“Where’s this junk going?” my first experience with mountain bike races

Many years ago, in my first mountain bike race, being a complete ignoramus about cycling clubs, cycling teams, training and endurance races, I ‘ve turned up in the secretary of the race, dressed with buggy shorts which my mother have bought me from the street market when I was in high school, white towel-textured socks up to the calves, trainers and a t-shirt.

I was dragging an ancient steel mountain bike from the handlebars with worn out tires, and brakes that were squeaking like a rusty front door, while I was wearing a bright red thick helmet, that made me look like a kid from a tv commercial.

Besides my odd looks and the improper gear, I thought my passion and my muscular legs would be enough credentials to be welcomed in a cycling event.

In comparison to my casual appearance, everything else in the area looked alien to my innocent eyes. Bikes from sci-fi movies, futuristic helmets, fancy apparels, disc brakes, weird shoes that locked magically on tiny pedals, forks with suspension, sporty sunglasses without safe cord, hard and slim saddles, overgrown calves and gigantic quadriceps. Everything around me made my mouth hanging in absolute awe.

I stood there watching like stupid the new brave world that I ‘ve just discovered. A world full of real athletes that look like comic superheroes, in which I just got my official membership by getting my race tag. The overwhelming joy and excitement made me feel dizzy!

When, few moments later the time had come to get to the starting line, I skid masterly few times on the corners to prove to the rest how much worthy I was to be among them, and stood impatiently on the front row.

Right at the signal for the beginning of the race, I flew off like a bullet, spinning loudly and looking left and right for my competitors.

After few kilometers, in a relatively flat part, the green arrow from the marking was pointing at the right, to a small gravel road with steep gradient. Click-click, I’m gearing down to the granny disc, I bite my lips,  take a big breath and start stand pedaling.

Higher up I meet a duo with white impressive bikes, which seemed to have found a rhythm and were climbing steadily the hill. Due to the inexperience of the beginner and the heat of the moment, I give everything and manage to pass them clumsily from the right.

At this moment, while I was sucking air like a maniac, with my eyelashes blinking spasmodically to prevent the buckets of sweat from blinding me, and trembling legs from the sudden abuse along with crazy enthusiasm, I hear the phrase that shot me down like a woodcock: “where is this junk going?”.
From the athlete I was in the starting line, those words made me the kid who wanted to play in the living room with the grown ups. Then, was the time I realized how innocent and naive I was from the beginning, to believe in a dream, that riding a half-died junker that I found in my aunt’s garage, I could become a member of the big club of sport cycling.

“But why not?” I though melancholically while I was letting my self into the mercy of the hill “what’s the problem with this bike?”

Since that black letterer day, I have become a craftsman, I rebuilt the junker with cheap second hand spare parts, I ‘ve adjusted it to perfection, I’ve loaded it with every bag you can think of and I ‘ve tested it on every hill of the country. I have yet to meet  the guy with the white bike that crashed my enthusiasm with so much spitefulness, but I bet that the junker after all those kilometers has forgotten about him.

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