Photo courtesy: Fitness Chick
“Don’t embarrass us!” These are the kind words that fellow ROAD Magazine editor Tim “The Scrambler” Schamber told me in the van as he drove me to the Cross Vegas race. Photographer Carson Blume and ROAD columnist Josh Kadis riding in the back grunted in agreement. The pressure was on.
As promised, every day at Dirt Demo and at Interbike I told everyone who would listen, and several who just plain ignored me, that I was in fact going to win. I had scored a pair of Shimano Dura-Ace tubeless wheels with Hutchinson tubeless cross tires from my buddy Steve Boehmke. I told him he’d better get ready for a press release proclaiming the tubeless tires first cross victory.
We got to the park and I warmed up. The buzz was no longer about Neil and what was expected to be a huge victory, but that Lance Armstrong was going to be racing in the pro race later in the evening. Damn that Armstrong for stealing my thunder!
I warmed up and got to staging, securing a front row position. But to my surprise the announcer called me up to the front starting grid which was around the corner from the staging zone. Oh I was big time!
With a bang from the starters gun and we were off! The heart rate went from a casual, “this is a nice evening to go for a ride in the park” to, “what the hell are you doing!!” The race was in full flight and within ten minutes I wanted to vomit. The reining cyclocross master national champ flies by me, then Mark McCormick, retired cx pro, jumps past me. He’s in this race because he reps Fuji on the east coast. The national champ I throw an elbow at, which he took offense to. McCormick flies by me with at least a courtesy, “Hey Neil.” I physically can’t respond. I have moved into what psychologists call the reptilian stage, only concerned with basic functions and not dieing. My goal has now been reduced from the delusion of placing well to not soiling myself.
In the end I was passed by many riders but through out the race I heard my name yelled. I’m sure some were, “You suck!” but none the less they remembered my name which is all a fame whore like myself wants. A buddy of mine was there and started to call out time splits. However he quickly realized the futility of this as there was no way I was going to jump to the lead group. He switched tactics and started to yell encouragement on following laps. With one last push I crossed the line spewing spittle and snot like a rabid dog. My gums hurt. My lungs were searing. But damn it I was a winner! I beat the four other riders in the media category claiming the gold cow bell inscribed with Cross Vegas Winner. Then I vomited by the van. God I love cross…
To the victor go the spoils