VIP- Blind Date #2

All dressed up-Sarah Eustis and Mielle

Dressed to impress, I’m back in the Blind Dating scene now and feeling pretty good with my prospects. Last weeks date included a couple of awkward moments (dropping my chain and finding some gravel to lay down in) but I’m ready for another go.  The Dairy is where it’s at tonight! I am rubbing elbows with throngs of racers and non racers upon arrival at 6 pm. Sun is still gracing us with it’s early Autumn warmth and everyone is out to see and be seen (well over 400 racers). The word is out about how hot this place is. Food is great (Nong Khao serving tasty meals) and they have wonderful outdoor seating in the velodrome. Comes complete with retro grooves spun by DJ Luciano if you want to shake your groove thang.

Large turn out for the women’ B field

I spent warm up time riding back and forth outside of the cones, cheering for others on the dusty, (but largely unchanged) course. Ladies must have heard this place was jumpin’ off because we had a total of 16 A women racing. That is huge! 147 guys joined us this week for the 7:20 race (A, 35+ A, B, 35+B and Singlespeed). Who needs on-line dating with this many guys to choose from?

Lights switched on and the whistle blows. Amy Rice (Lazy Tarantulas) and I are first to the dance floor. Sand was added to our gravel at the U turn after the baseball backstop so we rolled easy through this. Out of the corner, charging down towards the parking lot on the rugged, dry path worn in from last week, our turn comes sooner (making for very fast lap times). Left gravel turn and back up the slope, I’m letting Amy lead going through the narrow tree section. The path is a rutted rump shaker this week. Roots have made themselves known to more than one tire in the early races. Punchy climb out of the trees and we arrive at 2 ft high, glowing Jesus lamp (no disco ball?). Are we supposed to pray we don’t crash in this corner? Rounding the turn I see why our luminescent Lord might be there. Lots of gravel, and coming in too hot would mean washing out. Better roll this one slowly. My knees are praying for me. Down hill to another turn around a tree and up a short, steep climb. The top drops us on the side slope descent ,same as last week, dismount at the bottom for the run-up. Emerging from the darkness, a girl pulls a gazelle move on my left and floats up the hill. Teammate Erin Playman, flying under the radar in a plain t-shirt, makes it to the top of the climb first. I have no intention of chasing her down and I stay solid with Amy. Sitting on her wheel we run our lap on the Velodrome apron, out the backside to the gravel left hander and up the bumpy climb to the double barriers. Through old town and back to the in-field barriers, we sit wheel to wheel.

Glove and socks match-totally pro

“Manage this, stay upright and consistent” I say to myself. The other categories are mixing and dust is churning like a fog machine on overdrive.  Planning to dance with this partner all night long, I keep good connection as we bob, weave and slide through the night. I ran the run-up every lap since riding it last week didn’t serve me. Michael Girard (Portland Velo) attempts his best breakdance move and wipes out in front of me in the gravel entering the velodrome. 10 points for style. Boys fly by us, some call out, some don’t, and the dance floor gets a little crowded now and then. I feel something brush my butt cheek and it’s some guys handlebars getting too friendly. HELLO I say, glancing over my shoulder. The guy sheepishly says sorry with a crooked little smile. Watch it buddy, I used to be a bouncer  (yes, true story).

Back to the dustbin, Amy gets lost in the hazy blur and miscalculated where the course was going, slowing and swerving a little, sending boys shooting in different directions around us. Some cut the course in the process. “I need a light!” she says as we sort out our path and get back on track. I am leading now and feel good about that since she had been doing the lions’ share of the work tonight. After the run up she is back in front of me again.

Amy is one of my favorite dance partners and when we cross the line with 3 laps to go I hear MC Luciano comment on our previous battles this year at Double Cross(we each won a race that weekend).

Mielle and Amy battling at Double Cross/Cascade Locks 2012

Rounding the pavement turn, I call up to her and say, “You’re doing awesome Amy!”  She replies with “ughhhhh”. We don’t know where Erin is and with a black t-shirt on she will be hard to find in the dark. But I am feeling amazing and have plenty left in the tank to do whatever needs to be done. Coming to the run-up we are next to each other but once I start to shoulder my bike, I tripped, running my right knee into the rocky slope and dropping my bike on my head. Handle bars whacking me behind the ear (bruise showed up later). Knee is bleeding but it doesn’t hurt and it looks like I’ve got debris sticking out of it. Matt from Hammer Velo about ran me over as I struggled to get to my feet. Amy had already reached the top by the time I got moving and now it was time to play catch up. I’m dancing with myself but looking behind me I can see the Rachel Bagley (IRA Ryan) is closer than I would like. Ok, I just need to stay smooth and out run her. Drafting strong guys in the velodrome, I was out of the saddle at the exit. Barriers were pretty clean but not the nicest dismounts. Behind me I hear what sounds like a horrific crash into the barriers by the velodrome but I don’t look back. Amy is in sight once I enter the in-field but it will be tough to make up this gap. Rachel is still trying to cut in.

1 lap to go and A’s leader Shannon Skerritt (Bike Gallery) has only lapped me once so far. Very happy about that. The last run through the course is clean and my legs feel strong storming the run-up one last time. Rachel is still sitting about 15 seconds back. Big gears and sprint through the velodrome, out of the saddle to the barriers. Rolling through old town I hear a loud BANG followed by swearing. The guy in front of me just popped a tire but at least he can run it in from here. I know I am home free at this point and Rachel is nowhere to be seen. Big finish with 7 laps. Erin won the night, Amy in second and I took third. Amy beat me by 23 seconds, and I was under a minute back from Erin. Cash payout tonight since we had at 16 in our group. Rachel showed up later. A handlebar mechanical left her running the last quarter lap from the velodrome.

“There is a line” says OBRA official Kelli when I approach the VIP area (very injured persons).

Bummer, got my new socks dirty

Shannon had a major crash and his leg was being patched up so he could go to the hospital for stitches. He still won the race, on his mountain bike, because he is awesome. “I’m sitting over here with famous people”, says master B’s winner Michael Girard, having his gravel wounds tended to.  I just laughed. To which he replied, “Yeah, you are pretty famous.”

Fame-right here is where you start paying

Medic Mike cleaned my wound and the bit of debris sticking up from my knee turns out to be a sliced flap of flesh. As he irrigates it, the flap opens and closes like the mouth of a fish as the water rushes over it.  I feel no pain, I’m very happy, and it was a great night.

Medic mike scraping my wound

If I had a song to sum up my 2nd date? Lady Gaga, “I Like It Rough”.

See you next week.

Photo Credits:Mathew Lasala, Matt Haughey

Fun in the VIP room

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