We were cursing traffic, the three of us, on the estimated eight hour drive to the race site. Dawsonville, Georgia, just north of Atlanta was the destination. Starts for the Stage 1, seven mile prologue began at 7:00 p.m. With the help of congestion from construction, NASCAR, and memorial day, the trip turned into an ten hour drive.
We made it just in time however, 6:40. With barely enough time for any serious warm up or preparation, we ran around in the pouring rain gathering what we needed to hammer the seven mile out and back course.
At 7:28:30 p.m., I rolled off the start line. At 7:29, merely 30 seconds later, I was anaerobic, hammering my guts out up a climb less than 200 meters from the start. I forbid myself from implementing the comfort of my little chain ring on such a short race. I have never raced a time trial of this distance so I had no clue of pacing. To me, seven miles was a hammer fest. With my heart rate established at 190 beats per minute, ten beats below my max and ten above my lactate threshold, I was fully into racing mode. The definition the race director had for “rolling” hills was not exactly in sync with mine though. Rolling to me indicates you can carry momentum over them, not suffer and piston your quads till your legs feel like exploding.
My legs were in perfect form even with the lack of warm-up. At 25.5 miles per hour, I was pounding through the course in great time. The Tour of Atlanta was not meant to be sandbagged however. Less than a mile from the finish, an ignorant volunteer on the course directed me down the wrong road. He watched me as I rode directly past him, hammering my heart out into one of the most important races of the season while he lazily stood there. I guess it was too much for him to stand at the intersection and point the flag to the left. And then I guess it was way past his capabilities to maybe hint with a shout or a scream that I had gone the wrong way.
“Ha, what a fool, he went the wrong way. He’ll figure it out somewhere down the road,” he probably thought. Yeah I figured it out, two miles later. As I retraced the route back to the intersection, he sarcastically pointed his flag to direct me this time. It took strength that I simply did not have to not mutter an obscenity. The last thing I want when my standing in a six-race event is ruined is to be mocked by the same man that caused it.
When I rolled by the finish, shoving away the misplaced cheers of spectators, the race director shouted “Grayson?!”. I turned around and rolled my pitiful performance up to his truck.
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“What happened?” My time had shown up immediately on his laptop as my chip crossed the finish line and having set the course record for slowest time on my Felt DA TT bike, I guess I attracted some attention.
“I rode the wrong way. The volunteer I guess was holding the flag pointing down that left turn just up the road there. So I followed where his flag pointed.”
He laughed. At least someone thought it was funny. “Hey man I’m sorry about that. Volunteers just don’t care sometimes.”
“I mean yeah I appreciate their help but seriously that job is not that complicated. He just has no idea how important this is to us.”
“Grayson, I appreciate your attitude. I’ll help you out with this. Just come see me at the awards and I’ll get you some points.”
At the speed I was going my time would have put me in second place for the day, with twelve points. No doubt I appreciated the three points that I received for my unusually calm attitude. But my legs deserved the twelve points that day though. I wouldn’t have complained if they were rewarded for their effort.
These things happen I know. I know because they have happened to me too many times. There is a difference between flat out neglecting directions and being screwed. I think I received the latter. When the race director changes 5 out of 6 of the course in the days and hours leading up to each event, trusting the directions I was given while out on the course seemed only logical. The race volunteer’s job is always simple, simple enough that nobody deserves to be paid to do it. And when I think and over think the several times I have been misdirected, I believe it has been partially my own and partially the race directors fault. It is the director’s responsibility to establish to a volunteer the simplicity of their job and to enforce how crucial it is that the job is done right. These races are not superficial to us. It is not me who does not appreciate the volunteer position. It was the race director himself. He thought lightly of the volunteer’s responsibility and in turn he screwed me, my weekend, and my wallet.