Texas Chainring Massacre

By: Chris Orr

January 28, 2017

We got down to Gainesville around 4 on Friday so we could do a quick spin around to stretch our legs and make sure the bikes are ready for the race. Mike Malone’s new Warbird wasn’t shifting very well at all. He’s had some clearance issues with the derailleur and the back tire, so he had a smaller tire installed the day before. We decided to get to the race early to find a mechanic to try and sort it out. Race day morning, Bob Cummings texted me and said he was at a nearby hotel and offered his assistance to get Mike’s bike adjusted properly. We hustled over there and Bob had it shifting properly in no time at all. Bob is a great guy and we were very appreciative of his help.

It was colder in Texas than we had hoped for–37 and windy at the start and warming to high 40s by the end of the race–. As we stood around at the pre-race meeting, I spotted Lance Armstrong about 15 feet away. People can say what they want around him, but he’s still a legendary bike racer in my book. As we lined up for the start, they called up state champions, national champions and then asked all Cat 1 racers to line up behind them . It seemed as though 1/3 of the field stepped forward. I tried to get as close to them as I could since we hoped to get in the lead pack for the first 10 miles or so. Even with a neutral roll-out and a police leadout, the lead pack developed and had a gap before we even clipped in. I pegged it, with Mike on my wheel, but I couldn’t bridge the gap.

I settled for the second group and we rode with them for a while. As with most gravel races, the group thinned as the weaker riders dropped out pretty quick. It was a windy day and having a few riders to share the wind was a much better way to roll. We had anywhere from 4 to 7 riders sharing the load most of the day. At one point, we were 7 or 8 strong and had a strong crosswind. We developed an echelon, but there were only a few of us doing all the work. I got a kick out of this small hispanic guy placing his hand on one of the freeloaders and pushing him toward the front to do his share. He got dropped right after he did a short pull. Others dropped out and Mike and I ended up riding together to the end of the 64 miles. We took 80th and 81st in a strong field. After a few minutes of self congratulating and texting, we high tailed it back to Missouri so we could race the Rocheport Roubaix the next day.

Bike racing is so much different than riding with friends. You have unspoken alliances and signals from complete strangers. From the elbow flicks to the natural forming of pacelines and echelons. This stuff is like a drug for me and I need another fix.