Where Were You in ’72?

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Southern Arizona Omnium March 10-12, 2017

Another omnium in and around Tucson this weekend.  Friday was the criterium and today we had a time trial.  Biggest difference between my previous unfortunate road racing experience – besides no broken chain – is that it’s March and despite the fact that March usually has some of the desert Southwest’s loveliest weather, the past two days have seen the mercury rise to 90+ degrees.  The soaring temperatures made packing my gear a little easier and made for a hot and somewhat windy criterium on a somewhat fun course on Friday. 

We spun laps around the Musselman Honda road racing track – a smooth asphalt circuit that looks to be used mostly for karting.  At least that’s what one might surmise, based on the piles of kart slicks used about the track for catch-fencing and safety barriers.  We rode clockwise around the outside of the road course so the route only contained one quick left turn and a series of flat and slightly off-camber rights.  I love to ride in the twisty bits, so I was hoping for more esses and variety, but still, it was fun to ride on a super smooth and very clean bit of tarmac. 

There were about 20 or so on the line that made up a combination of all the 55+ Masters Men age groups (60-65, 70-75) and the start was pretty furious from the sound of the whistle.  I’m pretty sure that I was the only Masters man in Category 5, assuring me of “victory” no matter how I fared in the overall standings.  Small solace, as I was only able to stay on the wheels of the bunch for a single lap and found myself out there, chugging along alone for about 28 minutes.  I was WFO the whole time and when I downloaded my Garmin’s data, I discovered that indeed, I could hardly have gone any faster.  My ticker was tocking at an average of 159bpm for the entire slog.  I was lapped twice by the fast bunch and though I managed to ride the wheel of another backmarker for a few laps, he too eventually drew away and I was solo again.  As the end neared, I spied a lone backmarker in the near distance – about 150 yards to the fore and I plotted my redemption to catch and pass him in a blaze of glory before the finish line, half a lap hence. 

The data on my Garmin showed an effort for about three minutes on the last lap where my heart rate climbed from 156bpm to a peak of 172bpm in the sprint for the line. I passed my newly-created arch nemesis (the product of my over-active imagination) and felt pretty good about getting up my gumption a bit past my field-test max heart rate. 

Still, I was 11th.  And very happy.  There’s real joy in going all in and watching others roll past at speeds that amaze.  By all rights, I should be oh-so-bummed to be oh-so-far behind the fast lads.  But I’m not.  I gave it my all. I was and am amazed by these gents who go so fast.  I wish them well.  And I’m hopeful that a year hence, after I get a little more road racing experience and a full off-season of focused, specific training that next year… 

One might wonder if James Hart is one of those just-do-your-best-boys – one of those, it’s-not-whether-you-win-or-lose-but-how-you-ride-the-race-guys. Let me emphatically say, I’m not.  I want to win.  That’s why we do this. I admit that I often shake my head in disappointment and wonder.  I sometimes think that perhaps it would be better if I just returned to my cycling roots of mountain bike racing. 

But I was afforded a bit of perspective, just after my last place finish. As I sat in the shade of the Musselman Honda cantina, I overheard some of those faster Masters Men – guys in my class – enjoying the relative cool and chatting about a fondly remembered race from 1972.


So you know, me and my ego are just fine – happy knowing that we’ve been at this road racing thing now for almost 3 months.

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