Natalia not only raced her first full season, she did it on the road and the mountain bikes! Read about how she dove in head first, what she learned, and what she is taking on to next year!
It’s hard to believe that road racing season is over. To get ready for the season I spent countless hours in the saddle and endured every possible weather condition on the planet. I have ridden my bike in temperatures ranging from freezing to triple digits, rain, snow, hail, gusty winds, sand and thunder storms, but I loved every minute of it. Well, maybe not at the time, but the thought of getting stronger always kept me going. I really believe cyclists must be the toughest athletes out there. We love riding our bikes so much that the elements never stop us and many times when we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere discovering new roads with no cell phone coverage, so quitting is not an option and we have no choice but keep on pedaling.
For me this was my first full year of racing so I didn’t know what to expect. Racing and leisurely riding are two completely different things. I tried all disciplines from road racing, time trialing, crits, hill climbs, and even mountain bike racing. I have been cycling most of my life and I love climbing mountain passes so I thought this would be my strength. I did some mountain biking in the past and bought a new bike not thinking much of it. I didn’t even consider racing it when I bought it. The last mountain bike I owned was about two decades ago and the technology has advanced quite a bit since then. My new toy has huge 29-inch wheels and when I ride it I feel like a little kid again. It has full suspension, disk brakes, and it’s just so much fun to ride so I thought I would try racing it because why not. As the season begun, I quickly realized I didn’t enjoy hill climbs, not only because I would get dropped but it was so painful that I wasn’t able to enjoy the beautiful scenery around me like I did in the past. My goal this season was to overcome my fear of crit racing but unfortunately my first crit ended early due to a crash. Luckily my injuries weren’t serious, my bike was ok, and I was able to race the next weekend. I didn’t want to end my racing season early so I didn’t take another chance. I’m hoping to forget about this unpleasant experience so I will try it again next season. Time trailing wasn’t my favorite but I will definitely do more of it again next year. Road races can be intimidating as they typically are longer, but I discovered that this was my type of a race. I am not a sprinter or climber; however I have good endurance and can push myself after riding long distances. I also learned the importance of working with teammates and even your opponents and how to strategize in order to win. I just wish we had more road races here in Colorado. After taking my new mountain bike for a few short rides I signed up for 18 Hours of Fruita. I never raced a mountain bike, I never rode at night, and my bike was barely broken in. I recruited three other teammates to join me and we ended up winning the race. I was hooked! The race was a lot of fun and not as intimidating as I expected so immediately I started thinking about my next mountain bike race. I ended up doing three more races and I not only loved it but placed well which gave me a huge confidence boost. Now I can’t wait to do more races on dirt.
After reflecting on the entire season and analyzing each race and its outcome I really surprised myself. The races I thought I would enjoy the most and do well at, turned out to be my least favorite ones, but I always try to find a positive in each situation and I treated them as training rides for the races that mattered to me. The races that intimidated me the most turned out to be my best ones and most enjoyable. I also participated in several organized rides throughout Colorado. Even though they weren’t timed, whenever I wear my Naked kit my brain tells me it’s racing time. Therefore I have to remind myself that it is ok to slowdown, breath slowly, take in the scenery, chat, and make new friends.
If you are new to racing or intimidated by it, don’t dismiss it as you won’t really know until you try. It’s better to fail at something than to miss out on something that can potentially be your strength only because you were afraid you would finish last or embarrass yourself. I remember how nervous I was just pinning my first number to my jersey. I stubbed my fingers several times and now I get less and less nervous each time I do it. Soon I will be able to do it with my eyes closed. But don’t get me wrong, I still get anxious at the start line but I just focus on the finish.