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Nate Wilson Journal: Wheel in the sky

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (VN) — Tuesday morning I sat at the breakfast table in Aspen, enjoying some of the finest carbohydrates the world has to offer in preparation for the journey to Breckenridge via two big passes. Joining us at the Bontrager table were George Bennett of Radioshack-Leopard and Ian Boswell of Sky, both alumni of the team. It speaks to how great a program Axel Merckx has developed, that riders from past years, who have moved onto the WorldTour, want to come and hang out. However, the visit was a stimulus for so much more.

George had never heard Journey’s great hit “Wheel in the Sky,” so Boswell pulled it up on his phone and we all were treated to a listen. Several hours later, the race was on. The race rolled over Independence Pass with pretty much as little drama as possible for a 12,000-foot pass. After the race bottomed out in Buena Vista, we began a long, grinding drag up to Breckenridge.

Racing in Colorado is beautiful, but racing on a straight road that drags up for 20 miles can be a bit mind-numbing. It was during this grinder that the lyrical styling of Steve Perry from that morning popped into my head. For anyone that is not familiar with the song (be ashamed if you fall into this category), the line I could not lose was “the wheel in the sky keeps on turning.” The more I recited the line to myself, the more I realized it was the perfect fit for the race at the moment. There I was, just sitting in line, not really hurting, but not really comfortable. Simply put, the stage was just a grind, but still, my wheels kept on turning. In conclusion, Journey should be given more credit as some of the greatest lyricists of all time.

So, I pretty much recited the one line from the song I could remember to myself over and over again for four hours, until the race changed from a grind to more of an acute stab. In case people are unclear as to where exactly the transition occurred, I will be more exact. When the race entered Breckenridge and turned up the steep climb of Moonstone Road, there was definitely a changing of sensation from that of a dull grind to more of an acute piercing.

Admittedly, I have never been stabbed, but I imagine it may be similar to what I was feeling up the final climb. It was also at this point that I decided I do not enjoy Peter Sagan. He surged forward out of the group with about 200 meters to go on the climb, and I surged backwards out of it at exactly the same time. I think we may have some special connection from it, though. Perhaps I am the ying to his yang?

Thankfully, after Tuesday’s brutal stage, we had a bit of a mellower cruise on Wednesday. Some things never change, though, I suppose. Sagan won again, and I had another song lyric stuck in my head. For those that care to know, it was a line from a little diddy known as “Grace is Gone” by Dave Matthews. The line inspiring me today was:

Excuse me please, one more drink
Could you make it strong
Cause I don’t need to think
She broke my heart
My grace is gone
One more drink and I’ll move on

Honestly, it is not the most inspiring line to repeat to one’s self for four hours, but I like to think it really sums me up as a bike racer. It’s a little whiny, a little melodramatic, but for some reason you just keep singing it over and over.

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