Quite the weekend since I last wrote, some pretty lackluster racing, some pretty spectacular people and of course, beer and baked goods in ample proportions. Add a free pawpaw into the mix and you can’t go wrong.
I arrived in providence very early on Friday morning, on the last train. I was tired, hangry and three people had already asked me if my bike was a fixie. I sat on the train and endured a quizzing from a somewhat intoxicated young lady who seemed to be infatuated with my messenger bag, my acent and the syllable “aaah” (as it turned out this would be a common theme). In search of someone who wasn’t going to respond to everything I said with “oh. My. GAAAHHHWWD” I turned to the two men in the seat opposite who turned out to be from LA, good fortune struck and they offered me a ride from the station, I’d only been in town 5 minutes and already it was looking like I could rely on providence (in Providence).
The next morning I woke up, played with my allen keys and covered myself in oil and, cobbled together a bike with begged and borrowed parts from the shop. I had 105 shifters from the pre cables under the tape era, a demo saddle and cantilever brakes that did a great job squealing but not such a good one stopping. I had the interesting conundrum of riding through some of the less desirable parts of providence on tubulars and risking an unfixable flat and a potentially long and humiliating walk back to where I was staying or rolling on clinchers which were UCI illegal (too wide). I opted for the tubs and rolled over to the course on Friday to pick up my race numbers, see my friends, get my “getting lost en route to the course” routine out of the way and get clued in on the best places to drink coffee and beer in the immediate locality.
About halfway to the course the East coast decided to remind me I wasn’t in California anymore, it rained on me, hard. Due to some logistical issues relating to China being a long way away and customs being pedantic my kit allotment was skinsuits, short sleeved. Once I’d shivered my way to the venue I must have presented a pretty bedraggled figure. Before I’d even had a chance to start whining people started helping. Jim at the Shimano tent spotted my geeky joystick shifters and purple monstrosity of a saddle. He offered the use of his carbon Raleigh, I graciously accepted. Bo from NBX ( online at www.nbxbikes.com – and now your favourite Rhode Island bike shop mini chain ) equipped me with warm clothes, vocal support, a new nickname “Guinness”, a great group of people to hang out with and a set of teammates to teach me some of the important nuances of cyclocross (like how not to fall off).
Feeling suitably warm and fuzzy inside and generally lucky to be alive I rolled off home, but not before bumping into the good people from Stoudt’s brewery. I’d love to say “I’m so proud of it, I put my name on it” but realistically they already put a variation on my name on it. However they do make a fine Belgian Tripel, and the introduced me to Kandy Kakes (how had I not come across those before?), you should definitely check both of those things out, ideally simultaneously.
booze sends you low, sugar sends you high THIS is a balanced diet
Friday night ended with a prolonged wander around Federal hill in search of shutdown budgeted, gluten and cheese based deliciousness. All the while trying not to snigger at the incredible accents, phrases and wolf whistles that emanated from the bars and well just the bars really.
Saturday morning started with a fantastic ginger scone, and a spin to the race. En route I came across a fairly raucous parade for a Nigerian-American group which had more or less completely shut down the road. Skirting around through South Providence someone shouted at me “hey you, you with the bike” feeling a bit panicky I looked around “hey you come over here” reluctantly I rolled over, two guys about my age pulled out a brown paper bag, I was just getting ready to turn down some pre race nerve calming herb when the guy who’d been shouting uttered the last phrase I’d been expecting to hear amongst the liquor stores and glass covered streets “you wanna pawpaw? You look like you appreciate fruit man, pick one, they’re ripe. But hey, be careful, don’t eat the skin” and so again random people did unnecessarily kind things to make my day better.
The fruit of human kindness
At the race the tendency continued, I warmed up on a borrowed bike on a borrowed trainer, drank someone else’s water and chatted with a guy I’d never met as a mechanic who wasn’t being paid by anyone associated with me set up someone else’s Dura Ace wheels for my weight. I felt pretty lucky as I sat there and some cycling media types took pictures of my beardy, skinny tanlined self. I imagine they’ll save them for easter or perhaps sell them to someone wishing to depict Jesus after 40 days of fasting.
By the time I’d embrocated and caffeinated and rolled to the start line in time to step through the SMOKE MACHINE they were using for call ups and assume my rightful place DFL on the grid the sun was shining and the cowbells were ringing. Sadly unlike the peer gynt scene that this resembled I didn’t manage much frolicking in the meadows in the following hour. A buzzer sounded, we all went mental, I hopped a curb, shot up the inside on corner one, skidded through a turn sprinted some more and braked a bit less. I spotted some guys I know are good cross riders and made a determined effort to get to their wheels. Soon enough one of their wheels was moving towards my head and we were all lying on top of each other in the dirt as riders behind constrained by the barriers rolled over my feet and one kindly individual modified my helmet with his chainring.
coffee and cookies vs concussion
I got up, got on and pretty quickly felt like I had been popping ambien like jelly beans. I was riding around with thousands of people screaming at me in a little cloudly world of concussion. After two laps I wasn’t going to make it much further, I tried to melt into the crowd but within 5 minutes I was augmenting my concussion with a Guinness and trying to downplay my frustration. I felt ok but as soon as I got on the bike to ride home I felt sleepy again. At dinner with friends that night I felt a little slow but I was pretty low. A shower beer, some froyo and kimchee stew simultaneously warmed me up, cooled me down, satisfied my constant desire for dessert, elevated my bloodsugar and emboldened me,I felt sure I’d be fine in the morning.
I chundered my coffee in the morning. I got down a chocolate chip cookie ( Hey it’s October) and headed over to the course, it rained and on the way there I decided to just watch. I got there and spoke to the first aid guys, they agreed, no racing. A few hours later in a borrowed Bern helmet (very cool AND very protective) I found myself lining up. I felt fine off the bike and sleepy as soon as I went above 300w, I’d been trying to ignore this on the warm up but the fact that I kept wiping out on my course recon wasn’t a good sign. The first half lap was, predictably a total zoo and it became pretty clear I was wasting my time. I ended up in the pits trying not to be sick.
I get pretty down on myself when I don’t do well at bike racing and this weekend I did far from well. The NBX and Shimano guys did a great job of getting me back into a bit of a better mental shape, they invited me back in December, hooked me up with their phone numbers and addresses, places to stay and warm dry gear to ride home in. I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t a bit of a sad figure finishing my last stoudt’s beer in the shower that night but, in the fuzzy sleepy philosophical frame of mind that comes from taking a 48tooth ring to the skull and drinking a 9% beer I smiled to myself. The journey is as important as the destination and this was a great journey. I met great people, I enjoyed great food and I had a great time. Next time I hope to come back and have a great race as well. I’m sure this won’t be my last time relying on providence or visiting praawwwvidence.