To quote one of the funniest lines ever spoken in a movie, "Well. That happened."
The race on Saturday went well. My main goal was to not die, not get injured and to remember that it's a minor victory just to be IN a race after such a long hiatus. So it was a success by those measures.
Actual placing was 29th out of 35th, though. I started off strong and was maybe 12th wheel going into the first corner. I stayed there briefly but a few bobbles later and I was getting passed. I stuck in there and passed about five people going through the second set of barriers when I decided to run the short hill following instead of remounting like everyone else. But shortly after that, I sort of blew up and for the final 20 minutes I just sort of "rode within myself" as they say. Unfortunately, I found myself in a no man's land with no one ahead to use as a carrot and no one behind me to egg me on.
And so it stayed until well into the last lap when a guy caught up to me. He rode my wheel and wouldn't come around. He even said something like, "keep it up and we'll hold off the three guys behind." (I think). But he wouldn't come around despite taking a few corners way wide and slow. So I just kept riding and pulling him along all the while thinking, "this maggot is going to come around me at the end..." I was much faster through the barriers and remounting so I gapped him pretty good in the last set of dismounts but he caught me anyway just before the last corner.
I had him on the outside so had the advantage on the final turn and should have put him into the barriers but instead I made it a fair sprint and he pipped me at the line. Maybe it's a loser mentality but I knew we weren't even in the top half so I didn't really put my heart into the sprint. As he won by inches, my foe let out a primal roar at the line and I couldn't help but laugh.
I've crossed probably four hundred finish lines in bike races and if there's one thing I've observed is that the race for 28th place can often be fought for as hard as the race for first. The other thing I've observed is that those same sprints for 28th place are often when the worst accidents and injuries happen. Most of the other racers, officials and folks lining up for the next race are all thinking "well, that's over" and then suddenly here come two geeks flying into what should be a closed zone and into a dangerous situation.
That said, I wished I'd dugged a bit deeper and finished 28th...