Monday, May 16, 2011

No More Paying to Ride in Circles

I have been racing my bike for well over a decade. While I started out racing on the dirt, I soon discovered time trials and road racing, and then the vortex that is cyclocross. And I loved it all. The more races the better - I was having a blast!

This year, however, my enthusiasm to race is less. I still LOVE to ride my bike, but the racing is not as exciting to me. In fact, after my experiences racing on the road this season, I believe I am done with that discipline. Paying money to go and ride around in circles with other women at 15-16 mph, just to see who can outsprint whom at the finish, is not racing to me. I'll have no more part of it.

You see, I lack patience. In my first race of the season, I attacked, attacked again, and attacked some more. Each time, every one of the women in the field came with me, and then, when I pulled off the front, settled in to a 16 mph pace. In that race, myself and a teammate did the bulk of the time on the front of the field, trying to animate the race. I finally gave up and did what everyone else was doing - sat in and waited to race in the final half mile. I ended up on the podium, but didn't feel good about it.

This past weekend, it was more of the same negative racing. Really, if all you intend to do in a race is sit in the field for 20 or 30 miles, comment on how we must be having a coffee break now or what a great group ride this is, and then sprint at the end - what have you accomplished? Why not just have a 5 minute sprint race? Why waste all the rest of the time?

So, with my lack of patience rearing its ugly head again on the weekend, as we rode along at 15.5 mph, I muttered, "Seriously?", and then laid down an attack - ramping the speeds up into the 20+ mph range. Of course, the entire field marked the attack, and proceeded to sit on my wheel. When I finally gave up, the counter attack went and all of those "sitter-inners" went with it. Me? I got dropped, but I never felt bad; I knew that I had animated an otherwise boring ride around in circles.

I managed to catch back onto the group (thanks in part to the field being neutralized, but also in part to their speed vs. mine) and heard "Well, we won't catch them." I also heard the coffee break comment - from someone who never once put their wheel in the wind, never once tried to make it a race. If you are going to sit in and suck wheel, you have NO RIGHT to complain about the pace of the race - it's within your control to change. Don't wait for/expect someone else to do it! There were only 2 women in the main field who legitimately shouldn't have been working - they had teammates in a break up the road. The rest of the field, however, shouldn't have let one of those two set the pace at 15 mph...

My lack of patience got the best of me again at the finish - I jumped too early and dragged at least 3 of the "sitter-inners" with me, getting bested by them at the line. Yes, I know that part of racing is tactics - I've been racing long enough to know that and to understand how to make them work. But how did all of these women end up with the mentality that they would just sit in and sprint at the finish????

I think I'll switch my focus away from the road for now. The frustration level for me is just too high. Instead, I'll do what I do best - TT and MTB through the summer seasons, and cross in the fall. Those disciplines let me race - REALLY race. There is no hiding or sitting in, and I can truly feel good about my results. The effort is hard for the ENTIRE race, not just the final 200 meters.