Well this wasn’t timely. Points race final was Friday night, and I was shuttled to the airport a few hours later Saturday morning at 4am to come back to Colorado. In the midst of a not-even-that-long day of traveling, I got sick. Real sick. Like I didn’t leave my apartment once I entered it Saturday until this morning when I went to work. After doing nothing but sleep/blow nose/groan like a dying frog/sleep for about 48 hours, I was ready to leave the confusing fog of Headcoldland (Enterovirusland?) and enter the no-longer-undead world where I only halfway feel like I’m swimming while I walk.
Let’s go back to Friday. Points race qualifier. Part of me — a small part — was deathly afraid of getting 13th in the qualifier and not even getting a chance to race in the final. But the more rational part of me knew there were a lot of guys lining up in the qual that probably wouldn’t even make it to the finish, let alone score more points than I. So off we went. There were 18 of us, I believe, and only 12 would advance. Bobby was in the other qualifier. I accidentally took a lap by myself, earning 20 points and allowing me to spend the rest of the race sitting in and avoiding crashy idiots. “Accidentally” because I hadn’t really planned to be by myself, nor to go a lap up. But when I attacked up at the rail to follow a guy starting to go along the black line, I quickly noticed that guy pull up and backpedal (there was lots of backpedaling in Aguascalientes), so I was alone heading towards the 2 gentlemen a half-lap off the front.
I quickly get to them, and they’re going as slow as the 30 people on their rollers in the infield. So I pass them immediately, and I’m now on my own. I agreed with Coach Neal Henderson (this man is dialed, and knows his shit the way a dung beetle knows his… sorry, bad metaphor) to keep rolling and get a lap ASAP. So a few laps later, I joined the back of the group, and that was that. I would advance to the final.
In the final — for the first time all year — I’d have a teammate. Strangely, my teammate would be the guy I’ve lost three consecutive national championships to (in the individual pursuit), Bobby Lea. Dude is absolutely flying, he nearly broke the American IP record the day before, I’ve literally never raced outside of the United States, he’s an Olympian, so obviously he was our guy to medal. I’d do whatever I could to score some early points, and then try to help him later in the race if I could.
With maybe 93 laps to go (race was 120 laps, sprints every 10), I found myself following a move and then sprinting for points a lap or two later. There was a guy off the front of our group, so we were sprinting for 2nd. They had to go to the photo, it was bike-throw close, but I later found out he barely got me, so I was at 2 points. Hey, on the board at least. We all went uptrack after the sprint, but along came Bobby and several others, and quickly we were a cumbersomely large group of about eight. I hopped on the back and hitched a ride the rest of the way, and we somehow were cohesive enough to quickly gain a lap. So bingo, both of us had a lap and were in the Top 10. Good start.
Though I was already hurting.
I closed down a gap at one point around the halfway mark, wanting to get to the group “up the road,” but it ultimately proved fruitless. I got to the group, but at the cost of a pretty intense effort. At a race like this, burning that match unnecessarily was a bad thing. We all starting swinging uptrack, and the main group behind us came up, and we were then one group. Waste of an effort.
After that, I wasn’t willing to do much. I was hurting, told Bobby as much, and hung out near the back. Bobby was still feeling OK, and took a second lap. Can’t remember how many other guys were in that group, but it wasn’t many. Then toward the end of the race, Bobby went again. I should have been at the front taking slow pulls in the sprinter’s lane to keep our group going niiiiiiiice and slow, giving Bobby plenty of opportunity to turn on the gas and make the lap, but I was spent. I again remained near the back, waiting for Bobby to join up. I couldn’t tell what the point totals were, but I knew if he made the lap, he’d likely be in the Top 3, and maybe I could at the very least escort him to the front for the final sprint. Bobby’s group made the juncture, and at one point he was behind me. I started to go, thinking he was in tow, but he was likely destroyed from the Herculean efforts he had put in to gain a third lap, and we were starting to really pick up the pace for the final sprint. It spread out double file, then thinned to single file as the final bell rang, and I no longer saw Bobby behind me. I wasn’t anywhere near the top 4, so I wasn’t going to get any points, but I went as hard as I could to the line in case I was tied with anybody on points. You never know when getting 16th across the line, compared to 17th, will matter. I crossed the line pretty wrecked.
Bobby got 3rd. A medal! I finished 11th. Would have preferred a top 10, but I was able to kinda sorta help Bobby out. That was definitely consolation. Very fun race, and I also knew I was going home leaving it all on the track, in the parlance of motivational sports talk.
Given the amount of crashing that happened all week, I was also pleased that I didn’t literally leave any of myself on the track.