If you saw Friday’s Twitter Trail, you probably know that I wasn’t looking forward to Saturday morning’s Upstate Winter Bicycle League. I did it anyway and after a very rough start, I’m glad I did it. I’m learning a lot, but sometimes learning isn’t much fun.
There were several things that happened during the week (not related to the bike) that had me emotionally and mentally reeling. To make matters worse, the weather had me stuck on the trainer except for Monday. All I wanted to do was sit by the fire and read a good book!
I got on the bike anyway and started out from home to the new location for the start of the UWBL. Before I could even get down East North street I was beginning to feel warm. That was a good sign! Perhaps it wasn’t going to be as cold as predicted. Not only that, but I could see blue sky on the horizon. Hmmmmm. This might be good.
We rolled out with a slightly smaller group than some. Perhaps there were other people not really wanting to ride for 80 miles! I wasn’t complaining. A smaller group often means faster speeds and less trouble.
Jim had given me instructions not to participate in the sprints unless I did so in the final one. That being the case, I sat in most of the time, but did go off the front one time on a hill. It was my way of letting loose some of the pent up emotions from the week.
As I was doing so, Andy Baker came up beside me. “Are you doing intervals or something?” he asked. I replied, “Why not?” Sometimes I get really tired of the “Peloton Rules.” I just want to ride my bike. We weren’t sprinting. I was gaining no advantage. I just wanted to go hard for a couple minutes! What is wrong with that? I did my thing and then slowed to wait for the group.
Later Andy came up to explain that he just didn’t want me to shoot a wad in the sprints and then be frustrated at the end when I didn’t get a finish that I would like. I did appreciate his willingness to offer advice and I know what he said was true. However, I had to point out, “I’m not supposed to be going for sprints today.”
Well, the first sprint did come. I was a little frustrated. Not because I didn’t think I could mix it up, but because my team was trying to get some points for Eric. I felt like I was hanging back on them.
I decided I wouldn’t go hard, but would try to stay in contact with the leaders and finish as close to the front as I could. However, I started out pretty much toward the back. Moving my way toward the front I saw a group of my team mates sliding back. They had given what they could to stretch things out and here I was cruising along.
I then moved into a six man group with one of my team mates. Feeling that it would be good for me to help in someway, I motioned for him to get on my wheel and I would try to help move him closer to the front. He is a very strong rider and I thought just a little bit of help might get him in contention.
He didn’t follow. I was a bit confused at first. Then I looked ahead – I could now see the lead group. There was Eric and another POA rider. Ahhhh, I thought to myself. He didn’t follow because we had two guys up front. So, I backed off as well.
Later at the store stop, we were talking about how we were feeling. I joked, “I’ve got a lot — for about 30 seconds.” My team mate expressed he didn’t care for the way I worked in the attack. I explained that I went back because I realized the situation and didn’t want to pull the group up to our guys. Finally, I just rode away. Emotionally, I wasn’t ready to deal with this.
I think most people will tell you I want to learn. I will take advice. However, I’m not going to get run over. I’m willing to learn — just be willing to teach.
It was crushing. I’m sure all the other stuff of my week had something to do with it, but I felt like just riding off alone to home. Forget the team.
The back of the group is where I sat for sometime. Eric came up and put his hand on my back, “Don’t let the words get you, man.” He said, “We’ll get this stuff worked out.” I really appreciated that and it lifted my spirits a bit.
Before long, it was time for the next attack zone. This time I decided to forget my instructions (Forgive me, Coach) and try to help the team if I could (and hope I didn’t unintentionally do something I wasn’t supposed to). I found myself toward the front with some of my team mates including Rodney Dender.
As the two of us moved on the front I said, “Okay, what am I supposed to do?” He replied, “Just get in the line and hold a steady tempo while pulling through.” That is exactly what I attempted to do.
Cleve Blackwell was way off the front as I settled in with two other riders in front of me. They kept pulling, so I kept sitting on. Finally, they shifted over and I moved on point trying not to push too hard.
It wasn’t long before I noticed the gap to Cleve was dropping. I picked it up just a tad and then glanced back. There was a good sized gap. So, rather than sitting in no man’s land, I sped up to get behind Cleve.
Before long I felt the presence of some other riders. There were now about five of us and it appeared Andy Baker and Cleve were working together. I knew I wasn’t going to be there at the finish, but I wanted to stay with these guys until some of my team mates showed up.
Finally, they did and I knew that it was time for me to get out of the way. Still, I felt I had helped by keeping one of our kits up on the front and allowing the team to let others do the chasing. Even so, in the back of the mind I wondered if I had done the right thing. Let’s just say that I didn’t have a lot of mental confidence at that point! By the way, Eric won that one.
Now it was time for the final sprint of the day. This was the one I was actually supposed to get involved in IF I was going to mix it up in any of them. Earlier I had heard Rodney talking. He said, “Guys, if there is a break, let me go. I can stay with them and you guys won’t have to work so hard.”
Well, at the beginning of the attack zone, I found myself on the front. This was not where I planned to be. It wasn’t where the people around me planned to be either! They all disappeared. I just kept spinning along easily waiting for riders to come up with me. Not wanting to get freight trained, I began to ease into a tempo I thought would keep me safe.
Suddenly, Steve Sperry came flying around me. I expected more to follow, but no one did. Looking back, a gap had formed. I then looked ahead and thought, “Okay, I’ll go with Sperry and I’m sure I’ll get caught at some point. Rodney knows I won’t be able to hold it, so he will be in position to allow others to chase and then take over when he gets here.”
You know, I like Steve Sperry. He has always been very kind to me and when we’re out on the road, he gives me very good tactical advice. It was kind of neat to be up there with just the two of us taking the wind for each other.
“We’ve got to make it to the golf course before they catch us,” he explained. I did my best to help him accomplish that. Unfortunately, just before we reached it, we got caught. Once again it was Andy and Cleve towing some other riders. I was happy to see one of them was Rodney.
Rather than backing off, I tried to stay with the group so I could be there to help the odds with Rodney. I was starting to believe I could do it as we turned onto Highway 20. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that the transition onto that road can be tricky.
You have to climb up to the turn and then there is a short downhill before you go into a sweeping left turn that puts you (at least on this day) dead into a headwind. I tried to catch my breath for just a second as we made the turn and the other riders accelerated. Too late I tried to match it and a small gap formed as we went into the headwind.
It was over at that point. They were sooooo close, but I just didn’t have the juice to close it down. I realize now I should have just gone into the pain locker when we made that initial turn and hung onto the group until we all got into the wind together. At that point I could have been shielded and might have recovered a bit.
As it was, the second large chase group came past me. I let them go and watched the race unfold before me on the long stretch of straight road. I watched them cross the train tracks as two groups. Then they crested the hill that took them out of my view — still two groups.
By the time I crested the hill, the only riders I could see ahead were the ones that were spit out the back of the field. Later I learned that the second group was never able to close the gap. Rodney went on to lead out Sperry who took the win. Rodney did that because he knew he did not have the points to affect the overall lead.
You know. I am improving physically. I am doing things that I would have never dreamed of last year. Sure, I got dropped on that last attack, but I went farther than I ever have before and I was racing with the Pro-1-2 guys. I wonder what it will be like when I’m back with my Cat 4 brethren?
There in is my greatest weakness. I definitely have the power of a Cat 3 racer, but I have the tactical knowledge of guy who just moved up from Cat 5 to Cat 4. I’m still trying to get a handle on my bike handling skills and race knowledge.
At the same time, I don’t think I’m foolish — that would just be true if I kept making the same mistakes over and over again. I REALLY AM TRYING TO LEARN! Before the season is over, I hope it becomes obvious to more than just myself.