The final race in the Team Extreme Race Series was held on Tuesday May 25th at the Washington County Fairgrounds. This was a race series I was really looking forward to. I haven’t held a racing license since 1993, and I decided if I ever hoped to get back into racing, it would have to be now. This race series offered a friendly yet competitive environment to test the waters after a 20 year layoff.
Training was going well all spring. I raced this race 4 weeks ago and felt pretty good, getting one 3rd place finish and two 6th place finishes in the three races. This felt promising. My motivation was high and I started planning weekend crits………..then BAM!!!!!!
One week later I caught a cold, I thought. I kept thinking I would feel better tomorrow, and tomorrow came, and I felt worse, for two weeks. Fever, cough, lungs were on fire. Not really sure, but it felt exactly like influenza. I didn’t ride for 13 days, and when I finally got back on the bike I felt like a heavy smoker after a weekend of partying. I missed three crits and the next Team Extreme race. Not the return to racing I had hoped for, but that’s life.
Now, less than two weeks after getting back on the bike, it is the final Team Extreme race. No time like the present to try again.
Team Belgianwerkx rolled to the line with the other competitors. I felt like a real team member lined up next to my teammates in our sweet, black Belgianwerkx kits. We looked badass, but how would we perform? Let’s roll out!
Have you ever heard an auto mechanic say, “You need to open the throttle wide open on an old car once in a while, it blows the carbon out.”? I have no idea if that is true with a car, but in an old cycling body that laid in bed for two weeks, it’s true!
Half way into race 1, I tried to chase down a breakaway. Jadon Jeager from Team Belgianwerkx was off the front, as usual. A gap formed in the pack and I decided to bridge it, but the carbon blockage in my engine didn’t break free and I blew up. I actually decided to quit and try again in the next race. As the pack caught me something told me to just jump in and rest. It took two full laps to recover and catch my breath. Damn did that hurt! With two laps to go I caught up to Bill Koehler and asked if it was just Jadon off the front. Confirmed. So it will be a pack sprint for second.
I have never been a powerful sprinter. If I want any chance I must take off really early and hope to hold on. Here was my chance……
Coming out of turn 2 and heading into the winding back stretch I took off full tilt. Blasting through the “S” turns I got a nice gap. Now head down, full throttle and hope for the best…..it worked! Jadon finished first, probably a half lap on the field, I finished second and Matt King third. A Belgianwerkx sweep! Those black Belgianwerkx kits not only look good, but they are really slippery and fast! Nice work team! And guess what? Yep, I saw a a half dozen carbon chunks ejected from my exhaust pipe. Cool.
Race 2, Jadon was kind enough to not humiliate the rest of the field and stayed in the pack. Bill Koehler chased down every flier and did an awesome job of keeping the pack together for a field sprint. My plan was the same, go all out after turn 2. But plans change.
The pack got really fast and twitchy out of turn one. I followed a Team Extreme member to the front and decided to go early. This time I took off heading into turn 2 and put the hammer down. Was it too soon? Could I hold it for the extra 100 yards? Well, with the carbon gone the engine was definitely stronger. Out of the final turn there was enough gap to sit up. My first “Win”. Jadon and Matt finished at the front edge of the pack. Nice work by team workhorse Bill Koehler to keep the field together for a field sprint!
Race 3, the carbon is gone but the lactic acid is thick. The first 2 rolling laps were therapeutic and regenerated some life in my legs. I was certain that I couldn’t go as early as last race and hold on. In the final lap I went at my favorite time, coming out of turn 2 and headed into the “S” turns. The field was fast coming out of turn 2 and I probably should have been five or six riders ahead of where I was in order to get the run I wanted heading into the “S” turns. I had to slow a bit while passing the front of the field going into these turns, then back on the gas!
Heading towards the last turn I gave a quick glance back. A green helmet coming fast, but I think I got him. I settled in to my saddle and dropped low to blast through the last turn. One last look to see what kind of a gap I have………..what gap! Jeremy Werbelow of Team Extreme made it a photo finish, but got the better of me in the end. Lesson learned: never assume you got it until you got it!!! Matt King finished third.
Team Belgianwerkx takes 6 out of 9 podium positions. A powerful display of teamwork and determination. Now and forever more I will appreciate the beauty of the black Belgianwerkx kits. They will be a constant reminder two things; The unity of a team working as one, and the color of the carbon blown from by cardiovascular system on the Washington County Fairgrounds that day!