Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Epic Battle

The cool thing about bike racing is that you don't have to be an elite athlete to get into an epic racing battle. I had the battle of my life this past weekend racing in the 40-49 base class at the second Georgia State Series race held at Ft Yargo. I had raced in the first series race the previous weekend and had an idea of where I fit in the field. Got a good start and headed into the single track in 6th place. Right where I wanted to be. I stayed with the leaders as long as I could, but couldn't hold their pace and dropped back a little. Looked back and saw no else even close, so I decided to settle into a pace I could maintain without dying. After a few miles of tight, twisty single track I could see the 5th place rider up ahead. We hit a fast downhill section and I got right up on his wheel. WTF I thought to myself, I'm not used to out-riding people on the downhill. Once I caught the 407 rider, we hit an uphill section. I'm usually pretty good going uphill, but this guy was stronger and put a 100 foot gap on me by the time we crested the hill. Next came another technical section and I once again got back to his wheel. He was just fast enough that I could not pass him and there was nowhere to pass anyway. Once again we hit another climb and I tried my hardest to stay with him but he gapped me again by 100 feet and I was totally gassed. Next came another fast downhill and I got right back to his wheel. This went on for about 30 more minutes until we came to an open flat section with about 2 miles left to go to the finish. I knew this was the place to make my move and dropped the hammer with everything I had. We were both sprinting all out and I got around him before we hit another downhill section. I gained about 100 feet on him by the end of the downhill section, but we had one more long climb before the finish. I dug deeper than I ever had and laid all my cards on the table going up that last climb, but 407 made it right back to my wheel and I was completely out of gas. Everything in my body wanted to give up, but I knew this was for a podium spot and I wanted that first podium so bad I was willing to die for it. Luckily, one last downhill section followed. I was able to recover on the downhill and gap him again. A quarter mile to go to the finish and there were some tight sections with a few slower riders that I could not get around at all. I was worried my nemesis would get by, but he couldn't pass either and I made it to the finish in 5th with my first ever podium, just a few seconds ahead of 6th place. Granted this was the old fart base class, but it was something to behold from my perspective and I will never forget this race.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Unrealistic Expectations

It was exactly a year ago Sunday that I tried my first mountain bike race. I had been riding for 3 months and felt like Superman flying through the woods. I was signed up for the Novice class and was fully expecting to decimate the field. After 3 months of riding and watching the Tour de France, I had this bike racing thing all figured out. I was so confident, I wondered if I should go ahead and race the Base class. Well, about 2 minutes into the race, I realized that I was NOT Superman nor the badass cyclist that I thought I was. I had burned up my one and only match and the next 40 minutes proved to be the most grueling and physically demanding thing I had ever done in my life. I was simply trying to save face at this point and not come in dead last, even if it killed me. I managed to suffer through the existing 6 miles, which felt more like 60 miles at the time, and kept the 4th place finish out of 7 riders. Not the dominating performance I expected. Glad I didn’t opt for the Base class.

One year later and after riding with the BC crew for a few months, I was ready to lay the smack down on the men’s 40-49 Base class. Damn, I’ve come so far in that year. I thought to myself,"Maybe I should go ahead and sign up for Sport because I’m gonna kill these guys." I decided to stay in Base so that I could easily claim the Florida State Championship. They might as well just give me the trophy now. Well, once again, I overestimated my abilities and ended up 17th out of 27. Actually had a good race and rode to the best of my ability without blowing up and only had one small crash that only cost a few seconds. I have come a long way, but still have a looong way to go before being competitive in the Base class. Now that I see I won’t be winning the championship, the pressure is off and I can race with reckless abandon. For some reason, I always think I’m gonna save some energy for a sprint finish and pass 4 or 5 riders coming up to the line, but the finish always sneaks up on me before I get to unleash hell. Next race, I plan to absolutely bury myself and forgot about the sprint finish. Progress is slow moving in bike racing, but I’m loving it and I'm sure at the beginning of next season I will go through the same thought process only to be humbled once again in the race.