Craving some humble pie?? Then meet someone who suffers only when he's not riding, training or racing on his bike. Little did I know that our racing team included a person with a carbon fiber leg. The first time I saw Paul was at Wells Ave this past spring, making the A racers all look like B's, considering everyone else's obvious advantage. (This is probably exactly how Paul doesn't want to be described, but he'll forgive me I hope) We met again at the Attleboro Crit, where he competed in the 35+ event... Without even knowing much about you Paul, saluting you for what you do comes very easily. Enough said. Here's Paul's recent report from the Disabled Cycling World Championships:
The Disabled Cycling World Championships wrapped up in Switzerland last week, sending several of humbled riders home with a renewed motivation for training. This is often the response when performances fail to meet expectations and personal standards.
Other than the women's tandem team that has been dominating for several years, the US squad did not claim the medal count we've become somewhat accustomed to in the past. My performances were among those left off the podium.
The racing got underway September 11, on the track. The guys in my category got things rolling with the four-kilometer pursuit. The top four finishers moved on to the finals later that day. I was fifth. I've been in the finals, the bronze medal round, each of my last three international events, so as you might surmise, I wasn't too happy about that. I did, however, ride about as fast as I'd expected: a 5:14 and change. Fourth place, a Chinese rider, rode a 5:13. That particular Chinese rider has no hands, nor did his teammate. You might think a guy with two legs and no hands my have the upper on us apparatus-wearing leg amputees. Not so much the case - guys like me still win the races. Unfortunately for me I told the Chinaman I'd wipe his backside for him if he beat me... The race
was won by Spaniard Roberto Alcaide. As I may have mentioned in the past, he's built for this business. At age 20 he lost his foot descending a hill on race day, crashing into a guardrail that claimed a pod. He was racing for the Spanish development team; his father was an Olympic cyclist. He broke his own world-record posting a 4:43. Next was Jiri Jezek, the great Czech rider, then a
new guy from Belgium, Jan Boyen.
The next day's event, the kilo - a 1000 meter time trial - gave me what it always gives me: a 1:14 something. 1:14.689 to be specific. I rode a half second slower than my best, again, about what I'd
expected. But several of the other vets have gotten faster and the new guy from Britain, Jody Cundy, set a new world record of 1:10:57. I finished up 6th - my worst kilo place to date.
Next up was the road time trial, the event in which I've held World Champion status for the last four years. I told myself I felt good, and I almost meant it. But once I left the ramp and started down
the 24k course, the go-sticks provided not the power necessary to repeat and I felt like a Chevy in Mexico: NoVa. I finished 11th, six minutes (10%) off the day's best racer. I was down and out in the Swiss Alps. And humbled. The need to train to win was crystal clear - at this level no one wins without paying their dues.
The final competition, the road race, did provide some redemption. It was a not-soon-to-be-forgotten rain soaked day where the wheel in front of you provided both shelter and a hosing of rooster tail road water. A rainy road race typically calls for at least one crash. In this case it was the guys we warned rookie teammate Sam Kavanaugh to look out for: the two Chinese guys with not a single hand between the two of them took each other out! (Sam lost his leg 18 months ago in a Montana avalanche, spending 48 hours in the mountains with a compound fractured tib-fib. Amazing
I rode well and did some honest work in an effort to put my good friend Ron Williams in position to medal. We were confident as a team, being the only country fielding three riders, and we expected some good work out of Sam who had done well in the TT and on the track. Unfortunately, he was out after a couple laps due to a lost contact lens by way of the rooster tail.
On the fourth of six laps of a seven-mile course, with ten of 25 starters left in the peloton, I flew off the front and took a couple guys with me. Unfortunately, Ron got worked shortly thereafter by
the #1 and #2 riders in the world, the Czech and the Spaniard, and was left for dead. I had just completed a big pull and was presently falling back, seeking assistance from those formerly on my wheel, the Belgian and Romanian, Eduard Novak. As the request for cohesion left my lips, I saw them glance over my shoulder and get off their saddles. In that moment Jiri and Roberto and a couple
others then zipped past me as Jan and Eduard got on those fast wheels and held on. I did my damndest, but got dropped; I then held up a tad to hook up with a couple other stragglers, neither of which was a teammate of mine. The three of us then made solid attempt to get back up to the leaders without luck.
We then rolled the final lap at a decent pace, picked up another guy previously dropped by faster riders and headed to the finish line. I took second in that pack sprint for a respectable, soaking
wet, eight place finish.
I strolled home that day not feeling like the loser I felt like after the time trial. I felt like I wanted to be in the shape I was four years ago. Heck, the shape I was in a year ago.
To get there the answer is obvious: I’ll not-so-humbly return to training. I’m thinking, on top of caring for Jack many hours per week, I’ll run Boston. I’m thinking Ironman Austria. I’m thinking I’ll
keep up the bike racing, too. I’ll be busy, so busy that this weekend we excavated large holes to start building the two-car garage, finished space above it and the extension off the back of the house for a nice big living room.
I’ll be hiring help.
And I’ll be back.
Good things will happen.