As Superweek approached I had many things to consider, and prepare for.
First of all, apart from going to school in Campbell River, this would be the longest time spent without Bryanna since California. And that hadn’t gone well. During the time that I’ve struggled, I’ve grown more and more dependent on her company and support. Being away from her as I’m reintroduced to the world of racing, where things could, and most likely would, be difficult, was a bit unsettling.
There wasn’t much I could do to prepare for her absence other than committing to spending time with others, especially if I started feeling lonely, instead of wallowing. And if there weren’t others around, I planned to busy myself.
The next thing I had to think about was the fact that I’d be joining the team mid-way through the season. Everyone would be friends already, with bonds formed through several months of travelling and racing together, with their own inside jokes and trust. Although I was technically on the team, I hadn’t been a part of any of that. I would be ‘the new guy.’ I feared that I’d be seen as a nuisance, as I’m probably the team’s weakest link at this point. There are many other riders who are stronger, and could serve the team better than me.
I relaxed a little when I found out that two new signings would be joining the team at the same time. Although they’re head and shoulders above me in terms of talent and fitness, they were also new, so I wouldn’t be the only new guy.
Being slow was something else I knew would be an issue. I didn’t know how slow I would be though. I feared that I wouldn’t be able to finish the races. I didn’t want the team to question why resources would be wasted on someone who can’t even finish a crit.
Despite all my worries, I was excited to see the team. I couldn’t wait to meet everyone, and most of all, I couldn’t wait to contribute in some way.
The day before I left Victoria I started feeling sad around mid-day. By the evening, I was almost in tears. I quickly grew frustrated. I mean, perfect timing, right? About to leave to try riding my bike again and I’m depressed. Awesome.
I told my dad, and he reminded me that as quickly as it comes, it can go. I tried to keep that in mind.
In bed with Bryanna I started to cry. Why was this happening to me? Why is it that just as I’m getting back on my two feet, I bring myself down again? Why does biking seem, to make me sad? How am I going to make it at Superweek if I’m suddenly feeling down again?
As we lay there, Bryanna said something I had never thought about before. I can’t remember what it was exactly, but something along the lines of ‘Racing isn’t making you sad. You’re just sad tonight. You want to race, don’t you? Well that’s all there is to it.’
It was simple. It wasn’t anything special. But it was all I needed. I smiled. She knows me so well. The following morning at 5:30 as I got out of bed, I was excited again. It had gone as quickly as it had come.
The first race was the MK Delta Criterium. We had a big team, with 10 guys starting. The course was hard, at 1.2 km with a steep hill. We would do 40 laps to cover 48 km in an hour.
Our team plan was to cover breaks, but not to pull through. We would sit on to ensure that our team was represented, but we weren’t to work. With 10-15 laps to go, our guys would take over the front of the race to form a lead out train. In doing so, the pace would be high enough to deter attacks, and bring back anyone who tried to get away. This would set up our new sprinter, Ryan, to go for the finish. My job was essentially to survive. I had to ride conservatively, and try to make it to the end. Our director, Maxime, put no expectations or pressure on me to perform. He reminded me to have fun on the bike, which was nice.
However, I didn’t want to sit in. I didn’t want to watch my team race as a team while I rode on my own, unable to contribute. I managed to start in the second row, so I covered the first few attacks and managed to spend the first few laps off the front, riding behind the leader, and not pulling through. I wasn’t supposed to pull through, but I also simply couldn’t, as the pace was too high. I did what I could for the first half, chasing down a few moves and closing gaps (sometimes the gap was formed by me being unable to hold the wheel ahead of me).
By the time the team had organized a lead out, I was holding on for dear life near the back. I watched as they rode as a team, and wished I was there. I wanted to help. The lead out didn’t quite make it, but it looked good.
I was absolutely toast by the end. Mid-way through I didn’t think I would make it. But I was pleased to finish. I was happy to contribute a very, very small amount for the team, but wasn’t happy that I hadn’t been there when it really counted at the end. Maxime seemed quite pleased with my ride though, and a few guys from the team gave me props as well. I had exceeded the expectations of a few guys, at least.
So that put me in good spirits. Although I hadn’t impressed myself, the reality was that I had done a decent job after a month’s worth of riding. And I felt that I was already perhaps starting to show that I deserved to be there. And maybe I only really have to prove that to myself, but it was a good start.
On Saturday we raced the Ladner Crit. The plan was similar to the night before. We wanted a field sprint for Ryan. The course suited him better too, as it was pan flat. This time, I started at the back. The pace was pretty high, and I tried to fight my way to the front. I was quite timid in the pack though, not quite accustomed to being bar to bar, shoulder to shoulder. I had a lot of trouble moving up. It was also a really fast race, so without proper fitness, I was having a lot of trouble.
I never saw the front. I got caught behind a couple crashes. One was pretty big with around 20 laps remaining. Once I got back in the race I was tired, and at the back. The pace was high, and I was even more cautious. Caution doesn’t really earn you anything in a crit. I watched my team mates on the front form a lead out, and Ryan finished fourth. I held on and finished near the back.
I was expecting to do better on the second day, but I was definitely not proud of that race.
On Sunday I rode with MA to the UCI Delta Road race. Only 6 of our guys were racing, so we decided to get some training in. I couldn’t believe how tired I was, and after only 30 km I tucked into his draft until we got to the race. We spent the rest of the day in the feed zone with the other guys who weren’t racing, handing bottles and gels to the guys.
The team put on an incredible show. With a huge lead-out over the last 2 km, Ryan managed to pull off a second place in the field sprint. It came down to a bike throw, and he was no more than a few inches from the win. It felt good to play a tiny part in it by handing the guys bottles as they did the hard work. It felt like the whole team was committed to getting that result.
After two races, I know that I’m nowhere near the level that I want to be. I’m happy to be with the team, and I’m happy to have made a decent first impression in the first race. Today is a much needed rest day, and the racing starts anew tomorrow with the New West Grand Prix. I’m planning to be of some assistance to the team then too, somehow!