by Sue Butler
Cycling and racing has provided me many new experiences. New places, adventures and new experiences and today was no exception, except today was an experience I hope to not repeat. After a pretty horrible start (not jumping after the sort of false start which wasn’t recalled), I found myself in the back of too many wheels in the foot of standing water on the inside of the velodrome. They started us on the track, but slick conditions forced many to the inside dirt with standing water, sending spray directly into your face. I couldn’t see and thought my contacts were goners. Luckily I didn’t drown. I still wasn’t last. That took another 10-15 seconds when we transitioned from pavement to dirt and the girl in front of me just nailed herself right into the fence and I had nowhere to go. I was pinned between her rear wheel and the fence. Oh well. But then I got back on my bike and looked behind me and I was dead last. Yes, the VERY LAST person. I don’t know if it was shock or what, but the fight came back and I was in chase mode. Well, as fast as you can chase with girls sliding all over in front of you.
On a grass section, I rode the side hill, just to pass, but the, I continued to ride and got passed by people running. I heard Christine Vardaros yell, “Run Sue! It’s faster.” She was right. So on again, off again. The whole back side was a clinic in mounting and dismounting and running. And it was slippery, taking me down more than once during the race. Then the sand. I rode the sand most laps, unless, of course, someone took a digger right in front of me and on the first lap, there was lots of traffic in the back. Now I know why I don’t want to be in the back ever again. Then by the soccer field there was the boggy section that has one line far right that was where everyone wanted to be. Well, there was a reason. I tried to be superhuman and go on the left, only to watch everyone that waited patiently to ride that one line pass me. ARGHHHHH! Could it get much worse???
I started moving up through the velodrome and then on the back side, which was a slip and slide with a steep climb that had a step in it that was too slick to ride and some lovely S turns with a steep drop at the end. Off again. On again. You get the pattern. The first sharp turn that I rode, girls who dismounted were passing me, but I rode that one every time, just to avoid one more on again, off again. Running should not be faster than riding! But it was, so if you can’t beat them, join them. I finally got the clue that I was going to be running more than I wanted, and I kept working my way up slowly and not always the most gracefully, but forward momentum was being made. I used every opportunity I had to pass, but sometimes I had to just be patient. I am not patient!
On the last lap I had finally passed another three girls and then it happened. Not only did I miss the entry to the pit (after finding out it was much faster to go through the pit than ride), but I took the corner into the velodrome a bit too fast, only to find out my brakes weren’t working so well. Into the metal fencing, bars caught. three girls go by and I ran out of real estate. The finish was just on the other side of the track! I found out later, I had only gotten back to 26th.
I must say this race was not what I had visualized it to be. I was actually excited about the rain and mud, with visions of Portland in my head. I had a great attitude, but things just didn’t go very right today. After it was all said and done, I just raced in Roubaix and as a cyclist, that is exciting no matter how you finish!