I feel like a brick. I'm pedaling up the big climb out of Loudenville. It's taking a big effort to keep up with the other single speeders. Gnarmire is ahead of me. I sprint to pass him. This isn't good.
Over the crest of the hill. Nate, JPok, the Pflug and company speed away down the road. I should be up there with them. Actually, I should be ahead of them. I'm doing the sport race, I only have to ride 60 miles while they're doing 100. But there they go.
Into the woods. I try to pass a get around a long train of geared guys. One sprints and tries to block me. Two miles into a 100k race, and the guy is blocking.
"We're not in the same class friend. Let me go please," I say. He lets me pass.
The first miles are different than last year. Steeper, more climbs, more running. It hurts.
I ride into the woods and start the State Forest loop. The trails are perfect. A little rain tacked the dirt down last night. Spots of sunshine flicker as the trees wave in the breeze. Turns sweep left and right. Hop over a little root, down a buff descent. It's 65 degrees. This is Ohio at it's best. I still hate it.
JoeJoeJoe Malone is following me like a shadow. I've gotta get away from him somewhere. I ride off the trail into a pile of sticks. My bike stops. JoeJoeJoe stops and waits for me to get back on the trail in front of him. This is going badly.
More miles of flowing state forest trails. There's a crash behind me. JoeJoeJoe is picking his bike up out of a mud hole. This it. Need to get away. Right now. I sprint.
I have a few sweet miles of solo riding. Then I hear brakes warbling. JoeJoeJoe is back. Dammit. That guy is persistent. And he needs a new mechanic. And I need to piss. I'll just wait until we hit the road. I think there's only a mile or two of state forest left.
Pass the 19 mile sign. Then 20. 21. I can't hold it much longer. 22. 23. Have to stop. I pull off. JoeJoeJoe doesn't stop to wait this time. That's fine. I'll catch back up to him. I get back on the bike. I see him on top of a switchback and start counting seconds. 14. No problem.
A few miles later, I still haven't caught back up. I'm getting worried. The Birdman is standing standing next to his bike.
"Birdman! What are you doing here?"
"Waiting for you," he squawks.
Moving slowly up the hill, ankles turning on loose, muddy rocks we start to bitch.
"I don't know why I'm here again."
"Yeah. I hate the course, I hate this mud, I hate these rocks, I hate this hill. I hate Ohio."
"Yes. Fuck Ohio."
"Are you dropping out of the 100 mile?"
"Why do you think I waited for your ass?"
Sweet. Someone to complain to. This should make the day better.
Ian Spivack is at the bottom of the next hill, squeezing the rear end of his bike. The Birdman asks what happened.
"I hit something really hard in the back, then it just exploded everywhere. It sucks because I was riding it sooo hard," he says.
"Anything I can do?" says the Birdman.
"Want to give me your back wheel?" says Ian.
The Birdman pauses. "No. I'm not helping that much." We ride away.
Out onto the pavement and gravel. The wind is ripping through the brown fields. We pedal for a couple hours.
"Fuck these cornfields."
"Yeah, fuck the cornfields."
"And fuck those vultures flying around up there."
"Yeah, fuck those vultures. And the wind and this gravel road. Actually, fuck Ohio."
"Yes. Fuck Ohio."
I've pretty much given up on catching JoeJoeJoe. We hit one of the last big gravel climbs. The Birdman flies away to catch Jason Cyr, who's also having a terrible day. He does. Then he stops, picks up a baby shoe, turns it around in his beak, squawks, and throws the shoe at me.
The shoe bounces off my helmet. "I hate you." My legs are completely shot. I barely roll over the top. Roll along more pavement towards the finish. We're moving at a very conversational pace. Actually, we've hardly been moving for the last 30 miles. I can't believe no one's caught us.
Into the last few miles of single track. I try to go fast for a mile or two, then give up again. Screw it. The Birdman flaps away. 20 minutes later, he's waiting for me around the corner from the finish.
"Alright Birdman, are we gonna sprint for it?" I yell.
"Fuck you man, I've been towing your ass around all day," he says.
I sprint hard and edge him out at the line. Victory.
But not really. JoeJoeJoe has been in for 10 minutes. I walk over and congratulate him.
"Nice job man. I kept trying to dump you on that single track, but you just wouldn't go away," I say. He smiles. No one should smile in Ohio.
The Birdman and I hang out at the finish for a while. We're done. We were slow. Felt kind of tired. Oh well. I blame Ohio and a lousy nights sleep.
Then Christian Tanguy rolls in. 6:37. A hundred miles in 6:37. He tries to lift a leg off his bike. Can't do it. Then he tries again, and gets it over the top tube. He hobbles over to the shade of a scrubby tree, propping himself up on his bike. The guy is moving like a 90 year-old. Nobody in the crowd really notices him.
The Birdman and I look at each other. We suck. Birdman grabs a pint glass of full of water and takes it over to him.
"That was awesome man, great work," he says and pats Tanguy on the back.
"Ooh, that hurt me so badly. I am in pain," Tanguy says . He takes off his wire rim glasses and wipes dried sweat off his face.
This guy absolutely crushed himself, can barley walk, barely stand. I gave up because... actually I don't have a good reason for giving up. Unlike the Pflug, I haven't found a tick on myself (unless I count the one that was buried in my scrotum earlier this year.) I just rode like a wiener all day. Had no guts, no determination, nothing. I was just a slab of meat on a bike. Being pulled along by the Birdman.
For my lack of effort, I win $200.
I'm disgusted with my race. For the first time, I start to realize that it might not be Ohio's fault that I was slow. It might have been my fault. Tanguy clearly wasn't having the funnest day of his life, but he crushed it anyway.
After I get my envelope full of money, we go over to the go-cart track and smash into each other. It's awesome. I think about switching to go-cart racing full time.
Back at the cozy cabin, the Birdman drinks a four-loko. His face is redder than an inflamed saddle sore. He points at me.
"Dude, you we're horrible today. You're a total turd," he says.
"Yeah, you failed big time n'at. YOU FAILED! FAIL! FAIL! BAD! DAHN PAHRS!" shouts Dahn Pahrs.
Cinder Bloch nods and eats a big fork-full of pasta salad. Gnarmire giggles while tickling his new slam-piece. I agree with all of them. Next time I do Mohican, I will not suck. As bad.
Or maybe I will, and I'll complain about Ohio some more. I like whining about that place almost as much as I like racing my bike in other places. Screw it.
Beer and Gear this Saturday, Stoopid 50 on Sunday.