Thursday, November 3, 2016

Whirlybird: Why, oh why, did I not run?

Great start @ Whirlybird
Photo: Tom Burrows
Cyclocross continues to teach me things every time out. Last week's lesson seems to multi-faceted, but rooted primarily in humility and reigning in expectations. I've been riding well lately, finding my way onto a few podiums here and there. But for some strange reason, maybe because I'm human, I always want more. I wrote a few weeks ago about how it took a change in mindset for me to allow myself to ride with the fastest guys in my age group. After that switch was flipped, I went from almost deliberately hanging back from the fastest guys to confidently riding with the leaders. Next logical step is deigning to think you can win. I'd ridden with Reuther and Pflug the Saturday before. I'd ridden with Reuther and Elliston the Sunday before. Surely, snatching a "W" from these guys was not impossible. In retrospect, I suppose I put a little too much pressure on myself to do so. Even checking in to registration before the race, a well-meaning friend on the Guy's team encouraged me by saying, "You've gotta win today. You've been flying." And the pressure mounts.

Tete de la course (r to l): Schlauch, Reuther, Justice
Photo: Tom Burrows
I had a great start this race. I felt things slow down a bit in my head as these things become second nature. Heeding the advice of still another friend, I allowed Reuther and Schlauch to find their way up to the front of the race and set the pace. Despite some early driving mistakes, especially at the end of the wooded singletrack and the log-over, I was able to close gaps as they opened.

On this windy day, someone must have ripped a section of tape on the second lap. By the time the leaders came around on the third lap that tape was fully laying across the course. As Joe Johnston and I battled to get back into contact with the Schlauch and Reuther, we came across this tape. Riding side-by-side, I wondered if the tape would mess Johnston up. I never thought that it would end *MY* race. A few pedal strokes later, it was clear that something was wrong. I looked down to see what the issue was. The course tape had gotten sucked into my cassette and derailleur. Angrily, I jumped off the bike to try to unravel the tape. Almost immediately, I noticed that the derailleur was snapped off, and this bike wasn't being ridden again anytime soon.

Course tape ruins the day
Photo: Kevin Justice
With my shot at a podium finish likely dashed and the LONG run at Nittany still fresh in my mind, I wrestled with whether or not to run to the pit. In the end, I let my anger get the better of me. I decided to pack it in. As I made my way back to the car, I started to notice the gaps that had opened up in the race. Could I have still been top 10 in this race? Top 5? We'll never know. And when you've got a bike in the pit, and could have taken a shot it, that, to me, is a bad decision. At the very least, with the size of this race and the way the MAC points are set up, even if I was DFL I would have been given a decent number of points to help hold my position in the overall standings. With MAC counting every race, i.e. no throw away races, this was, again, a very bad decision.

Walking back to the car and driving home, I was so pissed off at cyclocross. This was the second time this year that I've had major mechanicals just as I'm about to have a breakthrough race. With some time to move on from the emotionality of it, I can chalk these up to learning experiences. The rolled tubular, a reminder to more carefully and more frequently inspect my gear. The course tape, a reminder to be more aware what is going on around me. Perhaps I could have averted the broken derailleur hanger if I'd noticed the tape wrapping around the cassette sooner.

No comments:

Post a Comment