From the beginning of January until early August I’ve either been riding/racing my bike, working at the local bike shop, or shoveling food in my mouth. Usually in that same order. It’s been difficult at times (money wise), the long breaks from work to race at Redlands, Gila, and Cascade are the hardest. Logistically, physically, and mentally. The pros of leaving work are the extra recovery; not standing on your feet all day and the liberty of waking up later. The cons are simply missing work. I love working at the Bike Shop. I get to see all my friends. Talk about what I have a deep passion for and share stories. I get flexible hours that work with the 20-25 hour training weeks I’ve been logging in lately. I have a roof over my head and food on my plate, I couldn’t ask for anything more. I’m beyond grateful for the sponsors we have. Taking care of most of the expenses while we are racing. Without them, most of the trips I have taken would not have happened. Thankful for the host houses. From sleeping on Rick’s RV couch that’s made for a little person. To the Witts, whom opened up their home and provided EVERYTHING; making a home away from home. A great couple and I’m truly blessed to have them take the entire team under their roof.
The physical aspect is a whole new level. It’s one thing to sit in a field and conserve energy from the second you start to the last 200 meters. To attack and rotate on the front with your team and control a race is difficult. That didn’t start in January, it’s taken months of racing for the team to actually learn how to maneuver the field as a team. Doing this at a regional race is “easy” (I use the word ‘easy’ loosely), I say that because one does not have 200 riders to push around. The step up to the UCI level is the hardest. One must be strong on the bike, the stronger the better. Power opens up the window to move up when necessary, those crucial moments. Positioning is very important as well. When you have a rider that can slither through the field and has a ton of power to back it up, that’s when greatness is made. Because when the flame gets turned on in the race, you will know. It’s not a gradually build until the moment you crack. It’s either you’re still in the pack or you’ve been ejected off the back into the caravan. It’s a jump of fitness to make it in the front group. I have the most respect for the guys who are staying up at the front the entire race and smashing the front until they can’t pedal anymore (literally). The guys from Rally, UHC, and Hincapie/Hollowesko smash the front and will line out the entire field of strong Cat1s until the field splits at their leisure (that’s the scary part). I wish it was as easy as just being a weekend warrior and logging in a few hours a week, but it’s not. This sport requires time and mileage, especially at the top level. It requires a life style change to be honest. Which I’m one hundred percent okay with, as of right now. Nor is this a sport for someone who believes intervals for a couple months gets you results. It’s a process that takes years of development to make substantial gains.
Mentally this sport is absolutely the hardest of them all. Nobody in the entire world is pushing you to ride your bike except for you. When the going gets tough, you have the ability to make it all stop. A downshift in gear, a quick coasting session and all the pain stops that exact moment. Usually the first laps of any race are going to be the hardest. Breakaways are establishing and everybody feels as fresh as a daisy. Sometimes fields can shatter on the first climb of the day, it will happen. That first hour can feel like an eternity at times. Please remember that everybody is human and nobody can go that fast for that long. The pace will ease up, where you are when it does ease up will speak volumes. You can either be at one of three places: the forefront and making the breakaway of the day, conserving energy in the field, or in the deepest darkest place off the back pedaling as hard as you can to make contact with the field. When the field is going as hard as it can, you have to do the same. No matter what it takes, it’s not fun. If this sport was easy, everybody would be doing it. If this sport was easy, I probably wouldn’t be doing it.
(Photos to come soon from Cascade!)