It is quite an experience but that’s about all I have to say for the races yesterday and today at the U23 Cycling National Championships here in Augusta, Georgia. Today I toed the starting line with 150 of the fastest under-23 cyclists in the nation, and some in the world. I rolled into the staging area with a racing heart and shaking hands. I just recently acquired these intense feelings of uncontrollable nerves, I guess maybe due to the increased pressure this season.
I made small talk with a fellow cyclist while waiting to roll up to the starting line of this downtown race. The entire town lined the streets to watch us race, to watch me and 150 others battle on the .8 mile loop. Having raced mediocre in all of my cycling races this season, my recent upgrade to a category two rider was surely going to be interesting.
I came down with higher expectations for the time trial but struggled to get any sort of momentum on the 30k course. I salvaged 62nd place with my painfully sluggish legs.
I’ve been sleeping at a rest stop in the back of my car each night, eating jelly sandwiches made in my passenger seat and hanging out in any place with wifi to work on my summer classes’ homework. Its been the life of a hobo clashing with the life of a competitive cyclist. While I watch the other guys get their bikes cleaned and tuned by paid mechanics on their professional teams, I do what I can to compete. But they deserve where they are and what they get. They have worked for their speed and are on a totally different level than me. I thoroughly enjoyed toeing the starting line and racing with them for the short time I was able to hang on.
Maybe I could say this would make for a good story. I could tell my kids while we watch the Tour de France and say “I raced that guy when I was younger.”
They would respond, “No way!” I would pull up the results and show them the TT results. They would be shocked and impressed but they would still see 62 next to my name.
However, that is not where the story ends. Just because my race was over well before the finish today does not mean my career as a cyclist is done. Today was my first race as a category two cyclist. And next year I’ll come back. I want to tell the story of how I won Nationals. It may not be U23 nationals 2012. In fact, it probably won’t be. Maybe it will be with triathlon. But that is how I want the story to go and fortunately for me, I write the script in my life.
Tomorrow is the road race. We’ll see if I can make it the 100+ miles over 10,000 feet of climbing with the rest of the field. It will probably end up like today. But this has been fun and maybe it was silly for me to come but at least I had the guts to give it a shot.