CO2UT was my second gravel race of the year, so I knew, going in, that as soon as we hit the dirt, I would be exposed as the roadie I am.
Sure enough, as soon as we made a left turn onto the dinosaur tracks, it was as if a parachute unfolded behind me, and the lead group instantly rode away from me. It wasn’t because of pedaling; it was because, with every twist or downhill, my fear finger closed like a vice over my right brake shifter and halved all the speed I earned going into the downhill or corner.
After the first set of dino tracks, we merged onto the pavement, and the lead group dangled in the distance. I pulled out my matchbook, dumped a little kerosene on it, lit it all on fire, and bridged back to the leading group just in time for the next section of dino tracks to start.
The process repeated itself until I decided that despite having God Legs (Thanks Tour of the Gila!), I wasn’t in good enough shape to do 40/20s for 100 miles.
So, as we entered a section of gravel road that swooped up and down like a rollercoaster, I pulled out my scarf and waved goodbye to the technically gifted and settled into the roadie walk of shame – blasting the uphills, babying the downhills.
Happily, I caught my teammate Gabe. Unlike me, Gabe could descend well – the uphills unsettled him, so we entered into an uneasy alliance of me pulling like a maniac on the uphills while he swooped the downhills.
This went on, improbably, for about an hour, until after a particularly nasty downhill, Gabe dropped me definitively, skipping over ravines and bumps like an angel before disappearing into the distance while I haplessly blundered my way down in his wake.
But don’t count out Diesel Daddy. I saw his red kit in the distance, pounded a gel, placed my head so low it almost touched the front tire, and DUB DUB DUB DUBED my way to the group to which Gabe had bridged.
As I approached, I saw someone in the group I never expected to see until after the finish – my handsome, mustachioed teammate Alex Marr. He was trading pulls with Gabe as I snuck up to them and entered the rotation. The band was back together again!
For miles on end, we made the miles rip by taking turns charging into the wind while the rest of us took turns hiding in our respective fragrant drafts. I thought this would go on forever. I thought we would never leave each other. I thought we were meant to be together.
And then Alex’s back seized up, and the honeymoon period ended.
Gabe and I kept going but soon separated as the lights went out in both of our houses, and I charged through a sand pit in desperation.
In the distance, I gradually caught someone wearing a mountain bike kit. As soon as I caught him, we entered into a charming pattern. Every downhill, he rode away. Every uphill, I caught him. This went on for twenty minutes. He never formally acknowledged I was there, but I caught him stealing a look behind a few times after the downhills.
Finally, a long, sustained uphill loomed. I caught him and rode behind him. For a minute or two, I sat behind him, not really interested in passing him if he would pass me on the next downhill. But, F it, I went. As I slingshotted out of his draft, he yelled, “Fucking Roadie!”.
I never saw him again.