Racing isn’t always about trying to cross the line first. Sometimes you have to take risks to become a better, more skilled racer. Kimberley did just that, and we guarantee it will pay off.
A few days ago, I welcomed the arrival of a long awaited day… the first race weekend of the season. I raced both Saturday and Sunday in Fort Collins, and was absolutely thrilled to win the circuit race on Saturday. Any time I can make back a bit of the money I spend on racing is a day well spent, not to mention it was a wonderful, confidence-building way to begin my season. However, in this race report, I want to focus more on the second day, where I did not win. This may seen counterintuitive, because, after all, who wants to read about, and why would I want to write about, losing?! The simple answer is that no one wins every race, and so losing is just as integral a part of bike racing as the wins we hope to get. Winning is fun, exhilarating, ego-boosting, but in losing races we get stronger and tougher, both physically and mentally.
In the criterium on Sunday, I didn’t do as well as I would have hoped for in terms of finishing placement (another win would have been lovely, but I got 5th), but it was definitely a good ‘personal growth’ race. I took more risks and raced more aggressively than I have been comfortable with doing in the past, which is something my coach has encouraged me to do more of this year, especially in early season races where the potential consequences of those risks matter less than in later, more important races. It is much easier, safer, and more comfortable to just sit in and focus on following the wheel in front of you, and had I done that, I quite possibly could have placed a bit higher. I would have conserved more energy and had a full stash of ‘matches’ to burn on the final sprint leading to the finish. However, that is not how I chose to race on Sunday.
After the first few laps (which were fast) it was down to me and four others. Someone attacked, I chased/bridged, someone else attacked, etc. Then I attacked, and when the other four bridged up, I ended up staying on the front because no one would pull through, but then before I had a chance to recover, Amy from Vanderkitten girl attacked and I got popped (I congratulated her later for her excellent timing). It was really windy, so once even a small gap opened it was nearly impossible to catch back on alone. At that point I my goal became to hold off the riders that we had originally dropped and not get caught, so I settled into a hard, but sustainable pace for what ended up being the rest of the race. I stayed focused and basically turned it into a twenty-minute time trial.
Like I said, I would have LOVED to win again, but I felt good about my risk taking and more aggressive racing, and then that I was able to stay focused, not give up, and keep going hard and not get caught. I’ve been in previous races where I got dropped off the lead group, and then basically eased up because I just assumed I would get caught anyways and didn’t want to be blown up when that happened. So I think that’s some positive growth. As I mentioned earlier, I may have finished better if I had just sat in and hung onto the lead group (and didn’t bridge, attack, etc) but ultimately, that’s not what will make me a stronger rider. I know I am rambling a bit, but I think it’s important for every racer, whether you’re just beginning or racing with the goal of eventually getting on a professional team, to be able to celebrate the little victories and areas of personal growth. This is something that can be tough to learn, especially for those of us people/athletes with perfectionistic or mildly OCD tendencies. This race reminded me that strength comes in many forms, and is not always reflected in the race results.