There's no comedy here, people!
-Thursday afternoon, drive from Portland to Manchester for my flight to Tulsa. Wrench my back from swinging my bike bag up on to the shuttle like I'm Matt Svatek or something. Pain for the rest of the day.
-Plane's not there, delayed, but still with enough time to make my connection in Detroit.
-While boarding, woman on plane gets sick, deplanes, EMTs, the whole bit. More delays.
-Land with 15 minutes before my connection. Race across two terminals, which in Detroit meant a shuttle, hallways, escalators. Plane is long gone.
-Discover that there was another flight to Tulsa 15 minutes after mine in the same terminal I landed in that I now can not make, but that my bike and bag likely went on, and that they've already booked me for a 6 am flight Friday morning. Instead, I get a flight to Oklahoma City, sit next to some dude who smells like he's afraid of flying, and get rescued by my friend Chris DuRoy in OKC when I land.
-Friday afternoon, Chris takes me the 2 hours up to Tulsa, pick up my bags at the airport, head to the host housing where my 3 teammates already are, build my bike, enjoy a clean shirt and underwear, and pass out for an hour before it's time to go to the race.
-Race starts at 9:15 PM. 8-corner crit with a small hill and a wide open sprint. I'm in heaven, and I'm flying. My form is back. Hekman and I are rolling with moves all day, I'm sprinting out of turns by going to a smaller gear and not even getting out of the saddle, and I cannot wait for the sprint. Hekman and I agree to ride as a tandem and sprint together, rather than leading one or the other out. Ramsey is off the front alone with 15 laps to go, as has become his tradition, and Jelly Belly set up their train at 12 to go to start bringing Dan back and leading out Brad Huff. Hekman and I are the caboose, at least for a little while.
-7 to go, coasting into a turn, I feel it. Someone behind me has decided to get a closer look at my Powertap hub, apparently. I can tell I'm being crashed on, but I hope I can Luke Skywalker myself out of this Death Star and just hold my breath. Instead, said jackass lands in my rear wheel, takes half the spokes out, and according to witness, breaks his fall with his face. Apparently he was all the way up my ass, left himself no room, and the margin he took back was in my wheel. I manage to stay up, make the turn, skid to stop, and start cyclo-crossing it back a block to the pit, hoping I make it in time before the free lap rule is over.
I make it in time, but it takes two laps to get me going again, and I get tossed back in not in the top 10 where I was, but 50 guys back with 4.5 laps to go. I do my best parallel TT on the margins of the field to get back up to the front, but the Jelly Belly train is full gas now, and by the time we get to 1 to go I'm back in the "risk it all for 30th place" section, and just roll it in, wondering if I can find the dude who ate shit behind me and kick him in the nuts. $18,000 in prize money, and my opportunity to earn some of it gone.
Except, thank god for Hekman. He kept surfing the Jelly Belly train after I was out, managed to hit the final corner in 3rd, on Huff's wheel, and almost finished him off in the sprint. 2nd place! It's not completely enough to ease my frustration, because maybe if I was still there I could have taken him over the top for the win, or vice-versa. But it was $2500 for 2nd, and we only have 4 guys here. To have teammates who can perform like this - it's changing everything for me this year. I want to go to races just to help, to cover moves, to chase, to lead out, to do whatever. I don't think I've taken more money from splits than I put in since maybe 1997, the last year I was teammates with Kevin Monahan on Breakaway Courier Systems. I've literally started putting envelopes of cash in a drawer, and it's been amazing to start paying down my credit card thanks to these guys.
-Finally, The Hekman Rule says that when Hekman wins, everyone is happy. I don't just mean teammates, I mean everyone. Dudes on other teams, girlfriends of the dudes on other teams, kittens, puppies, literally everyone. He's just that kind of guy. Everyone wants to see Hekman do well, and when he does, everyone smiles and is happy for him. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that, given the chance? All I want to do for the next two nights is hit out for Hekman like world peace depended on it.
-Oh, post script: Dear Shades of Brown barista, at Peoria and 33rd, you with the 3/4 sleeve and black hair and bangs and square glasses and jeans shorts and stretched ears and Vans who wielded your tamper and portafilter like a pair of sai. I love you.