Tim Speciale - February 3, 2020
The story of my first race is typical. I was way out of my element and had no idea what I was doing.
As far as history is concerned, the race never really happened. At the time I didn’t know anyone there. My then-girlfriend was with me but she is no longer in my life. My race results for a 7 year period are missing and I raced on a one-day license so it’s not even a part of my official race history. But the race did happen.
Winfield Twilight Criterium
I don’t remember how I learned about this race or why I chose it as my first. I didn’t grow up in the area but I spent many summers at my aunts up the street from the race so it’s possible that had something to do with it.
The course, which is no longer in use unfortunately, is a classic in the area dating back to at least 2001. It weaves through a neighborhood working its way up a small hill, past an annual block party, and into a technical twisty descent before dumping into a long finishing stretch in front of a large park where fans lined on bleachers watched and cheered. I noticed none of this on that first day, these descriptions would become emblazoned in my brain after re-racing the event in the many years after this first attempt in 2008.
Three years of procrastination
The first reference I can find to my interest in lining up at an actual bike race was nearly 3 years prior to this event. Typical story: an interest in racing a bike being held up over a fear of being ready enough to race. The advice I received time and again and the advice that I’ve given and will continue to give is: Just go race. You will never be fit enough and you will never be knowledgeable enough until you decide to simply dive in. My first race, therefore, is pretty typical for most of us.
The race was 20 minutes + 2 laps. This is extraordinarily short as far as bike races go. Because of this, the pace is fast from the gun. I was unable to get my foot clipped into the pedal and before the first lap had even finished I found myself fighting to stay connected to the peloton.
I played football when I was younger which was hard at times but nothing felt like this. Every muscle in my body was on fire and it didn’t matter how much air I sucked in, it wasn’t enough. If I had the wherewithal to do a “systems check”, all the alarms would have been screaming at me to stop. I can honestly say that this race was probably the hardest I had ever pushed myself at anything physical. Endurance sports have a way of doing that to you.
Within a couple laps the peloton had split into two groups and I found myself in the slower group. I noticed this too late and made an attempt to bridge to the faster group. This did not go well. I didn’t have the fitness to make up for poor timing (waiting too long) and bad decisions (bridging across a rather large gap). With my very limited ability, this effort sapped the limited energy I had available in the first place.
In my head, this was racing. In reality, I was tooling around at the back of the race with a bunch of other novice slow guys. In the meantime, an actual athlete was making his new presence on the scene known to the dozens that bothered to show up to watch a beginner race.
Ryan was is the type of rider you hear about but rarely actually see. Within couple of seasons he would establish himself as one of the strongest amateurs in the region. He played quarterback in high school and college and came ready with a work ethic and physical ability that I had yet to even scratch the surface of.
I have no idea how his race played out but I do remember being lapped (or nearly lapped at least) by him and the lead pace car.
The start of a lot
Although the race was at the end of May and the summer was just getting started, I would not race again in 2008. Up to that point I had ridden a total of 360 miles on the year. 15 miles a week is not enough at any level.
At this stage in my life I had no idea what it meant to put in work. I had no idea how to train or prepare. One thing was clear to me on that day though: I had to actually train, even as a Cat 5.
The results are not listed anywhere but I managed to track them down by reaching out to ABD Cycling who puts on the races in Winfield. They were able to find the results and shared them with me. In looking back at the results, 3 future teammates (Ryan in the Cat 5, Trevor 13-14 race and Wayne in the Master 50+) won events that day while I placed nearly dead last.
A year later I would come back to Winfield and win my first race, a story for another time. I had a lot to learn before that, and even more after.