So there we were in Salida, staring down the barrel of a tough crit. I had finished 6th in the TT and Aaron had placed a few spots behind me. His back injury was bothering him and he was also at the disadvantage of using a standard roadbike with clip on aerobars. Nonetheless, we had both given our all, and it was now time to turn our focus to the days’ event. Salida sits at 7,083′ above sea level and is surrounded by majestic Rocky Mountain peaks on all sides. The crit course takes place just South of the downtown area and incorporates residential streets, a city park, and a few blocks that take in a small section of commercial real estate. It’s a really fun course that has a long false flat climb up the back side and a handful of fast flowing corners. Two years before, I competed there as a relatively new racer, and had taken sometime off from training just previous to going down there. Between too much rest and the altitude, I got crushed! I got to the start late so I was forced to be at the back. I worked too hard and after 25 min I was cooked. I think I managed to hold on a few minutes longer, only only to get dropped. I hit my lap timer and after the race I saw that my average HR was 190!
Back to 2014, I wanted to prove to myself that my first performance was not the type of bike racer I was today. I got a good warm up, got to the line early, and had a great sense of confidence. The race started fast, as they all do, and after 15 minutes I was feeling in control and in a good position. I tend to race towards the front of the group and sometimes OFF the front. My plan was to sit back, and see what some of the other guys from the other teams were up to. I noticed the boys from Primal and Sports Garage had some teammates up front laying down the pace. Both teams had strong riders that were capable of winning this contest. Since I only had two other guys with me in the race and I hadn’t seem either of them yet, I stayed put. The skies had begun to get darker as the storm clouds were rolling in from the west. With around half of our race finished, the rain started to fall. Slowly at first, but with big drops. I don’t mind racing in the wet, I grew up in Illinois and rode in the rain there all the time. I could sense that some of the guys were getting nervous. This was great news for me! The game plan changed a bit then for me. I was going to race to be safe but not let any moves get up the road. With just a few laps to go, my confidence was shaken a bit when I felt like I wasn’t going to have the legs to do anything at the end. I hesitated for a second or two and a gap opened up in front of me. It doesn’t take much, just a few feet and you start to question if you have what it takes to close back to that wheel. I told myself that I didn’t and sat up.
I came around the next corner and I saw Larsen, he yells at me to get my ass up and get back in the race. By this time I was like 10-12 seconds off the back and already exhausted. Something came over me and I gave absolutely everything I had to catch back on. Holy Shit! I can’t believe I did that! Now I have to hang on for the the two fastest laps of the race, ouch. I was so motivated after chasing back on that there was no way I was going backwards again. The pace picked up and even though I was on the back, I was still in the mix. One last time up the false flat, two corners to go, and then we start sprinting downhill in the rain to the finish line. I moved up a couple spots on the “climb” and was sitting about 10th. We all got through the first corner, but on the second one, the guy in front of me lost traction with his rear wheel and I had to change my line in order to stay upright. By this time the guys at the front had already opened up their sprints, and any chance for a top 10 was out for me. I sprinted to a 12 place in a race that I had previously had been dropped from, raced this year in the rain, and chased back after almost getting dropped again. I was pretty happy to have finished where I did after learning that more than 60% of the field had pulled out due to the weather.
I guess the moral of the story is, never give up on yourself! If you do the training and believe in yourself, all things are possible. So I didn’t win the race, but I did come away with the feeling of racing well. This was something that I felt was a bit of a turning point for me. In the races to follow, I showed more patience and continued to get the results that I was capable of.
In 2015, I’ve got plans for this race. I can’t wait to get back to Salida. This year I want to see more of the town and look forward to having more teammates to race with. I like the feeling of having unfinished business and hope I have the opportunity to do something about it.