By Adam Myerson of CRCA-Mengoni
All right, I know I haven’t been sending the usual number of press releases this year, but I hope this one makes up for it.
There’s been plenty to update: CRCA-Mengoni has been winning races and getting podium places every weekend, and the team is coming together nicely. We’ve got these beautiful aluminum Colnago bikes with full Dura-Ace, wheels and all. Personally, I had some fun 2 weeks ago when I crashed face-first into a guard rail on a descent at Housatonic, breaking my nose and putting my teeth almost all the way through my lip. [Adam met Enrique in the same thicket.] But the bike was okay, if you’re wondering.
This week, I’m in the Netherlands visiting my wife who’s a masters student here, and racing some elite criteriums while I’m at it. I’ve done ‘cross in Europe before, but never more than a training race on the road. This past Saturday I won a small local training race near Amsterdam, so I thought maybe I was going pretty well. Tomorrow was supposed to be my first real race, an 80K crit in Krommenie, in Noord-Holland.
I decided that today I would ride up to Krommenie to make sure I knew how to get there. It’s only 15 miles away, so I figured I’d ride up easy, then do an opening up workout on the way home to get ready. I took the ferry at Centraal Station across the river and got to Krommenie in about an hour.
It took me a little bit of riding around the town to find the bar where registration was, and then the course. It was pretty easy to follow the loop around (it was only 1K) because they had all the staging out already at the corners. Then I noticed that they had the start/finish truck out too. And the beer tent. And the loudspeaker. And people in lawnchairs. Oh my, the race was today. Duh. I’m in Europe. It’s the 6th month, not the 6th day of the week. The race was the 5th. Today’s the 5th. Not May.
Here’s where I panic. Sort of like in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where Cameron goes catatonic. I just sat there for a while, deep in thought, but totally freaking out. It was 12:45. I was over an hour ride from home. I didn’t have my helmet, my license, my wallet, anything. The race was at 3. It simply was not possible.
Those who know me know that not possible is about the easiest way to motivate me. Not possible is not possible. I’m the guy who raced two weeks after having my skull sawed open and my brain sewed back together. I don’t like it when life says no, and I tend not to listen.
Time travel is beyond my realm of ability, however. I needed another plan. On my ride up, I realized I rode by a train station. Maybe, just maybe…
I rode to the train station and took a look. It turns out that all trains lead to Centraal Station, which is a block from my wife’s apartment. I cannot fail. So, I get on the next train with no ticket, and hope no one notices me in the back. No one does, and 30 minutes later I’m back in Amsterdam.
I race from the train, and ride my bike through the station and out the automatic doors. I’m sure I set a new kilo record back to Allison’s apartment. I run up the stairs still anaerobic, grab some clothes to race in, my wallet and my helmet, and I fill my backpack with all the food I can eat without cooking. It’s now 1:30; I haven’t eaten since breakfast at 9 a.m., and I’m about to try to race an 80K pro criterium. On cobbles.
I raced back to the train and realize I only have 10 guilders in my wallet. Right now that’s worth about 6 bucks on a good day. So again, I risk it and get on the train. This time, though, the conductor came through. I pleaded my case, played dumb (actually, I wasn’t really playing; I didn’t know what the hell I was doing) and he let me slide. Fortune, the bold, you know the saying…
I eat as many bananas and Clif bars as I can on the train, pump my tires up with my frame pump, and put on a fresh jersey and my helmet. I cackle to myself the entire time. I can’t believe I’m going to pull this shit off.
I get back to Krommenie at 2pm on the dot, exactly 1 hour and 15 minutes after I left. Unbelievable. I get back to the race, get my number, then slump down on the ground near the course and relax.
Relax is a relative term, though. I’m all alone in a foreign country, about to enter a race that I have no idea what to expect from. The course is 1K, narrow, and is entirely on poorly laid bricks. I start to freak out, but then I remind myself: I can do this. I don’t have to be afraid of these guys. I’m the unknown factor here. They should be afraid of me.
And that’s the mindset I took to the start line. The gun went off, I went straight to the front, and it was game on. The first five laps were suprisingly easy. Too easy. I thought maybe it was supposed to be neutral it was so easy. A few guys attacked, a few guys countered, and still it was easy. So I started racing. Then the good guys started racing. Then it got hard. Real hard. And then I got dropped.
Dropped, 15 laps. Dropped. I haven’t been dropped in a race in many, many moons. I can’t even remember the last race I quit. Killington, maybe? But that doesn’t count. When it hit the fan I made the break, but I was anaerobic for way, way too long, and I could barely hold the wheel in front me. Somerville was my first real crit of the year, and even though I did well there, you barely have to pedal through the turns. Me, Monahan and Snow have contests at the back to see who can coast the longest before the corners. These guys were nailing it out of every turn, it was totally single file, and I blew big time.
The thing is, everyone who wasn’t in the break had blown big time, and guys who’d been dropped were coming by me in ones and twos. But I couldn’t even stay with them because I still hadn’t recovered. All the freaking out and running back and forth and not opening up the day before and not eating and not knowing what the hell I was doing or where I was or what the announcer was saying or… I cracked. And that should have been game over.
Instead, I took a lap easy, and got on the the back of the field when they lapped me. It was single-file still, but it had come back together for the most part. Once I got up to speed, I felt fine. Blowing up had also had the effect of opening me up, and helping me relax. The pressure was gone. So, there I sat, the last wheel, for the next 35 laps. As I sat there, guys were coming off every couple of laps, and I was able to go around each of them, more and more easily each time. I stopped using my breaks, I started pedaling smoother over the bricks, and generally, I felt like I just came back to life.
So much so that with about 30 laps to go I found myself moving up without really trying to. A few guys were off the front already, and then someone next to me attacked. Instinctively I followed him. He took us up to two guys who were in between, and when I looked back, we were gone. The four of us worked together to catch the first group, and there it was: a break of 13, with me obviously being the unlucky number. I was able to pull through each time, and within 15 laps–get this–we lapped the field. I took my lap back, and was now racing for 13th like the rest of the field. It was like I was a different rider than at the start of the race.
I chilled for a bit in the field, and then at seven laps to go things got weird. Everyone got nervous and edgy, and I didn’t understand what was going on. Then they rang the bell for what I thought was a prime. But it seemed like way too many guys were going for it. I realized right away that the lapped riders must be sprinting for the finish, but I was too far back to do anything about it. There were 20 places, and one of them easily could have been mine. I’d be suprised if there were 30 riders left in the race.
After all that, I gave my number back, got my license, and rode the hour back to Amsterdam. I still don’t know what to make of the day, because I’m not far enough away from it yet to put it in perspective. It was lame that I screwed up the date, but it was amazing that I managed to get home and back in time with no knowledge of the train system and no money. It was really lame that I got my sorry ass dropped in a flat criterium, but it was amazing, even unheard of, that I managed to lap the field and take the lap back.
My friend Keith Burgoyne would say that this is another example of my charmed life. I say life is what you make it, so make it bold, and don’t take no for an answer!