I hope I never get too cool for school.
I hope I never get too cool for school.
Last night I got to go riding with one of my all-time cycling heroes: Mark "The Shark" McCormack. (If you don't know who Mark is, go read the afore-linked Wiki page or check out this Cyclingnews article.)
I have ridden with Mark before, but that was during races. Not road or cyclocross races, but mountain bike races. We had never gone out on a casual ride together...
and actually I still don't think we have, even after last night. There was nothing casual about the ride, it was full throttle wire-to-wire, the closest I've come to motor-pacing on the mountain bike. Him pushing just about the tallest possible gear on his bike (a Salsa HorseThief) at all times, and me spinning out the 34 X 19 on my single-speed. (This was the first time where I felt like I required a bigger gear for Foxbo-Rough.)
Hey nerds, Strava data, fetch!
There were a couple points during the ride where Mark dropped me like one of the Rs in his speech. After one of these droppings (wait, that didn't come out right), he decided to perform some damage control on my hemorrhaging ego, "I'll nevah forget the first time I raced against ya, and ya won on a single-speed. I was like 'how can he do that?'"(That will go right into my quiver of "Awesome Things That People Who Matter Have Said To Me.") It's true, I won the 2008 edition of the Root 66 Hodges Dam race running a 34 X16 on my 29er...and 1.9 tires. It was altogether stupid, but it's like Wesley Snipes said in Passenger 57: "Always bet on stupid." Or something like that anyway.
Thing is, that was not the first time I'd raced against Mark, it was just the first time I'd finished in front of him (he actually dropped out with a flat). That's how it works in racing — you don't notice someone until you've spent two hours staring at his ass (wait, that definitely didn't come out right). Some of my best friends are people who were completely off my radar until they kicked the crap out of me at a bike race.
The first time I recall lining up next to Mark was in 2003 at a silly mountain bike race at a Christian summer camp in Ashburnham, MA that was, in fact, the Massachusetts State Championship race. So there I was on the line with my friends Jason and Jerry Hughes and Mark McCormack who was, at that time, US Pro Road Race Champion. There were just a couple other dudes there. Oh, the couple other dudes were Frank McCormack (still a pro for Saturn at the time I believe) and Cyclocross National Champ Jonathan Page. By far the silliest start line I have ever stood upon in my life.
And that was the only time I have ever been lapped during a mountain bike race, ever. It was JP who did the honors. Of course Mark and Frankie weren't far behind, although I squeaked across the line before they could McLap me.
There were also a couple times when the Saturn colors showed up at the Landmine Classic in Hingham, MA. My performance against the McCormack brothers on those occasions...reminds me of a quote from The Avengers: "An ant has no quarrel with a boot." I can't remember what year it was, but I did have a good battle with Mark at the 50 mile Marathon race at Landmine. I credit him with being the first guy to use anti-single-speed tactics on me. On the open road sections he would jump suddenly and sprint, breaking me out of his draft and leaving me spinning helplessly in the wind (I suppose those are really just smart-bike-racer-tactics). I am also pretty sure that he was slowing up at the bottom of climbs, causing me to lose all my momentum. He was able to ride up the climbs in a smaller gear, while I had to get off and run. Don't ever do that to a single-speeder (unless you want to win). There was no slowing up during last night's ride. It was so fast that as we came into one loose, gravel corner, I found myself utilizing a technique I had seen Mark employ — pedaling with your outside foot as you out-rigger with your inside foot. I told him that I'd seen him use that move at the Cycle-Smart cross race in Northampton years ago, "Yeah, that was back when I was good."
In my book (a book called Maahk The Shaahk, You Ah Still Pretty Freakin' Good) that dude is still pretty freakin' good.
There may come a day when I'm too cool for school, when I don't get stoked about riding with a former National Road and Cross champ, but I hope not.
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