The Bet

All throughout China, but mostly in the cities, I noticed that there was a barrier in the middle of the road. Sometimes it was white and looked like a fence that wraps around a house. Other times it was just gray and simple. I never really thought that much about it, just saw it existed and accepted it. This morning, I realized its purpose: to stop drivers from going into oncoming lanes of traffic. It truly is anything goes on the roads here. I haven’t seen a single policeman pull someone over or do anything but stand around for that matter. Thomas’s theory is that because this is one of the first generations with cars in China, they did not have anyone to teach them to use mirrors or to stay in one lane. Olivia found it bizarre that, in a traffic jam on a highway, people would not drive into the emergency lane in an attempt to get around it. Its the subtle differences that shock me the most I think.

Of all the stages in China, today was the one that I was really dreading: a 19 kilometer time trial. I really dislike time trials. I don’t know where this began or why, but I do know that the only thing I like about time trials is that its a chance to beat Blair in a time trial. Since we began this little competition about two years ago, I have never beat Blair in a time trial. And he revels in that fact.
Before a time trial, I like to be alone. Try to think fast thoughts like whooshing wind and whirring wheels. Enough of the word play. I have to be realistic with myself about my chances. However, that doesn’t mean that if you are a good time trialist I won’t ask you for advice. I’ll unabashedly ask you straight up for your greatest time trialing secret. And as I was riding the course I came upon Oscar and asked him his secrets. And he gave me some great advice. All of a sudden, I felt a wash of quiet confidence come over me. I was going to beat Blair in this time trial.
I started the time trial and settled into my rhythm. Riders were going off at 1 minute intervals but the road for this out and back time trial was fairly straight with a few gentle curves so you could see riders lined out before you. Some had cars following, most did not. The rider in front of me did and all I wanted to do was to catch him. Push push push. Breath in and out, stay calm, loose, aero, shift around on the saddle a little. Concentrate on the road which was so flat that it looked like it was always slightly titled up. I came to the turn around, a u turn at the half way point. I still felt good, it was time to start picking up the speed. With 4k to go I can see my minute man and his follow car get closer and closer. He’s starting to struggle. I go faster. I catch my 2 minute man who looks like hes about to just climb off his bike. It feels good to pass him. I stay as aero as possible and keep looking for that 1 kilometer to go sign thats marked with a triangular red flag over the road. Its a welcome sight. Everything is screaming at me to go faster. The car in front of my minute man has pulled over to make sure I don’t draft off him as I approach. With 500 meters to go, I’m going fast and although my minute man tries to pick up his speed when he looks under his arm at me, I can smell blood. He won’t escape. With 300 meters left, I blast past him, I can feel my heart in my throat, and I get tunnel vision as the corners of my vision go black.
The thing I love when racing hard is the moment you cross the line and stop pedaling, stretch your back upwards, gasping at the ground. Whether its with your arms raised or not, that moment of relief is euphoric and makes all the pain worth it. This time was extra special because I heard the english announcer Brad Sohner say my name, my time, and that I was in 2nd place at the moment. I was so jazzed, I started grinning ear to ear. Rode over to our team’s white tent and gave them the good news. Blair rolled up. “How did it go?” “Probably just did the time trial of my life thanks to a few tips from Oscar. You’re losing to me today”, I replied. I felt confident. “Then lets make a bet,” Blair said. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not the betting type. Unless I am 90 percent sure I will win. i told him no and Blair rode off. Brian started to berate me, “Take the bet! Really show him this time. Take the bet.” And so I did. When Blair came back we bet $200 dollars and shook hands. Right after Blair said, “You know, I wasn’t planning on riding hard today. You probably would have beat me. Thanks for the motivation.” But I could see he was a little on edge as he left for the starting ramp.

After Blair finished, he, Tanner, and I rode back to the hotel. Results wouldn’t be up until later that afternoon and there was no point in sticking around. After today, there would only be one more race left. In the season!
It was later during massage that I finally found the outcome: I lost by 30 seconds…
A slighty poorer Alder.


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