The 3 feet rule is as much for you as it is for me. Can you imagine how you may feel if you actually hit someone with your vehicle? As every one of my cyclist friends knows, all it takes is a pothole or a thin crack in the road to flat a tire and send a rider out of control or down to the ground, and if you haven't provided sufficient room (which is arguably more than 3 feet) you are certain to be involved in something you'll not likely ever forget. So, pardon my exuberance in defence of a little space. Thanks for listening.
As many of you do, I try to ride as much as possible. Often that means "making time" either early in the morning or later in the day. Unfortunately, there are many drivers that still feel that we as cyclists have no right to the road and are an inconvenience to them or an impedance to their progress. This seems to be more prevalent at those higher traffic hours.
I posted the comment above to my facebook wall a couple of weeks ago and 35 "likes" and 22 comments later, the fireworks finally slowed. The intent of the message was to simply request a fresh point of view from drivers with whom we share the road. I am a father, a husband, a son, an uncle, a brother, and a cyclist, and I can't imagine what it would be like to know that you had taken any of those things from someone. So, please keep those things in mind as we share the road.
Not having raced my road bike since the Memorial Classic Crit on May 30th of last year, I was admittedly feeling a bit tentative about racing the Durand Road Race this year. I've always enjoyed Durand for reasons that only masochistic cyclists seem to understand; it is a challenging course, it's the first race of our season and thusly is attended by very eager participants, and every year without fail, it is windy (I'm talking 20-30mph winds). Although I knew that I was going into it this year in good shape, I still had no idea what to expect.
As our field got rolling, and as is often the case, I started to relax a bit. The course starts with an almost immediate right turn into a long section with a few rollers and an unrelenting cross wind. There seemed to be little motivation to head out too quickly, so most of the work at the front was being done by a respected compatriot, Al Furrow, with a bit of the effort coming from my friend Aaron and I. Al is in all red below. Aaron is in front and I'm just flanking him on his left.
This race is run on a 13.5 mile course with rolling hills and beautiful farmland. The most notable aspect of the course is a series of steep hills on the backside of the lap, the first of which my friends have dubbed Lil' Angliru, because of it's similarity in pitch to the famous Alto de la Angliru often ridden in the Vuelta e España. This, along with the next steepest grade following it, is most often where moves are made or the selection of the fittest riders occurs. The first run up these hills didn't lead to much excitement until the fast downhill section after the final climb among them. A new racer (his first race ever) found himself flying down that stretch and incidentally forming a gap. As he describes it, he looked back, saw the gap, and decided to "give his legs a try." He was out there alone for the majority of the race, and wasn't caught until the second half of the third lap. For those that have ever tried it, or found themselves in a similar situation, that's no small effort. The front of the field never seemed concerned as he was almost always within eyesight.
There was only one other move attempted by three Balance riders during the second lap, but it was shut down quickly enough to reassimilate them and bring the courts back to order. It wasn't until the steep pitches on the third lap that the race started to get exciting. Enough of the strongest riders put in measurable efforts that the pace became fervent and the climbs were definitely felt. It didn't slow much as we approached the last right hander into the final stretch. Because of that, the last corner was taken at a speed that would have many cyclists clenched tightly, and I was right behind a friend as he flew around the corner, scaring himself in the process and sitting up to roll off into a front yard on the left. Admittedly, seeing that I sat up a bit myself for fear that he had seen something I hadn't (sand, road crack, etc.) and found myself back a few places that I didn't want to lose. As I stood to get back up to speed I heard the worst sound that haunts a racer's dreams; the sound of carbon and Lycra scraping the road at speed. Two riders had gone down behind me and a handful of fast guys were held up behind them. The sound is chilling, but I didn't have time to let it affect me as the front of the race was headed quickly up the road. The finish to Durand is often grueling because you can see the finish, but it's further out than you think and it ends at the top of a slight grade. I have never been to this race where there wasn't also a headwind to deal with on the way to the line. This year we had an unprecedented tailwind. I watched the 6 or 7 racers in the lead group jockey for position and heat up the pace as I attempted to catch them. Then a friend, in his own attempt to better his position in the group, found himself in the front of the pack which is not where you want to be unless you are leading out a teammate. I suspect that he realized that, and while he didn't slow down, he seemed to quit accelerating. It still seemed to early, but I had to take the chance that was presented, so I hit the gas and wrestled my bike like an angry gorilla to the finish.
First race of 2012. First win. There's a first time for everything.