Weather: Completely unremarkable
Teammates: Neil Harrington, Thomas Novikoff
Placing: 8th of ~60-70
Deflated and disappointed, I rolled across the finish line at the Albany Criterium, bringing a merciful end to my lackluster Sunday. My disappointment grows more pronounced as I recount the tale.
When you dig deep enough into your reserves, there comes a point at which Pain and Suffering lose their firm grip on your consciousness. If you muster the strength, you can break loose from their clutching, desperate fingers. Unencumbered by these demons, the world becomes silent and tranquil, and the race comes into sharp focus.
It was in this lucid state of mind that I made my final five circuits of the four-corner course. I no longer felt the pain in my legs, but it was clear from my vantage point, 15 seconds behind the breakaway of seven riders, that the race was over. I could only hope to finish ahead of the field looming another 15 seconds back. As I watched any hope of a top result disappearing in the distance, I began to ask myself, “Where did things go wrong?” and “Is it all worth it?”
Wow. That’s depressing. Let’s rewind a bit.
This race began like so many others, with a few laps of frightening bike-handling by the less experienced riders, and some macho posturing by those who fancy themselves experienced. Most of the danger associated with crit racing lies at the interface between the two.
An even greater danger, however, is allowing yourself to become a “breakaway rider.” This trade, glorified and immortalized by the likes of Jacky Durand and Jens Voigt, will only lead to heartache for those not endowed with superhuman strength.
You may have noticed a trend in my race reports: make the break, but lose the race. Top-10’s are my consolation, the VeloPromo T-shirt my only compensation for a long day in the wind–and that’s the BRIGHT SIDE of being a “breakaway rider.”
What about the dark side, you ask? Imagine the sorry life of a “breakaway rider” that misses the break. You become a laughingstock, the butt of jokes. You are useless. Your feeble sprint is no match for the sprinters, and your VO2max cannot help you. You’ve suddenly become like those nerdy 1990’s calculator-watches: sure, you can tell time and you can calculate stuff, but both can be done far better by others. Kids…don’t ride breaks, learn how to sprint.
Suffice to say, I missed the break on Sunday, a function of poor timing and position. I was aggressive from the start, and my legs felt good enough to repeatedly attack.
But no matter how good the legs, between attacks there exists a brief period of recovery, the Achilles heel of the breakaway warrior.
It was during one such period, as I was brought back from one of my breakaway attempts, that a group of seven riders launched itself off the front like Paris’ arrow from a bow. I was fated to die from the wound.
Try as I might to bridge, the field was satisfied with the composition of the break and would not allow it. In a fit of anger, I turned up the heat and simply rode as hard as I could, for as long as I was able.
Eventually I found myself off the front with two other riders, who had unknowingly become the victims of my vitriolic rage. Each time they would rotate through, I would pick the pace up. Eventually, I found myself alone, in the wind, willing my bike forward on fury and embarrassment alone.
I finished 8th, behind the real race, and ahead of the field. I was awarded “Cycles Gladiator Second-Most Aggressive Rider,” because race winner Scott Zwizanski was given the actual “Most Aggressive” title. Ugh.
Was it worth it? I don’t know. My positive, happy side is inclined to think I gained some fitness, which I’ll likely use to botch another race in the future. All is not lost!