Episode 6: The First Race
We join our hero – Rusty Beall of Team Health Net, riding their first race as a team. The training is done. The kit has arrived. It’s 4AM on race day. Will Rus get popped…or do some popping of his own? What awaits in this week’s Gutter?
Waking up in the Motel 6 just off the freeway in Fresno, I had forgotten about the little intricacies of bike racing I love and missed so much. The Pine Flat road race starts at 7:30 in the morning, so when the alarm went off at just past 4 all I could think about was those first three cups of coffee. I stumbled past the threshold of the door with my teammates and just past the “golden arches,” saw a Denny’s sign glimmering in the distance. We walked cautiously past the wannabe gangstas of Fresno’s fruited plain and into the Denny’s, where I had probably the worst cup of coffee on the face of the planet. It was then and there in my predawn reverie that I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time (unless you count the bout of dysentery I had after a bad shrimp burrito last December), the pre race nervous gurgle that rumbles through your intestinal track like a subway through New York.
It was good, Mike Sayers had done a lot to get us all pumped up for our first race as a team and in my mind left no other option than for us to win. The whole, “no other option” bit was what was causing my jitters and excitement for the race, something I have gotten from bike racing ever since I was a junior and if it ever stops happening will tell me it is time to quit. We controlled the race from the gun, having at least one guy covering every move. At about halfway through the race, Jason Lokkesmoe got away with Adam Sbeih. If any of you have done Pine “Flat” before, the name is a complete misnomer; there is a large hill about fifteen miles to go and then a pretty good finishing climb just over a Km long.
Going over the first major climb, Lokkesmoe got popped by Adam. Thankfully, Mike Sayers, Chris McGovern, Alex Koslov and I made it over the climb in the first group about a minute behind Sbeih and caught Jason as we crested the climb. From that point on, Sayers, McGovern, Lokkesmoe and I chased Adam with everything we had (I don’t think we dropped below 50Kmph) and caught him with a Km to go. Koslov (one of our Belarusians) had been sitting on and big ringed his way up the probably 9% climb to the finish for our first victory. It was like watching him take candy from a baby.
By now you have probably heard that we signed Gord Fraser, so it looks like our team will have to be getting good at the art of the leadout. The Dinuba Crit followed the day after the road race with conditions far better than they were a year before when a sewer main broke and one of the off camber corners was filled with human sewage. We kept things together in the 45-mile, first crit of the year, and with three laps to go positioned ourselves behind the Sierra Nevada boys. This was one of the craziest, most hairball local crits I have ever been in. Guys were ramming into each other, people were being taken to the curb and risking their lives for $14 and a T-shirt.
With one lap to go, we got past the Sierra Nevada guys and took Lokkesmoe and Sayers all the way to the last corner. Unfortunately for us, Todd Littlehales had found Mike’s wheel and ended up taking the win. So, I guess the saying “with every victory comes defeat” is true, at least this weekend. No matter what, I’m convinced with just a couple more weeks of practice we’ll be ready to deliver Gord to the line.
See ya next week!
– Rusty Beall
Team Health Net