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Z** at SuperWeek

My friend Z** was at SuperWeek one year, riding the pro-am races. Z**'s dead now, but at the time he was a very good regional racer, trying to break through to a higher level.

ESG Qualifier, 1997
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Anyway, one of the days was a long -- 110 mileish (sic) -- point-to-point road race (actually a single big loop starting and finishing right in the middle of a pretty big town). The terrain was rolling to hilly, but the main feature of the day -- besides the typically tough SuperWeek field of teams like 7-Eleven and Schwinn (top US teams in the mid 1980s), some exiled or vacationing European pros and the Mexican National Team -- was the heat. It was hot.

So the race gets started and Z** was pretty amped up, riding hard, forcing the pace early -- i.e. riding a bit over his head. Anyway, after about an hour of this he starting getting kind of tired and was considering dropping back a bit. Then, cresting a hill just as Z** pulled off from what he thought would be his last turn at the front of the strung-out field the next guy in line says (in a very calm, serious, macho voice) "Look back, it's shattering." Yeah, the field was just beginning to crack, so Z** hung tough near the front for a few more miles, and sure enough, he made the split and found himself in a front group of about 45 riders. The other 70 or 80 guys in the race just disappeared.

Z** was really happy at that point -- SuperWeek pays 30 or 35 deep in the Pro-I-II races and he was pretty sure he would end up in the money. Unfortunately for him, an hour and a half of hard, fast, hot riding began to add up, and after a while he was just sitting on the wheels, hanging on. Then, on one of Wisconsin's many windy, shallow drags that can't really be called climbs but sure aren't flat, Z** gets dropped with a guy from the Mexican National Team and another US rider, someone with a team about as good as, say, NutriFig or the Navigators pro squad are today. Pretty elite company, but dropped nonetheless.

They chased for a few miles, but it became obvious pretty quick that they wouldn't see the front again. So they just sort of gave up and slowed down. After a while a second group of about 20 riders caught them, and Z** and the other two guys rode with it little, but by then all the places were up the road, so what was the point?

So Z**, the Mexican, and the other guy let themselves get dropped again, took off their helmets (this was just after the USCF toughened its helmet rules -- I think Z** and the other US guy had on first generation Giros and the Mexican guy something a lot hotter), and slowed way down.

One of them had some money, and they stopped for Cokes for awhile, then thought about how to get to the finish -- remember, the race was a big loop and it was still wicked hot with, like, 40 or 50 more miles to go. At that point they heard a pickup truck heading their way, so they flagged it down and the driver said he'd be happy to take them as far as R*****, about 15 miles from the town the race finished in, "Because that's as far as I'm going." The three riders climbed in back.

Anyway, after about half an hour they all got to R*****, so Z** and the other two racers hopped out of the truck, thanked the guy and hopped back on their bikes. They'd only been riding a few miles when they looked back and saw a group of about 15 guys on bikes coming up from behind.

By now Z** and his two companions just wanted to get the race over with, so they put their helmets back on and hopped in with the group, in which he recognized a few guys from the chase group that had ridden through him earlier. Everybody looked pretty miserable -- a lot of salt on the shorts, empty bottle cages, full frowns, etc., etc. -- but they were still riding pretty quick.

Just then another pickup truck comes up, pulls alongside the group, and a USCF official leans out the passenger side window screaming "One mile up the road! This group finishes! Five places!" Then the truck roared away up the road. So evidently the race was being shortened and this group wasn't going all the way into town. And there was money left.

Anyway, a minute later sure enough they come around a bend and see the pickup truck a few hundred yards away at the side of the road with the USCF guy frantically waving a flag. Z** was feeling decent at that point -- Cokes and pickup trucks can do wonders for the legs -- and ended up getting like second or third in the sprint and 40 or 60 bucks.

Not a bad day he said.