The pesky cold that has planted in my chest seems to want to hang on a little longer and really enjoy the ride. After the debacle that the So. Maryland Crit was for me, the week leading to Bike Jam was not perfect preparation. Then again, I don't have a coach, don't own a heart rate monitor, SRM, Power Tap or any other technical gadget that's used to improved someone's form. I followed the prophetic words of Eunsebio Unsue (director sportif of Caisse D'Espargne, formerly known as Banesto)when he referred to one of his most important pupils' training: "What Miguel needs to get in shape are three things: 1) Bike, 2) Bike and 3) More Bike". When I heard those words in the autumn of 1991, my training routine for the next two decades was drawn.
So taking three days off because of work and my body needing some time to fight the aforementioned cold, riding pre Bike Jam was a battle in itself. Good thing Dani called me on Thursday to go to Hains because I would have bailed. 48 miles later, I was coughing all kinds of crap out of my chest and came pretty close to breaking a rib with the intensity of the hacking. Legs and lungs were not fully operational and I was fighting the bike, instead of feeling as one. Friday, Jose joined Dani and I for another stroll to Hains, this time at noon. Some frisky stuff there, but I kept a tight pull on the reins, not wanting to get too carried away. Again, coughing like crazy.
Jose and his parents picked me up at around 1PM and off to Baltimore we went. It took a while to get there because of some traffic issues and a route change, but eventually we arrived with plenty of time to spare. Not feeling up for the task at hand, I let myself slip into thinking that getting dropped was not a bad thing, since I was sick and all. Another half ass warm up around the park and then off to see the big guns finish. On the way there, Jose's dad kept telling me to just let the legs do the talking, but I was not sure the legs were wanting to talk.
Good thing we only stood at the start/finish for a short time and then the cat4 bunch was off. The pace was relentless from the word go, with a long line of single filed riders. Lap one I used to check out the direction of the wind and learn the turns. After a self check it became apparant that I wasn't feeling bad at all and proof to that was the gear ratio selection for each lap, spinning on the 16 or 17, a sign that the engine was firing in all cyclinders and most importantly, I wasn't fighting the bike. Despite the wind, I found it easy to move on the right side of the uphill section, however, I decided to sit at the back and just enjoy the race.
People were getting dropped thick and fast and in more than one occassion I could hear a rider about to lose contact with the pack, panting and grunting, with the fast pace claiming casualties on every lap. With 5 to go, my activities at the back were coming to an end and as the pack was in full flight, on the hunt of some fugitives that had left the comfort of the group. Again, picking the right lane up the hill was working fine for my now stealthy approach to the front, although I did have to hit the afterburner once when a few other fellas found the pace too hot to handle. Two to go and I was about to latch myself onto a good wheel to follow. I had a few choices, but the idea was to make the final assault on the right side of the uphill and my leadout man had to have the same idea. Riding like this is always fun because one has to improvise at the last minute. On the last lap, Jorge from Artemis was the wheel picked for the job and the selection of a gear that could propel me to the front was made. The accordion stretched on the 120 degree turn and I lost contact with Jorge, crap.
A hard jump out of the turn had me back in business, with the ever popular right lane wide opened as I approached the hill, and better yet, Jorge was just in front. And right when I stood to unleash hell, the crash happened to my left. Things turned into slow motion and I could see and hear trouble to my nine o'clock. Bodies hitting the deck and a bicycle without a rider was cause for concern, as it bounced, unsupervised, towards the path I wanted to follow to avoid any mishaps. Once again improvisation was necessary, this time to get me out of a rather dangerous situation. Jorge was still to my twelve o'clock, somehow he got through the mess, but my only option was to drastcially change my flight plan, turning to my right and getting on the grass, since the now riderless bike was an obstacle I was not wanting to deal with in any way. I'm not a fan of cross or mountain biking, but my short foray off road was necessary to keep my team kit and bike intact. Another quick jump and safe back on the tarmac and accross the finish. Jose was 4th, another good result for my Puerto Rican friend and I was delighted with my 16th. Before that race, I would have never thought that Bike Jam was going to be fun, with the way I was feeling before the start, but in the end, a little improvisation made for some good times.