Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I’m not sure what the hardest thing I have ever done in my short career is… but moving from 43rd to 10th in the Dalby World Cup might have been it. Without question I have finished races in much poorer condition… pushing myself through bonking, exhaustion and/or being broken. But never before have I pushed through a race relying on my head as much as I did this weekend.

I got called up in 40th position, and after spending 3 minutes shaking with excitement on the starting line, I proceeded to go backwards. I don’t know why but I couldn’t make my legs go. Gaps opened I normally would have easily closed, and as euros went blazing past me I briefly thought about the South African WC when I was in other shoes. So after a few wasted minutes standing in the woods waiting for the mob to snake its way through the single track I came through the start banner in 43rd place (I was sure I would see 60 something before seeing the results). Shit… I was supposed to be 40 places ahead of where I was.

So I set out on the task of moving up, which initially didn’t happen, because again those legs just wouldn’t turn over. I spent that first lap contemplating what I though would be an impending implosion and temper tantrum at the finish line. But I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think about that when my upper body started to cramp. It was completely exhausted. I had to sit up, stop pedaling, and pull my hands off the bars. It was bizzare. I think I was so stressed about being so far back that I had just given my handlebars a 15 min death grip without noticing it. God I was pissed about how my race was playing out!

Durnig this time I had to stop my brain and start relaxing. I told myself it was ok, just time to stop messing around and start bike racing. I knew who was in that front group… it was a bunch of those Germans, Swiss and Rabobank guys I had just spent the past two weeks beating. Time to nut up. So I guess that’s what I did.

By lap two things were spread out enough, and I was in the company of enough slow euros that I could just start doing work. Over the next two laps I moved up 30 guys and then in the last two of five I caught 3 more… and was in sight of the chase group! I don’t even really remember much of it… every time I passed Marc or my parents, they were saying lower numbers. I remember being frustrated, and I remember that I kept telling myself to relax. I stayed focused on my body, making my legs turn over fast, but knowing where my limit was. I had to keep this up to get into that top 10. I kept telling myself that’s where I needed to be in order to salvage this race. I thought about my breathing, and I though about where I put my front tire. That was really about it. On lap one I was the 23rd fastest guy out there… on lap three, I was the fourth fastest U23 on course… on lap four I was the fastest! Simple.

I crossed that finish line with a smile. I know I belong in that top 5… but the work I did during that race was nearly impossible. I still cannot believe I made that happen… 33 of the fastest guys in the world could not hold my wheel when I rode past them. I wonder how many of that top ten could have hung on to my wheel had I been in their presence from the start. I don’t think many of them could have.

That may sound arrogant… I don’t know, but I am realizing that I am now in the conversation when people talk about the best in the world. I don’t know what that means really… maybe nothing, I think time will tell. I can’t make it more than it is, that’s too much pressure. I just need to go race my bike, that’s what I’ve always done. Things aren’t different. Whether its for 5th place at a junior 14 and under race or for a podium at a World Cup. I guess the latter is where I belong. So I am gonna go try to race there. Maybe I should put away this bowl of chocolate musli though…

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Last time I checked in I had just returned (or was returning?) from the South African Central time zone (+2hrs) to MST… I’m back in it now… or the European equivalent at least. It was a quick turn around after SA… I had 36 hrs in Bozeman to sleep, unpack, do laundry, ride, and pack and catch another flight, this time to Austin, TX. That’s the same amount of time it took me to get from Pietermartzburg to home.

In Austin I had the opportunity to sizzle in the heat, eat some delish taco’s and get a flat tire. It was a quick weekend, which felt good, out Thursday, back Sunday… The Mellow Johnny’s classic went well, I was raced the Mexican national champion (Ill call him Turbo) for 5th place after spending the first half chasing from 30th. I had a poor start compounded by a burped tire. At the end of the day, that tire had just lost too much air, I rolled it and went down 4km from the finish, Turbo got away from me, Spencer caught me and proceeded to pin it. Who knows what could have happened.. that could have been my first ever Pro XC podium.

Turbo went uphill pretty quick, so maybe not. The race finished on a climb. But anyways, I finished 7th and proceeded to put it behind me. I feel like Austin and Lance’s ranch was just a side not in a whole lot of bigger more important shtuff. However, downtown

Austin is amazing… Daimo, Mitch and I went out moderately big on Saturday night and started some dance party’s downtown. It was crazy… a twenty-block strip of downtown (Sixth Street I think) gets shut down and people go nuts, including us. I hadn’t been out until 2am in a long ass time… it felt good. I was with two good friends and we danced in the streets and I’m sure all the bro’s with popped collars were thinking ‘how lame are they!’ while their girlfriends were probably like ‘I wish my man was that self confident…’ Even if they weren’t, we had nothing to loose.

After another short stint home, I think 60 hrs this time, I was on another trans-continental flight.

I arrived in Germany for the first time comfortable, confident and relaxed. This is my 3rd rodeo here, and I am feeling like Kirchzarten is becoming a home away from home. I know these roads well now and I know what kind of ship Marc runs.

We kicked things off with the Solothurn Swiss Racer Cup. This was the 3rd time I had ridden there, my resume including two near DFL’s and a flat tire. I got lapped both times. The third time proved to be the charm however, because after a good start I settled into the lead group and spent my day witling away at the group I found myself in, until only myself and Giger of Rabobank remained fighting for 10th place I think. He decided to put the hammer down on the final climb, I was expecting it, but couldn’t really react, but his skinny ass did help get me up to Litscher (who was 2nd at U23 Worlds last year) and then he and I did some battle. At this point my legs decided this would be a good time to cramp, so he caught me, and passed by when my chain took another disastrous bounce (the same move it pulled in SA)… but either way, I had 2km to go, and I just rode it in. I finished 12th.

This has got to be one of the best rides I have ever put together… and one of the best an American U23 has done in recent memory. When I look at the results list, I am completely blown away. I think at least 3 of the guys in front of me have World Championships bars on their arms.. these are some of the modern day legends of the sport… its incredible.

I finished the weekend up with another short, but tough race in Witneau, just south of the house here… I won, which is sweet, it was a fun little race, lots of family fun out there. It was cool to rep the US win again, this was the third year in a row, I follow Tad and Rob, and Marc was stoked too. So much pressure for that one.. haha, not serious there, but it was hard, especially after Solothurn, and it was tough to get my head into the game for it. But whatever, it was cool. First win in Europe!