The Fontana City ProXCT Super D starts at the top of a rocky cropping of earth that overlooks San Bernardino County in California.
From here, you’re looking at a couple of craggy granite slabs that go straight into a hard right turn. If you’re me, what lies after that is about four minutes of tight track that weaves in, out, and over more of the mess-you-up rock you see at the start.
Finishing it off, if you didn’t pack your adjustable seatpost (like this kid), you’ve got a couple minutes of stand-up, all-out flats to kick yourself on since you lowered your saddle to get your lycra-ed tookus way back in the anti-over bars position down the descents. In short, it’s one legit Super D.
So legit, in fact, the bikes in line are heavy on the full-suspensions — which isn’t always the Super D case.
If you’re also me, you’ve got a couple other things on your mind while waiting for your start. One: you’re on a seriously rad, but seriously new, bike, with only two days of riding on it. Two: your new pride and joy is a hardtail — a stellar ride, but perhaps not the right weapon of choice for this course. Three: you have a small history of hitting your head in spectacular crashes.
Four: the rider slated to start 30 seconds behind you is retired world cup downhiller and current badass on a dualie Joanna Petterson, who can make up 30 seconds clipping into her pedals. Five: you have a small history of hitting your head in spectacular crashes.
Dash of weak sauce
Lined up according to the series ranking, riders are chatting away to pass the time and maybe loosen up and kill the nerves. But instead of relaxing, I’ve got a mental Wimbledon match playing on whether or not to accept the inevitable and ask Jo if she wants to swap places. I was considering taking a 30-second loss to save myself the slow-up and possible crash in allowing her to pass on the tight trail.
Admittedly, I’d also alleviate my riddled confidence with having a stronger rider on my tail. (Note: All the while, Jo is sitting on her bike cool as a cucumber, likely unaware of the Williams sisters battling out a decision in my head.)
Rationalizing in the wrong direction
The Super D was not my focus — why risk possible injury? Then again, what was I doing backing down? Voluntarily, no less? Had I never ridden a bike before? Had I not been working with my technical coach Lee? Was I not the same kid who wore the honorary cheese head in Wisconsin last year?
Seriously, what was I doing talking myself into a defeated start? The order was decided. I had my spot. Suck it up, Freeman. Get in line.
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEEEEP.
As I settled down and awaited my start, the tough-love voice of my friend Linda echoed in my head. “Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want.” How I could let the doubt set in and forget these words, I’m not sure. She’s told me this a million times — and usually in a harsher, Betty White voice and in a don’t-you-forget-it sort of way. I refocused on having a clean ride. If Jo caught me, I’d figure it out. I’m a big girl.
And then my start beep sounded.
I got into my run. With my first few less-than-ripping switchbacks, I thought, “Jeezus, she’ll be here any second.” Then after a bit more, I was just thinking of the course, the turns and what was up next. When I got to a midway point, I realized I hadn’t heard Jo behind me.
I was certain she’d have caught me by that section. Amazed as if I had just dropped Tom Boonen in a sprint, I started thinking, “I’m riding awesome!” and pedaled on like I was King of the Woooorld.
I crossed over the line; out of the saddle, legs burning, robbed of breath and jazzed by the adrenaline … and because my 30-second woman hadn’t caught me. I saw Nina Baum and my teammate Chloe at the finish and told them of my relief … and small victory. They both looked at me, and then behind me before saying, “Uh. Where’s Jo?”
Oh yeah. There was another possible reason Jo wasn’t honking at me to yield the trail.
At the end of the day
I’m happy to report that Jo was fine. She flatted just moments after her start and didn’t finish.
All things equal, the safe bet was on Petterson, but racing’s fickle nature had her way that day. And in the end, I wasted valuable time and energy on an outcome that neither supported me or even came to pass.
In fact, me and my bike rode to second place in the Super D.
So if you’re going to start out at all, there’s no point in starting out defeated — with so many possible outcomes, anything can happen on any given day.
It doesn’t always work out, but some days you do get to be King of the World.
My next stop is the Sea Otter Classic and the (forbidden) Whiskey 50 the week after.
There’s been a lot to say about the recent USAC/UCI announcements — but at least for 2013, it looks like American cycling gets to breathe a little easier. Thanks to all the riders, promoters, sponsors, and USAC members who helped us get this far. For 2014, however, there’s still more work to be done. With so many possible outcomes, it’s important we don’t start out defeated. There is room to find a workable solution. Who knows what it will be.
Thanks for reading!