Thursday, March 10, 2011

No. 1 from the Archives - Hey, Rider Number 153!

This is a bit of an O. Henry story from Team Member Scooter. I think you will be amazed, surprised and a bit impressed . . .

In the 80’s and into the 90’s, Spokane was home to one of the larger Pro/Am stage races in the nation. It was the Washington Trust Classic, ending its final year in existence as The Northwest Classic. The exact year it ended, I can no longer remember.

This race had it all. Grueling road races, a circuit race, and some of the greatest criterium racing I have seen anywhere. There was a chance for glory no matter what style of rider. However, most experienced pain in constant variety. But at least it was constant, and you could count on it.

We had world champions, grand tour winners, old euro dogs who scratched a living as workers in the continental pro peloton and were finishing up careers with US domestic teams, and of course the countless numbers of strange full/part time racers hoping to make a better life out of all the years of sacrificing and suffering. This is a quick bit about one of these characters who took the seriousness of the Inland Northwest a little too lightly.

The week of racing was a long one. All the stages were classic courses, and everyone wanted to win one and fought bravely for them. The circuit race on the boulevards, and the Manito criterium, were not races where you could sit back and hide. So late in the week by the time the Mt. Spokane road stage came, that finished at the top of Mt. Spokane, most riders were pretty cooked and a bit delirious. But none so much as this poor fellow. A local rider, known by the nickname “Hater”, was making his way past Kirk’s lodge on Mt. Spokane, when he began to pass a dropped rider who was clearly not a climbing specialist, who could not quite keep his bike going straight, and was well on his way to losing his wits all together. As Hater was passing him, this fading rider asked, “Are the follow cars behind you? I want to abandon.” Despite his nickname, Hater quickly started trying to convince this suffering guy to not drop out. Hater told him that he was a great criterium rider and that he just needed to finish the day to be able to take part in the downtown crit the next day. The rider responded, “There’s a crit tomorrow? Well maybe.”

Hater continued on his way, but heard from way back, just as he was entering the treed steep section, “Hey, Rider Number 153! I think I’m going to make it!” Well Hater should have felt good about that, just breathing new life into that poor dude. And he could remember that when he saw his old suffering companion battling for wins in the European spring classics, and stages in the Tour de France. Maybe he took comfort in the idea that he brought George Hincapie to the next level in his career.
Scooter (Not Hater)

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