So this weekend marked the beginning of my 2010 racing season, nearly a whole month earlier than I started last year. I'll admit, I've had a much more solid training plan early on in the season this year when compared to last year, however I've was plagued with illness less than a month ago. The cold/flu-ish symptoms were similar to the only kind of sickness that I really ever develop which ended up lasting a week and lingered for yet another week after. A lot of this came from what I believe was a nutritional problem which has been fixed since the sickness. With that on top of the end of the year, I was extremely busy with school. Somehow I managed to sneak in rides after class, before meetings and what-not.
The race was a criterium in La Crosse, WI, a seven and a half hour drive from Houghton, where I was since I hadn't moved back home to Negaunee yet after school finished. I drove to Green Bay on Saturday (a four hour drive) and stayed FO-FREE with my aunt that lives there and left that morning for La Crosse which was almost another four hour drive. There's no good east/west route across southern WI so it was two lane highways almost all of the way. My nerves were on me already, I wanted to be early and being caught behind slow cars in farm country I saw time slipping away. Luckily we got to La Cross only about 20 minutes after I had wanted to. We were a whole hour and a half early, thankfully. I quickly registered, cleaned up the bike, got dressed, quickly ate some bread with Nutella (a pre-race ritual I have), and started my warm-up. I forgot my GU at the truck and had to go fetch that only 15 min. before the start. After doing the whole list of things above, not much time was left so I did what I could and lined up for the start of my first race. I was a nervous wreck.
There were a few hazards on the course, a tight first corner, bumpy and windy backstretch, bumpy third corner and an extremely sketchy final corner. There was a sunken man-hole, about two inches below the road surface, cracked and broken pavement on the inside of the corner and a patch job leading into the corner that was anything but smooth that created a very technical entry into the corner. If a picture could have done any justice I would have taken one. There were two teams that were constantly lauching flyers, one break-away after the other while their team always jumped on the front to be sure to block. The group would always get their brains in order and attack to catch up but it created a lot of up and downs in speed, always sitting back then accellerating, then back to sitting back. I played things smart since I was alone and did my best to stay within the top ten at all times. There were a few times I found myself at the back, trying to catch my breath but would find my way back to the front.
Going into the final lap, we were attempting to catch a break. In the middle of that lap we caught it and the guy that lead that chase simply kept going, creating a small gap and it looked like he might get the victory. The group accelerated quickly and I found myself falling back slightly at the beginning of the backstretch. I stomped on the gas, moving to the front, and shooting the inside of the second to last corner. That move put me into about 6th or 7th and I shot the inside of the last corner and sprinted up the left side of the road. Four people had broken off the front, just about a second ahead of me and I found myself in fifth, leading the entire group out for the sprint. Somehow I managed to hold my spot, letting no one past me just flying up the edge of the road. I could see the shadows and hear the shifting gears behind me, expecting someone to come flying by me. My legs were strong and I held off everyone for a solid fifth place finish.
I must say, I am very pleased with the outcome. I was extremely pleased with the new bike which was one of the reasons I was most nervous. I had faith in it, and my legs but it's still new and it was my first race of the season. It railed the corners and kept my brain from rattling out of my skull on the rough roads. I'm extremely pleased with the results of the weekend and with the bike, happy to shake out the nerves for the season and get off to a great start. Now I'm back to the grindstone, hopefully getting in some hill intervals in preparation for the next race which will be the first one with some teammates. Very excited for that weekend in Madison, May 15,16.
I'd like to thank Matt from SISU Cycles for getting my bike ready before the first race and my girlfriend Sarah for being my support crew for the weekend.