I've really gone away from writing race reports. After racing the same courses year after year, I find the typical race report boring for all involved. This one, though, this one is different, this one deserves a mentioning, this one, this one race, I would actually call it a break through ride. You hear Dave Towle say it anytime I'm having a good day, but this day...this day was a serious mental and physical break through for me. I found magic, I found wings, and I found a belief in myself I didn't know I had. I'm going to be honest, for the past year I've given this bike racing some serious thought, how long do I want to continue? Am I improving? Can I get any stronger? I seem to be stagnant in my racing, I'm not improving, I get the same results, why keep going to not be any better? I've asked myself that a lot. I've always asked where can I improve to make that .5% gain, I've worked hard for where I am, I've given up a lot, and how much longer do I want to give that up to be mediocre?
After Sunday's race I no longer doubt myself and my abilities, I now know I'm capable. It went like this:
I didn't sleep well Saturday night. That's pretty typical for me, I laid in bed pondering that days race. I finished 4th, but I knew I could have landed myself on the podium, I clawed my way from 4th up to Emma White. We rode together until the last 1.5 laps when she attacked and I couldn't respond. I thought about what I could change, why could I not respond? What happened? I KNOW I'm capable. What I realized is, when I caught Emma, I sat behind her for approx. 10 seconds and then decided to attack, she sat on my wheel, and for the next 1.5 laps I pushed HARD, then when she went I was gassed. I thought this over and over and over in my head as I was trying to fall asleep. How could I have done this differently, I needed to change my racing tactics, because when I thought about it, I did the same thing on Saturday at Pan Am's with Crystal Anthony, I kept trying to ride her off my wheel, but she sat there and then attacked and I couldn't respond, and I ended up off the podium. Change was on my mind.
I woke up tired on Sunday, but I know all of us where in the same boat. It was a C2, the second day, so my energy and motivation was low. Scott, my mechanic, said it best "you worked hard yesterday and had a great race, just go have fun". I was nervous but relaxed at the start, the whistle blew, my legs hurt, and I found myself wanting to cry my legs hurt so bad as I watched the top 4 riders ride away from me (Katerina, Katie C, Caroline M, and Amanda Miller). Amanda slowly fell off the pace, and going into one of the straight sand pit sections I went right (after watching the earlier races and realized the right line was a lot faster then the left) as Amanda went left and I made the pass in the sand pit, and then pushed as hard as I could on the pedals to get a gap, and put myself in no mans land, until I reached the final uphill going into the pavement start/finish stretch. IF there is one thing I've learned in cross, it's always have a plan and execute that plan, don't change mid way because someone else is doing the opposite of what you want. In preside I learned I couldn't ride the uphill cleanly, so I chose to run. When I got to that section, I realized the 3 in front of me tried to ride it, and it ended up being a small cluster, so I ran by Caroline as Katerina and Katie rode away on the tarmac.
This is when the magic happened.
I told myself to dig as hard as I possibly could for 1 lap to try to get a gap on Caroline. She's fierce, strong, and can bury herself like no one I have ever met. I told myself if I could push for 1 lap and get a gap, I would recover for a little bit before pushing hard again. Then, I looked up and realized I was literally 3 seconds away from Katie and Katerina, so I kept pushing, but so did they. Once I realized they where starting to smash on the pedals, I told myself it's okay to recover. I recovered where I knew I could and attacked the course after that. I kept with this mentality lap after lap. Rest as needed, attack, rest, attack. I made sure that if someone were to catch me, I would be able to respond to the attack. Today, that podium spot was mine, all damn mine.
My first UCI win was a proud moment for me, but this one, this one is my most proud race of my career (so far). Standing on a podium and chasing 2 of (who I would consider) the most dominate CX racers in the World is something to be proud of. I look forward to the rest of the season and can't wait to see what I can accomplish!