In contrast to the Musette’s head editor – for whom everything in the bike culture is new, shiny and exciting – my mentality leans more towards that of a veteran. Certainly, there are some who have been around longer than I but now that my years of racing are creeping into double digits, there aren’t a whole lot of races around that I haven’t toed the line at. This includes the annual rite of spring – OPUS.
Everything about OPUS is familiar to me – registration, number pinning, chatter with cycling friends. The parcours has remained much the same throughout the years. Every crack in the road, every pothole, every rideable part of the concrete apron is an old friend to me. Reminiscing later last night – I might have raced OPUS approaching a hundred different times in ten years. My first experience in 2000, on an old Trek 3-tube carbon road bike as a converted mountain biker (replete with mountain bike shoes and pedals covered in mud). Yellow Circle Drive has always held a special place on the Minnesota calendar as well as in my spring routine. The nature of a loop course, rather than one with corners, lends itself to adaptation to the rider. Sit in and enjoy riding the race tempo, or fly off the front in a search for points – OPUS is as hard as you want it to be. As such, it’s the perfect early spring event to beat the race tempo into your winter-weary, pasty legs.
For those of you who don’t know me – I’m genetically and occupationally predisposed to being a creature of habit. Most days, the alarm clock, computer terminal, and power meter turn my life into a function that is easier to solve than most equations in seventh grade algebra. Like my father before me, there is absolutely nothing about my life that is unpredictable anymore. During warmups with a teammate I found myself saying, “I’m just gonna sit in tonight and get the race tempo in my legs.” I knew instantly that was bullshit. I realized that not as an act of hubris, but that I am in complete denial that I am a racer at the core with a severe case of anti-peloton-anonymity.
I’d sooner make an aggressive move and get dropped than follow wheels all day.
Just five laps in to last night’s race, that’s where I found myself. Slingshooting around the field that left the door open on the inside, within a half lap I found myself in a five man move with three of the major local teams represented. A move that would ultimately come to naught on the ensuing bell lap. Maybe it’s my recent heritage as a points racer and pursuiter on the track, but lacking the blinding speed to win a full on field sprint, it’s certainly where I find I can best play my strengths.
Languishing in the field after the catch, I found myself back near the front in the closing laps. Not sure what I was doing there – it certainly didn’t jive with my stated pre-race plan to be fighting for wheels in the leadout for the final. Fighting for the wheel of an old friend who I knew was in it to sprint at the end, I found myself elbowing another old buddy (sorry Ed). The sprint began to develop, and plan B – get on the better-developed leadout – kicked in without cognizant thought. In my formative years as a racer, these scrums for the leadout were what got me punched and shoved by the patriarchs of the local peloton. As a result – bumping a developing rider off of his claimed territory isn’t something I take lightly, but I pulled rank in this situation and took up place behind the train and clicked into sprint gear.
In the chaos that ensued, the best I could manage was a claim to being the fastest rider in the final 300 meters – but that doesn’t get you much. Having to check up twice and then sprint through the blown remnants of the dueling leadout trains ensured I didn’t have a clean shot at the line. You want to frustrate a trackie? Make him change lines three times in a sprint. No secret about that.
You know what’s the great thing? I’ll have a shot at it all over again next week.