Kimberley Johnson is an experienced racer who provides us with great insight into racing hard despite dealing with far from ideal pre-race conditions. Read about this competitors views on winning and racing with some of the best women in the US.
A few weekends ago I won the Bannock Street Criterium, a race my team has helped put on for the past few years. I know that is quite an abrupt way to begin a race report, and as it lacks the typical build-up of an eye-catching read. But this isn’t a typical race report, and is more about outlook, mental toughness and confidence-building than specific race strategy.
After several hours volunteering as a course-marshal for the morning races, I was overheated, tired and hungry; not exactly an ideal physiological state to start a race. But as I’ve learned in my years racing, sometimes the way you feel before a race and the way you perform in the race are strangely disconnected. Trite as it sounds, all you can do is the best you can, and when circumstances have prevented you from having the kind of “pre-race” routine we cyclists so obsessively adhere to, stressing over it is not only unproductive, but harmful. Preparation is key, and I strongly recommend developing a pre-race routine that’s been proven to work for you. That being said, when at some point you’re inevitably forced to deviate from that script, the ability to shake it off and move forward is incredibly valuable.
So despite this sub-par set-up, I decided I was all in. I was going to be aggressive, stay near the front, sprint for primes, and set myself up for the strongest finish I possibly could. I had a few teammates in the race with me, who worked hard to keep the pace up and chase down attacks, which helped keep me in good position for the primes and finish. This was going to be my local season finisher, the last race before the US Pro Cycling Challenge, and I knew if I could finish strong it would pay dividends. Going into a race with confidence, poise, and a sense of trust in the training you’ve done can be the difference between a top ten success and a less than satisfying pack finish, all other things being equal.
Cycling is a sport that both brutally demanding and invigorating — there’s a reason we keep coming back even after we feel trampled, even when staying in hot pursuit of the dreams we’ve crafted makes no logical sense. Racing my bike makes me feel alive, strangely lifted from stress and chaos. Although I’ve offered up much blood, sweat, and tears, at the end of the day, being on the bike is more restorative than destructive. We all have different paths that brought us to the sport, but I believe that this commonality is what unites us, from very beginner to seasoned pro.
In this sport we lose far more often than we win (with a few exceptions I can count on one hand), and so when you do, take time to soak it in. Enjoy that accomplishment for a moment before rushing off to conquer the next. Even as I say this, I know that I am far from having mastered this mindful way of approaching both wins and losses. It’s hard to win, and surprisingly hard to savor it once you finally do. So I guess this post is my way of savoring the win. Learning from it, being grateful for it, allowing myself to draw strength and courage for whatever is to come. I am now a day from the first stage of the women’s race at the US Pro Cycling Challenge, and doing my best to keep my mind focused yet relaxed. Tomorrow, I will race a time trial in Breckenridge against some of the strongest women in the sport. A few days after that, I will be moving across the country to start a new job in a city I’ve never even visited. For now, it’s time to wash my bike, pump my tires, lube my chain, and get ready to race.