Last weekend I had a fantastic two days of racing in Alabama. The road race went exactly the way I wanted it. I didn't really have a high placing but I executed my plan perfectly. I was supposed to try and get in a breakaway before the finishing climb. I made every break and even made a solo break for a lap and a half, none of the breaks stayed away because the course was pan flat until the last climb. Since no breaks got clear all I had to do was make it up the climb and save my legs for the crit.
The crit was almost perfect. I covered all the good moves and didn't have to do a whole lot of work. I maintained my postion well and ended up taking the field sprint and a third place overall. The only problem was I missed covering a late attack. The move went with five laps to go. The two that got away had bigger teams in the pack and they did their job and slowed down the chase. I was feeling very confident and excited.
I had hoped that my success last weekend would bode well for me this weekend. It did not.
Saturday was the hardest road race of my life. Three major climbs with three other smaller ones in a 12.5 mile lap that we were supposed to do four times. Needless to say that was not my course. I ended up getting dropped in the first lap and got in a chase group for 2 more laps. Close to the end of my third lap I was fighting hard to stay in contact with my group and ended up blowing into pieces on one of the tougher climbs of the course. I dropped out when I crossed the start/finish line for my fourth lap. I hate DNFs!
Sunday I woke up at 6:20am so that I could eat three hours before my race like a good racer boy should. The alarm went off, I got up, grabbed a pop tart, tried to eat it. Nope, too nervous couldn't eat. I got back in bed and got an extra hour or so of sleep. I tried to eat again when I got up the second time and finished another half of the pop tart. Then it was time to go load up and head out. When we pulled out of the parking lot of the college to head to the race I had a half of a pop tart in my belly and some water. My stomach was churning and I felt like I was going to hurl.
When we got to the race course, which was about a half an hour away, I managed to eat half of a bananna. My stomach still felt uneasy but I was getting hungry so I had to eat. I started to warm up and drank a bottle of drink mix to try and get some calories. I did my warm up and rode three laps of the course then it was time to start.
I was still in my funk when the race director said go. I had a horrible start and ended up losing about 10 places because I couldn't get clipped in. Then as we entered the first turn I got gapped exiting the turn and had to accelerate hard to maitain my position. The first lap was horrible. I started to feel better by the third lap and I moved up in to the front of the field where I could cover moves but not do any work.
On the fifth lap a guy from Lees McRea made a move. He is one of the guys I've been covering all season long and I know how strong he is. For some reason I hesitated and didn't get on his wheel. Then, another guy went- also one of the guys I keep my eye on at races- I let him get away without me too. When he went one of the guys I always cover joined him and gave the break three of the strongest riders in the field. The cherry on top of it all is that I had yet another chance to get across when another guy I know is strong started to bridge up to the break. I was out to lunch.
With four of the strongest guys in the break working together and building their advantage we were racing for fifth. For some reason I got upset and tried to solo up to them when their lead was already well established. I don't know if I was just trying to get everybody else to chase or what I was thinking but it was wrong. I had burned several matches on my silly move. I was getting frustrated. When I got pulled back I decided I would save it for the field sprint and I sat in for the rest of the race.
With one lap to go I was fourth wheel and maintaining my spot. A guy from Georgia State made a good move from about six wheels back with two hard turns to go. He got an advantage and maintained it. He was fifth. I started my sprint with about 250m to go. I was on the wheel of a Lees McRea rider; he started to drift to the right and our wheels were coming dangerously close. I tapped my rear brake and moved to his left for some open road. I lost precious momentum not paying attention. I sprinted hard and was a tire width from sixth place. Seventh place in a race I should have won doesn't sit well with me. Especially when I lost it the way I did. The silver lining, if you can call it that, was that I managed to get a top ten with all the stuff I did wrong.
Racing can be very frustrating. It is also extremely fun. Regardless of how terrible I think- or know- I did in the crit a seventh place still isn't a terrible result. I had a great season and learned a lot. I got three top five finishes and never finished outside of the top 15- other than two DNFs, one of which was because I got crashed out.
The good news is that phase one is complete. Phase one of my trip to becoming a Category 3 racer and an A collegiate racer. I need to cat up so I can help my team next year and possibly go to the Collegiate National Championships. I also want to get on a team outside of my collegiate team. I now have an entire summer to try to build on what I've learned and get some good results.
I am very excited about my season and I have improved a lot in my racing. I still have a lot to learn but with some good training and a little luck I will be right where I want to be.
My next race is this Thrusday night. I finally get to race with the people I know from Greenville and see how I stack up against them.