This was originally going to be a race report about how my self-confidence, or lack thereof, has been a hindrance to me. That is still a major theme here. However, as I started writing and proofing, this was sounding more like an affirmation of my new machine.
To one of the two major themes, I’m sure you have heard me say the following: I stink. I’ll be in the back of this field. I’ll be dropped. University avenue signals bye bye for me.
I’m sure these thoughts were a self-fulfilled prophecy. I’ve had a good race here or there, but it wasn’t the norm. Anxiety was clearly an issue, as I consistently rode very well at LaBagh practice crits...which did not count. I arrived to the 2nd night of the Skyway Classic 4/5 with the same negative attitude. While warming up into the wind, I felt like things might not go so wonderfully and thought “here we go again.” Nevertheless, I channeled the advice of more seasoned members of xXx and positioned myself in front before the race started knowing I am probably not the strongest in the field. When the whistle blew I got a solid clip and I took off. Right away something felt different about this race. Just before the first corner, 3 to 4 riders took a charge ahead of the pack, one of them being Kevin Corcoran. Right there was some sort of spark of confidence as I decided to join him and charge to his wheel with a rather foreign thought: “I can totally do this.” There I was leading the charge with some strong riders. As I said, something felt different about this race. What could it possibly be? Maybe my recently acquired Cervélo R2, which henceforth shall be known as Daenerys. My old bike, fondly known as Shadowfax, and fondly remembered for breaking down, was a cheap and heavy Schwinn klunker. Really a poor testament to Middle Earth’s King of Horses. I was more than excited to finally get Daenerys out on a crit after a couple weeks of taking her for some strong rides. I know the rider matters and I could give credit to the hard work I put in this off-season, but I can certainly tell the Dragon Queen has enhanced my capabilities. Maybe it’s that Targaryen dragon blood, maybe it’s psychological and Daenerys is causing a placebo effect, but I don’t quite buy that. It was much less difficult to stay with the strong riders with Daenerys than Shadowfax. So was it the bike? Yes. Was it the off-season computrainer classes? Yes! Was it increased confidence? YES! I don’t believe any of these to be mutually exclusive, and I can Roll: with that.
It was only at the end of the final lap where that ugly negative voice told me “I’m out of gas.” I did not let it hold me back as much this time and at least sprinted. Even when out of gas, I could tell the sprinting power was an improvement. I didn’t jockey up for a better spot, but I also didn’t get lit up in the sprint and allow myself to fall further back. I may have been out of gas, but in doing a postmortem of this race, I could have expended more at the last turn. More postmortem, I wish I had sprinted before that last turn because people tend to slow down there, so I could have used that as an opportunity to move up. In the end, I was satisfied with 11 in a field of 35, which is a pretty good start for someone who needs a kick in the butt.
So the dragon queen helped the most of all. That’s okay. What matters is I finally felt a sense of empowerment in a race. I was one of those dudes charging in the front. I belonged up there. I do have to make a diffusing argument: I have performed well in the past, and had what I call “find it” moments. Glencoe last year had glimmers of this, as read in my previous race report. Perhaps we are supposed to keep having “find it” moments, and they should never stop as we evolve in our bike racing. This was also Skyway, aka Gapers Block. We know it’s just a simple loop and a 4/5 race. I don’t think that should discredit my efforts. The course is the same for everyone, and for most it was their first race of the season. I also should realize this does not mark the end of struggles, but maybe that doesn’t have to be the norm anymore. When rough days happen, I cannot return to my poor attitude.
Sometimes a great baseball player gets it going with an infield hit. If it took a nice new bike and a good performance in a non-technical race, then I can build upon that to start having having thoughts like this: I can take this field, I can get that prime. I can get on that podium.