A fun way to learn a lesson

Sometimes when you lest expect it things come together. On Saturday I really thought I would have a great day. I drove home a little disappointed with a 35th finish. That road race was the best opportunity, I thought, for a solid finish. The Sunday afternoon race… a criterium style race… has never been my strength.

I started out on the front, but once things settled down I slid to the back of the field. One of my errors from Saturday was that I kept up a steady effort moving from one surging pack to another. This showed on my Cadence Distribution graph. I was pedaling over 95% of the time. In a race, you should try to hide and work as little as possible — until you need to. I didn’t want to make that mistake again.

There I am toward the back near the inside

I was feeling pretty good about myself. Better yet, I was feeling good. My legs were giving me messages that this race might have a better outcome than I originally anticipated. The question remained… would I be smart enough to close the deal?

There were only a couple of close calls. Once a rider’s foot came off his pedal and some bumping ensued several riders ahead of me. Thankfully, no one went down — though it was a close call. Only one other time around me was there any bumping. That one resulted more in words than wounds.

At about 26 minutes into the 40+ minute race, I was watching two riders off the front. There was a surge on the front straightaway and I followed it. However, when the surge began to slow, I kept moving. Something inside of me said that it was time to try a break.

In the final break

The three of us were not able to hold off all the chasers and some other riders made it across to form what was barely the winning breakaway. Me? I was hurting! When I first made it to the break, I told the guys to let me catch my breath and then I would pull through.

They didn’t like that and rather than fall back into the clutches of the field I moved up to take a turn on the front. However, that did not give me much time to recover at all.  Thankfully, it wasn’t much longer before the chase group joined us and the break had more riders to work with.

Another thing I was thankful for was my teammates. Blair and Matt were back there holding a steady — but slow — pace on the front of the field. It was a wide road and anyone could have come around them to take control, but they preferred to complain. Of course, with POA and Globalbike having riders in the break, those teams weren’t going to be working to bring them back.

Still, with three laps to go, I was at my limit. Coming down the backstretch I nearly pulled the chute. However, I remembered all those times when I have been able to ride beyond that pain. “I will not willingly drop,” I told myself and just concentrated on holding on to the wheel in front.

Catching back on for dear life!

Heading into the second lap I was just about to get dropped. I could hear people calling my name telling me to “dig, dig, dig!” I gave one more effort to catch back on. Thankfully, the break slowed at that point.

Had they kept the hammer down, I think I would have exploded. However, I think everyone was starting to tire and they thought maybe we had it sewed up if we just maintained a pace. David Curran was urging everyone on because he knew better. Me? I was at the mercy of the break!

We entered turns three and four still with the lead. However, the field was gaining fast. I knew they were coming, but I just didn’t think I had the juice left to attack the break. I just put my head down and hoped that we could out sprint the fast gaining field.

Trying to hold on from the break

I actually advanced past a couple of my break mates, but I could sense that there was a rider from the field coming fast to my right. I threw my bike at the line and (I’m not exaggerating) I beat him by the width of a tire. In the picture above, he is the Greenville Spinners rider to my left.

I got fifth! It was so unexpected that I felt like I had won! To make it into a break and then to hang on to a points position in a field sprint was just incredible.

Afterward, I was brought back to earth. Steve Sperry congratulated me and then asked… “In the sprint, did you come out of your saddle?” I answered, “Nooo…” I knew where this was going! “Did you have your hands in the drops?” he continued. “Nooo….” “Did you work your bike to get everything out of it at the end?” “Nooo…” He gave me a knowing look, “I think you could have done even better had you done those simple things.”

Yes, I still have things to learn. Once again, I am thankful to all the people teaching me by instruction and example. Getting a fifth place finish on a day not expected… that is a fun way to learn a lesson!

A special thanks to Jimmy Helms for allowing me to use his pictures from the race.