find a spot in the tunnels of trees along the road. Two M.O.B. Squad riders pull in, dress and ride off. I wonder what “M.O.B.” means, but they’re gone before I can ask. We four LBCracing riders complete a last couple of laps of the “fast” course and pull up to today’s venue to await the finish of the on-going racing. I recognize LBCracing uniforms on Mark Zaccone and Rick Holstein, both doing creditable jobs in their race. Two laps later, the race is over and the Cat. 4’s pull out for a lap that culminates at the Start/Finish. I suddenly realize I’m in a race with more LBCracing members than any I’ve been in for the past two years. This is great.
Those few minutes of waiting for the start are hard on me. I get the jitters. Thirty-five of us are packed in tightly. This is my first race of the season. I’m in the middle of my first Build period. But I want to do well. I remind myself that finishing is the important part. Joe Friel tells me that it’s okay to substitute a crit for one of the Build period exercises. I have his permission to do the best I can. I can accept that. Two of the M.O.B. squad guys, one on my left and the other on my right, are signing to each other. What in the hell does M.O.B. mean? But it’s not the time to ask. I feel a quiet touch on my shoulder. It’s Jude. Jim and Chris are 10 feet away. It’s great to be with friends.
The race pace picks up immediately. A moment later we pick up more speed down the twisting back side, flow over a slight rise, dip again, and then, out of the saddle, dash up the rise to the Start/Finish. Riders jockey for position. Chris is at the front, Jude is two bikes ahead of me. I see Jim just further up. My heart rate rises into Zone 5 and we are moving. It really doesn’t get any better than this. Standing along the side of the course at the Start/Finish are two women. One is in a brown blouse and white jeans. The other is in a knit brown swim top and white shorts. I get the vision of smooth tanned skin and a whiff of perfume. Two little girls, one with a pom-pom, are cheering on another rider. I hear Missouri barking. I wonder if she sees another dog. Sweet Deborah sits patiently in her chair, a vision in purple among the trees, with Missouri straining on the leash. Later Deborah confides in me that she’s concerned that this other woman in my life will injure me. Bruise me, skin me up and leave me battered. I tell her not to worry (Note: My mistress was mean to me two weeks later. I crashed at the Bulldog Crit. My stitches are out and my road rash is healed now).
Half a race later, I’m drifting to the back. Beginning to fade. Pounding up the rise to the Start/Finish is taking its toll on several of us. Then, on the hard left-hander, a guy goes down with that awful sound of bike and skin slamming into pavement and sliding across to the knarled tree roots beyond. Three others trip over him. I swing past on the inside with the sound in my mind and the vision of a man in a green and white jersey airborne. The sprint that follows leaves two of us ahead of a small group. The main group disappears around the next turn in front of us. I work with a young guy in a black and red Specialized jersey on a Specialized M4. On the downhill of the back stretch, he tells me he’s been working on his sprinting. I still have enough breath to suggest he should be at the other end of the field if that’s the case. He agrees as though that’s a new thought.
The buddy of the Specialized Sprinter, dressed just alike with the same color of bike, snags our wheels. The three of us make our rounds together. First one and then the other Specialized riders lose ground on the rise before the Start/Finish and I’m alone again. At one point, I’m lapped by the field. With the butts of the main group staring me in the face, I pass the Start/Finish. Dan Daly, the Indy Racing Series promoter, calls to me from the scorer’s booth. He suggests I now have plenty of wheels to grab. What a nice guy to be so concerned.
Suddenly, we’re done. I finish ahead of all those guys getting ready for a December peak (I’m working toward peaking in mid-October — or at least that’s what I tell Sweet Deborah). I feel wonderful. Elated even. I finished. And I wasn’t last.
Chris did well at the front. Jim and Jude finished well in the pack. There was one more crash on the final lap on the backstretch but none of us were involved. We gather in the shaded woods near the Start/Finish. I love having the four of us there. I wish for more. Sweet Deborah circles, taking pictures. Then she and I collect Missouri the Hound of Belgravia, Sweet Deborah’s chair from the shade, my wheels from the wheel pit and walk back to the car.
We pass the guy with the Colnago. Speaking Spanish with the pretty woman in the white shorts. The two little pom-pom girls stand holding onto him, calling him “Daddy” in American-accented English. We pass the pretty woman in the white jeans. She’s with one of the M.O.B. Squad guys. “What,” I ask, “does ‘M.O.B.’ stand for?” He says nothing. But the pretty woman, proud of his good finish, tells me that it means “Motivated Over Bikes.” I can relate to that.
Sweet Deborah and I put Missouri the Hound of Belgravia, the bike and assorted accoutrements into the car and head home. It has been a great day to spend with my mistress. I sure am glad my wife is so understanding.
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web posted: 2 July 2001
last updated: 3 July 2001