The Chase, by Dakota Gracy

The Spirit of Tehachapi


My grandson, Dakota Gracey, has been racing bikes for several years. Not just the kind of bike you hop on and ride around town. These are racing bikes designed for that purpose. When not racing he rides daily to keep in shape. Fifty to sixty miles, or often more, is his daily morning “wake up” ride. I had him write up a story about his First Place win in one of Baker City, Oregon’s Cycling Classics. These are his words for I am not familiar with biker vocabulary.

THE CHASE by Dakota Gracey

This past month I had the pleasure of participating in the Baker City Cycling Classic in Baker City, Oregon. It was a four-day stage race with the event featuring two hard road races, a time trial (my specialty) and a “criterium”; a fast race held on a short course where intensity and speed are the focus. In stage races, such as these, one finds the various aspects of racing bicycles: eating the right foods, staying hydrated, maintaining a good position in the race, and recovery. All of these become magnified. Racing consecutive days has the effect of tearing even the strongest riders down to shadows of themselves and having one bad day in such races will likely result in a rider’s coveted high place in the overall standings to slip irreparably away.

I am what sports directors in Europe and more specifically, in France, would call a “Rouleur.” Literally, a “roller.” It can be categorized as someone who is an above average climber (rider) and excels especially at time trials which commentators in Le Tour de France often call “the race of truth.” Having these attributes as a rider often means that one must find other ways to win races than most. This, for me, generally means that I must use my time-trialing skills to “break away” from the rest of the riders by riding ahead of the “peloton,” (the body of riders), and stay away to the finish.

In cycling, wind resistance is the chief obstacle one faces and the effects of drafting means that all of the riders in the peloton are able to work together in order to chase a solo rider down. More often than not, riders who try to break away fail and are brought back into the fold; destroyed from their effort.

During the Stage 3 Criterium at Baker City, I employed a familiar tactic. At the suggestion of my team manager, before the race, I attacked the field creating a few seconds as another breakaway attempt was “reeled” in. The course was in downtown Baker City and featured a number of technical corners which I knew would be advantageous for me as I could take them alone faster than the field could, together – despite the advantage the draft gave them.

One thing that all bike racers will admit, if asked, is that racing a bicycle is painful and riding away from a charging testosterone fueled peloton is just that. The feeling of the effort is multiplied by the doubts in your distressed mind: “Are they catching me? Can I really keep this pace for another twenty minutes? I should give up, they’re about to catch me, anyway.”

But one cannot stop. As such thoughts swirled around in my head, I tried to distract myself by drawing energy from the spectators cheering and trying to listen to the announcer’s excited chatter. Doubts continued to inflict their poison on my already pained psyche and as I buried myself, taking all of the corners as fast as I could, at times even dangerously so.

I started to notice individual groups of spectators, including, on one lap, my team manager with a big grin and a thumbs up right near Turn One. “That’s encouraging, “ I thought, as I pedaled on through another lap of twisting turns leading onto the finishing stretch where, to my surprise, I saw the back of the field escape around the first turn. My doubts melted away as the realization that “I’m about to lap the field” took their place. I pedaled on, but now without the pain and suffering that had come before and in another lap I was powering up through the field, and as I rolled through the group to the front I turned and said to the rider who was on the front of the pack trying to catch me, “Who’re we chasing?”

He looked back with a shocked expression. I was a lap ahead. The race was won, and I was Number One.


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