Prinner Report: the snake and the melon--a fable

Hello Team,

Finally, for the first time ever I was granted permission to compete
in the Snake Alley Criterium by my coach. Every year before that I was
told no because "it was an extremely hard race and definitely NOT a
race one does for pleasure". From all the stories I heard of Snake
Alley through the years I pieced together a picture in my mind of a
cobbled hill with a turn or two. Nothing in my racing career had
prepared me for the real Snake Alley I came upon, though.

After arrival, I walked the course in search of this so called hill,
and was skeptical at first because it was hard to imagine a
cobblestone road in the middle of that severally urbanized city. Then,
I turned the corner and my eyes popped out of their sockets. It was as
if someone had cut out a picture of a rustic cobblestone switchback
climb in Italy and pasted it in the middle of a modern day all-
american city. I honestly had to pinch myself to finally believe it
was real.

Not only was the "Snake" fully cobbled for maximum slipperyness, but
it also boasted five or six hair-pin switchbacks as well. And, of
course, since it was a hill it was set at a crazy steep grade,
insuring plenty of lactic acid to go around. At the very bottom of the
climb in enormous letters someone had written a statement in chalk
which pretty much summed it all up; "THIS SNAKE WILL BITE".

Well, the one piece of advice everyone in the world and their cousin
told me was to be at the front on the start line and the first into
the snake because the first two laps would decide the outcome of the
race. So I followed the advice of my fellow racers and went out of my
way to make sure I was the first on that line. And just as I was
enjoying my small victory the announcer had to shoot my efforts down
and call, "staging!". So I grumbled in my most teenagerish way and
rolled my eyes in my most exaggerated teenagerish way and clomped over
to staging. And it was just my luck, of course, that riders were being
called up by number and I happened to be plopped at the very back. All
the while I thought, "Golly gee! Just where I wanted to be!".

Just as I had imagined the racers shot off the line like crazed
shoppers frothing at the mouth to obtain their own Wii and fought with
tooth and claw all the way up to the snake. It didn't help much that
it also happened to be the largest women's field ever seen at Snake
Alley, and the position of the riders at that moment were just about
the same as their position at the finish. I pretty much battled my way
throughout the race to pass only a few riders in front of me, and
fortunately I only unclipped once going up the snake (yes, that is an
accomplishment for me, though it was a major pain having to run up it
in cleats like the scrappy teenager I was. I might as well have been
running up a slip n' slide) and I ended up 27th out of 39. Yeah, I'd
say that snake had one heck of a bite.

The next day as I sat at the line of the Melon City criterium I
contemplated exactly how it was possible for there to be fifty 1,2,3
women today when just three years ago there was hardly half of that.
And it was by far the largest women's field I've ever raced in. With
the first three laps being blazing fast, it was no wonder that we were
dropping women like flies on the giant uphill, and our field was
quickly reduced to a mere size of about 30 women. The blistering
downhill into the speedbump was still just as fun as ever; that is,
until a rider screamed, "waterbottle!" and I looked down only to
realized my cage had been recently emptied

So then it came down to the final lap and the field surged as soon as
the bell was rung. I jumped up the left and scrambled to make my way
to the front up on the back stretch just as the pack fanned out and I
was blocked out and forced to take a poor position nearer to the back.
I received no such luck on the uphill either as the road was literally
wall to wall with riders, and it definitely didn't help much that my
foot came out of its pedal as I made the final sharp right hand turn.
So I just managed to make 23rd, but despite my unfortunate positioning
at the end, I was still just content to survive that wickedly tough
race, which proved to be harder than ever this year.

And now that I've mastered the snake (ha ha) and learned the ways of
the melon, I will definitely be back next year, and the ladies 1,2,3's
will definitely have something to worry about


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