Editor’s Note: After a spring layoff from the writing gig, Kona pro mountain bike and cyclocross racer Barry Wicks is back by popular demand.
A vividly red bloodied face, mashed into the pavement, flashes through my field of vision as I weave my way back into the field after an opportunely timed nature break. We are at mile 68 of the 92-mile final road stage at the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, a race in my old back yard and a place to get my sluggish legs into race shape, and the carnage turns my stomach a bit, making it difficult to choke down the Clif bar I just started chewing on.
The past few months I have been tracing vapor trails across the sky as I ply my trade at the global stops of the World Cup circuit, pursuing the elusive upper echelon of MTB racing.
It has been a difficult spring. The first three rounds of the World Cup series have passed in South Africa, Germany and Belgium, and basically I never got on the train. Fighting through 130 crazed European amateur “professionals” at the beginning of every race is hard, but fending off the 150 or so other racers lined up behind me and hell bent on entering the singletrack right in front of me is a whole other story.
Fighting for 85th or 112th place with all my strength, weekend in and out is hard on morale, but nothing can prepare you for the agony of being completely blown out at the end of a 2-hour race, after giving it everything physically possible and finding out you finished in exactly the same place that you started: as mid-pack fodder.
A wise man once told me that in order to make your way in Europe, you have to die a thousand times for each victory. Now I know what he was talking about. Bike racers in general have fairly masochistic urges I think, but after a while it start to wear a bit. You can only bash your head against the brick wall a finite number of times before it is time to reevaluate the angle of your attack and maybe try it a bit differently on the next swing.
With this in mind I returned home and immediately began preparing and refocusing my efforts of the US Cup series. Three weeks of intervals and motor pacing later I found myself in a surprisingly nice Birmingham, Alabama, racing in the front group and in contention until an untimely mechanical took me out of it in the final minutes. It felt good to be at the front even if I couldn’t quite close the deal.
With these sensations in mind and the rest of the summer race schedule on deck, I headed up to Hood River, Oregon, to get some road race miles under the belt and try to get my body ready for the successive race days it will face as I kick off the next round of racing with BCBR in about a week. I wasn’t counting on crash avoidance becoming part of my repertoire, but I guess it can’t hurt. My bladder is apparently clairvoyant!
My time battling the hoards in Europe paid off as I successfully navigated the final crash-filled criterium and the rapid roadies crawling all over me and took my tired body back to California to lay by the beach and (hopefully) get fast. Now all there is left to do is to go out and win some bike races. Sounds easy. Just the way I like it.