'I read your blog post last week. When did you do that 100-mile ride? That's awesome!'
'Thanks man, I did it last year.'
'Oh. You're still writing about last year?'
A grin spans my face from cheek to cheek. I am because I'm still thinking about last year, I didn't reply.
Instead my answer comes out something like, 'people don't want to hear about me riding off the back at the Dam Race, so yeah.'
Ty's question is an honest one, and as I start my pre-race prep I roll it around in the back of my head with the consideration of an idle thumb. Like picking at a scab my attentions aren't making it any better, just keeping it fresh.
Why are you still writing about last year?
That's the question he meant to ask. At the time I didn't have an honest answer for him, so what he got in return was deadpan.
Flick. Flick. Flick.
I'm sitting with Britton at the start-line, shooting idle shit, feeling slightly cool in a position of prominence on the line. All four of us 1/2 racers are being consolidated with the three's field and we're sitting at the head of the waiting pack. We laugh light-heartedly as we share a casual joke, the three's behind us are crouched in tense anticipation.
That has something to do with why I'm writing about last year.
Flick. Flick. Flick.
The pack takes off, Britton goes on a flyer from the gun.
God he's got some good fitness this year.
He's holding the gap steady as Andy and Mario take point to pull him back.
I'm working to ride wheels, just to keep up. "Me a year ago" would put "me now" to shame. It's funny, I didn't know how fast I was then, always measuring myself up to guys like Tilford and Jensen. By comparison they're superhumans, the fact that I was able to keep up at all was a miracle. I didn't even know it.
"Me a year ago" wanted to go pro and nothing else. He started his training regimen in November, put in 4-hour days everyday, and lived like a monk. I'm not the person I was the year before. Things change, people change, I flew close to the sun.
I've been riding pack for four laps out of seven now. Andy and Mario have been at the front trying to keep Britton under control. They're doing so just. Britton is amazing, the guy keeps going: taking pulls, making attacks, riding at the front. He fills me with pride, and I want to do his efforts justice.
Can something be the same once it's changed?
No. I know it can't. Still, I want to be doing what Britton is doing now. The freedom of the attack, the exhilaration of inflicting pain; concepts I know well. I've neglected my constant companion, however, and for the moment they are feats I can't perform.
Two years ago I rode at the front of a race for two consecutive laps, having just come off a rest period the week before. My mind was at another level that my body was not. On the third lap I got dropped from the pack, my tattered illusions fluttering from my back.
Coming to the final climb I'm resolved to make good on my self-promise to honor the work Britton has been doing all day. At the base I attack, it's violent. I know I dropped everyone, I just know it. Slowly a shadow rides itself to my back wheel. Who is that? Mario? Unbelievable, no one should have been able to follow that attack. To boot, he has Andy in tow. My head is somewhere my body isn't. I'm not who I was the year before.
I drop myself.
'You know Cavendish is having a hard time even finishing a race?'
My shirt's off and Spencer and I are musing over the day's race next to his friend's car.
I let out a laugh, 'at least I have something in common with someone.'
'Ha, yeah. You're in good company.'
I'm still thumbing that thought in the back of my head. I can't be who I was the year before, but it's a part of who I am. There's a lesson there for the unknown that lies ahead.
I stop flicking it and pull off the scab. With a thoughtful gaze I look down at those remnants.
'Let's get out of here,' I say dusting off my hands.