Today was my final race of the “season.” It is safe to say I have been thinking about this race for the past too weeks, but at the same time tried to keep myself from getting overexcited. There is less of an introduction than I thought (since I had pretty much wrote my into in the morning) so I’ll just get right to it.
The weather was hot & humid. Not that big of a deal since its just as muggy when I go out for rides. Knowing that I had intervals in my pocket, I felt more confident despite the competition. I must note that although I had been mentally preparing for this race for over a week, I’ve noticed that the confidence does not blossom until the first four laps of the race. All the emotions leading up to that are a buffer system to keep the nerves, jitters, and over-excitement at bay. After all its once you get in your groove that you’re truly able to realize whether you’re prepared or not. I can say now that I was prepared. I got a decent amount of sleep beforehand (not as much as I’d like, but adequate enough.) I was plenty hydrated, and I rode a mellow two hours to get my legs ready for the event the day before.
The race started off quick as usual. I was able to recover from the accelerations out of corners quickly enough to keep my eye on the front of the race. I was about ten wheels back the entire time and had enough gas when the pace began to surge (thank you intervals.) the field seemed to take turns with minimal risk & kept things safe & out of the gutters. No real breaks were started in the first twenty minutes. When the lap cards came out, the pace picked up slightly and riders began to bunch up for coverage. I couldn’t help but notice other riders banging bars on my thighs with only four to go. This is combination with the bunching made me on edge when considering waiting for the final sprint. It was then that I decided that I felt that I had what it took to start or to follow and contribute to a breakaway.
With three to go, a rider from So Cal velo accelerated from the front group, to which I decided to latch on. I use the word accelerate because I wasn’t convinced that he accelerated with enough conviction and effort to be classified as an attack (a bad first sign.) After having already put myself out there with now two to go, I decided to stick with it since the many corners that were in the second half of the course felt a lot safer with only a few people amongst myself. He ended up breaking off and I took my turn to pull. Not at full speed, but enough to get other rider’s attention incase anyone else was interested. I eventually drifted back to the top ten to which another rider from another team began to accelerate, this time with a little more effort than the first. Having recovered as much as I could from the first acceleration, I decided to go at it again with a bigger effort since the final laps were closing in.
When it was my turn to go, I attacked as hard as I could and broke away from the main pack. I managed to take the first hairpin and the following turns with ease and speed. Having heard the peloton hitting their brakes, I got more excited and kept going. Before the next series of turns, a few riders caught me, but continued the pace I had set. I sat behind them, did the turns on the second half of the course, then once it straightened out, I attacked again. I knew this was the final acceleration I had, so I made it count and stuck with it with one hundred percent effort. I opened up a pretty big gap from what others had told me, and tried not to get distracted by everything around me. I began to think, “what if this was all it took to win the race? Just enough angst and energy to break away from the group?” There was no one behind me now & I could tell I was exhausting myself to a level I had not experienced before.
Normally when someone is spectating a race, one of two phrases come to mind when cheering on a rider: “Move up!” or “Ale!” I have mentioned before that these are the least liked phrases a cyclist could ever hear. What more blatantly obvious thing could be said during a bike race? “Pedal!” (Gee, I had never thought to do that. Thanks for your wise words.) The reason I bring this up is because when I had finished the first set of turns, I heard a spectator say, “Hang in there.” Hearing this was the biggest breath of fresh air I had ever heard at a time like this. He didn’t even yell it to me. His smooth and calm tone accentuated the message allthemore. Why don’t more spectators think about what they say before they say it. We need more constructive criticisms like these rather than the traditional bonehead response that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue.
Getting back to the race. I made it to the back stretch of the last lap on my own. Only one more set of turns, then the final stretch to the finish. Having been on the rivet for so long with no opportunity to recover, I became fatigued and was chased down by the time the final turns before the sprint came. I drifted back with the pack, and got another pack finish.
No crashes were had, nobodies feelings were hurt and although I got a result I would have otherwise dreaded, I can say that I gave it my all (frankly because I could barely stand once the race was over.)
So ends another race. I’ve yet to acquire any official points in my category, but I’m not worried. I’ve been training my body for events like these and see a tremendous difference in the way I ride. I am riding both smarter and harder. Next is to get a little more comfortable when the tension builds up within the final three laps of a race. I’ve got plenty of tools to use, and enough experience to make more progress as the next opportunities come about. Until next time.