Time Traveling, Part I: The Dark Ages
Wait! Where am I? When am I? It seems like the last thing I remember (aside from some wedding assbagery) is getting a lesson in the school of hard knocks at the Melton Classic. I think I can piece together what’s happened in the intervening month, but to do so we’re going to have to take a trip back in time. I don’t have Mister Peabody’s WABAC machine, Bill & Ted’s crazy phone booth or a sweet, garbage powered Delorean,
but I’ll see if I can’t mix things up with nothing more than a MacBook and a bit of spare time. Hopefully I can give those seasoned time travelers a run for their money, and with any luck this journey might be even 1/100th as interesting as theirs were.
Boom. Here we are more than a month in the past in what was, for me, the beginning of the Dark Ages. Now, when you’re on a team of rockstars you’re not going to make every roster. This was the case for me back in April. So as an intrepid band of Raleighers made their way to Scotland for Doon Hame, I and my B squad brethren smashed ourselves into the Gee-6 version of a G6 and made our way up to Newcastle for some racing of our own. Team car, or clown car?
It was a bit tight in there! (Can you spot Phil?)
Cramming a bunch of smelly bike racers in a car really took me back to my collegiate cycling days. Except back then when we’d slum it that meant double occupancy Motel 6 accommodations, and this Newcastle trip took it to an entirely different level. Mooney, ever thrifty, managed to find us the least expensive hotel in England. Did I say least expensive? I meant cheapest. He found us the cheapest hotel in England. It was also probably the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in. We were greeted in the parking lot with a glimpse of the mattress storage room.
It also seemed that the door to our room had been kicked in at least once. And they didn’t do the world’s best job of fixing it, because Matt Gee managed to slice himself open pretty severely. He now has about eight new communicable diseases.
At least we felt safe in there. First, we knew that if there was a fire or other emergency people would be able to kick down the door to save us. Plus, the premises were routinely patrolled by drug(s) dogs.
I think the funniest part of this budget motel is that we didn’t have a bathroom in the room. No, the Formula One features communal bathrooms and showers. These tiny, plastic chambers were self-cleaning marvels of modernity, so instead of ruminating on all the foul filth growing in them I just pretended I was an astronaut and juggled my desire to make spaceship noises with the need to hold my breath. The only other feature of the FO that begs mention is the other patrons. Alas, I was not ballsy enough to blatantly photograph them (they were ruthless fighters and quick to anger, of which we saw proof), nor did I have the skill to snap a few pics on the sly. They were colorful, to say the least, but they were also kind and generous as well. In fact, a number of them volunteered to act as our alarm clock and assure we didn’t (over)sleep. “OI, TOBAY! OI! GET UR UGLAY ARSE DOWN TUH THE CAR AND GET US A PINT! URRAY, YA WANKA!!”
We took it all in stride and managed to crack a few jokes to lighten the mood. Plus, when you see stuff like a vending machine that dispenses chicken soup you can’t help but laugh, and laughter is the best medicine.
So yes, despite the conditions spirits were high going into the four day omnium. In fact, we were feeling good enough to talk some trash about what victory salute we’d use if we were fortunate enough to cross the line first. This is where Phil made a tactical mistake. He told the Raging Bull, aka G6, aka Matt Gee that he hated, HATED Contador’s signature salute, el pistolero. Phil hates it so much that he said if Matt won and did that salute he wouldn’t help him for the rest of the weekend. Well, Matt is a young phenom. He wants nothing more than to smash all the time, and on that first stage smash he did! And what salute did you think he did while crossing the line? El pistolero! I still can’t believe he had both the time to pull the move off and the presence of mind to remember to spite Phil. Amazing!
In the following days Phil and I set to work defending Matt Gee’s lead, although to be fair he was probably strong enough to do it without our help. So things are great, right? We have our young crusher in the figurative leader’s jersey, the weather is great and we’re just a couple of young guys eating carvery and living the life. But, no. The Dark Ages were about to get truly dark for yours truly. You see, on the second day, midway through the stage I felt a little twinge in my left knee. No problem, I thought, no big deal. Cyclists always have little aches and pains during a race. I’ll just ride through it. Then the twinge turned to pain, and the pain to a stabbing agony. I had to get off my bike and hobble up the last hill and ride in with one leg. Not good. Not good at all. The pain was still there when I woke up and I had to abandon the race.
Now let me tell you, there is nothing more infuriating than being an injured athlete, especially with this kind of knee injury. It’s not like a broken collarbone or road rash from a crash. Those injuries suck, but at least you know what the issue is and you have a pretty good idea of when you’ll be back on the bike. With a knee injury like this that isn’t the result of some trauma, but mysteriously, yet intensely, blasts in out of nowhere you just can’t be certain how long it will take to recover. The only thing you know for certain is that riding on it will only make it worse. I’m not going to take you, dear reader, into the dark, ugly places my mind was going as I sat helpless on the couch feeling my fitness drain slowly from me and waiting for my injury to heal. Normally when something is getting me down I go out and find solace in a beautiful ride or distract myself with a grueling workout, but that was not an option. I actively pursued all options that could sped my recovery including massage therapy, electro-stim and copious stretching, but with an injury like this the only sure remedy is time. So yes, it was truly dark, dark times for yours truly.
Yet even in the darkest of times there still bright spots. If you want to keep that whole time travel/Dark Ages metaphor alive, you could say that even in a time when people were torturing heretics and dying from disease caused by poor hygiene there were still moments of heroism. Like cool knights brutalizing each other for sport. I actually got to see the modern day equivalent of that. It’s called “rugby”
And even though I was a couch-ridden worthless cripple for a bit, the Team Raleigh juggernaut kept rolling on. Matt Gee was absolutely dominant for the rest of the Newcastle Cheviot Fourday and came away with a win he can be proud of. Also, the boys at Doon Hame fired a warning shot across the bows of the other UK pro teams. Cronshaw took out stage one in truly epic fashion, outsprinting his breakmates at the end of a long day in horrible, nasty, wet, cold conditions. Plus, we made friends. Shoutout to Phil Sykes (he treated us to a spa day) and Tom Copeland of the Sigma team. It’s always nice to have friends in the peloton. Plus, Tom’s dad Clive was nice enough to drag me around to the feed zones so I didn’t feel totally worthless. I even got to see Phil clamoring with the masses to get on ESPN8 or whatever channel shows rugby
So yeah, I’ve been injured and a bit down in the dumps, but as my dad reminded me the Shirelles were on to something when they sang “the darkest hour is just before the dawn.” Yep, things will get better. Just you wait and see.