Cycling is a fickle sport. You’re on or you’re not. There’s no middle ground and there’s no faking it. On any given day everything–weather, course conditions, equipment, physical fitness, mental readiness–must be spot on. With any one of those “things” out of sorts, racing becomes even more of a challenge.
Everything seemed aligned today. While the day started out cold, warm air rushed in just in time for racing (nothing like short sleeve jersey and shorts in mid November!). The course was primo. A bit rough in places, but otherwise a fantastic layout much akin to the courses in Europe. Equipment was finally right (upgraded to Ksyrium SL wheels and Grifo tires). For everything that was so right, my fitness just wasn’t there today. Things felt off during warm-ups but I dismissed it as jitters. I knew without a doubt as soon as the whistle blew that today wasn’t the day.
I had a front-row start and picked the outside line. The smoother liner was on the inside, but I opted for the outside, thinking position for the 90-degree left-hand turn at the top was more important. It really didn’t matter though. The whistle blew and I took off with a half-hearted lunge. I watched the leaders sprint away and wanted to go with them but I just couldn’t get the old furnace to kick in. Why fight it? I resolved to sit in and try to pull them back during later laps. That didn’t happen either. By the start of the second lap, I was thinking more about just finishing than battling for position. I was tired.
I struggled through all 5 laps and finished in 7th place. My placing doesn’t show how truly bad I was. Being tired meant sloppy form and a lack of focus. I found myself bouncing over rough sections and missing the line through most turns. I wasted energy fighting uphill into the wind only to bog down in the single track. And, I was constantly riding 2 or 3 gears too deep. Looking back on the day, it’s difficult to pick out any positive aspects of how I rode.
I’m taking this week off to recover so I can refocus on the second half of the cross season. Considering I’m traveling Tuesday through Friday, taking away the pressures of training while on the road will be huge relief.