After racing Barry Wolfe GP on Sunday, I was grabbing fresh salsa from the salsa bar at Sea Casa when a timid voice from the corner asked me, “You won yesterday, didn’t you?” What followed was an entertaining conversation with a junior boy who had just raced the crit and wanted to know everything, I mean Everything, about my win at the CA/NV Time Trial Championship the day before. I had never seen or talked to this new small friend before and I was humbled by his excitement and interest in my success.
At the close of my 2013 season, I sat down to map out my goals and expectations for 2014. The normal line items were to do better, get better results, and race smarter. These goals, however, are very abstract and difficult to attain without a clear path to achieve them. With the help of Brian and Paul, we narrowed my focus onto the time trial where I had achieved moderate success without putting a huge amount of effort into the craft. Gunning for a time trial victory is really exciting because the gains are tangible and the process to get there is measurable, not much is left to chance.
Priority number one was to get the bike fit properly. Once we had it dialed in, training on it became a weekly adventure. I spent countless hours in our local canyons accompanied only by tumble weeds and train conductors, honing my skills at riding the time trial bike. The elements seem to be the least forgiving on TT day, putting me in the saddle for hours of very specific efforts in the blazing heat or pouring rain, always battling severe block headwind. I train alone and I haven’t listened to music while training since the early 2000’s which I believe helps me to refine the hardest skill of time trialing: mental focus. Come race day, it’s just going to be the bike and me. Plus the ever ominous clock.
Heading into the championship time trial, I was pleased to have had the chance to do multiple time trials earlier in the season to fine tune my warm-up routine, how I would set up my gear bag and what I would eat post event. These small items are often overlooked by the racer, leaving them frazzled come race day. Practicing racing has been a key component to my my strategy of reaching my goals.
I was more stressed than usual for this race. Maybe it was knowing that I had won the CA/NV Criterium Championships just a few weeks prior and I was pushing my luck to win a second bear jersey in a month. Brian and I decided that the best thing for stress reduction was to pre-ride the course to see the turns, feel the road surface and pick the best lines to follow. Of course followed by Thai food with our team and an early night to bed.
With a 7:10am start time, we got the ball rolling before dawn as I began my race day routine and rituals. As the sun crested the high desert mountains, I knew it would be a great day. I had my warm-up taped to my top-tube with one phrase: “Full Effort, Full Victory.” I knew I had to dig deeper than ever before to take top honors on the day. With the help of Brian and our teammates, I had a seamless warm-up and my bike was dialed in. Rolling to the start, I had tunnel-vision focus, not allowing any distractions to pull my focus away from the task at hand. I tossed my bottle in the grass, gave three big exhales and out of the start-house I went!
The next 53:01 minutes is a blur now. I was relaxed and focused my eyes on the white fog line and catching the carrots of other riders up the road. I asked myself if I could give more, and willed a watt here and watt there out of my burning quads. I committed to not taking one mental break because I knew the race was going to come down to seconds. A moment of lost focus could cost me the jersey. In the past I would be able to recount bunnies on the side of the road and odd road signs. This time, however, I had my blinders up and all my efforts were being put into the pedals. I had “Full Effort, Full Victory,” on repeat in my head. Knowing that the final result was out of my control, controlling my commitment to doing my best would result in a personal victory, even if I came in 2nd.
As I rounded the final right-hand turn and caught the freeing tailwind towards the finish, I told myself “more, more, more! It’s ten minutes to the finish line! You can suffer like a dog for 10 minutes!” Then I cracked. At 43 minutes. “No, no, no! Focus, put the blinders back on! Full effort to the finish!” As I heaved past the finish line, I knew I had given it everything and no matter the outcome, I had conquered many demons on the course.
Starting the slog back to the cars, Richard Swann leaned out of his mini-van and said “We think you got it!” He had been on course doing time splits and if anyone knew, he would. But I wouldn’t let it sink in. I didn’t want to believe it was real, or that it was wrong. Just pedal back, get your recovery food, and wait for the boys.
I won. By 6 seconds. Not even a bull ride at the rodeo separated 1st and 2nd place. Ruth Clemence has always beat me on traditional time trial courses, but the gap between us has been coming down to a handful of seconds. Being the champion that she is, she gave me a hug and congratulated me on work well done.
I was very confident in my training, preparation and effort, yet it was very hard to believe that I had won the championship jersey. My teammates were ecstatic for my victory, as they know how much I have committed to the challenge over the past 10 months. The intrinsic reward for achieving a goal is so high, and something I will cherish for a lifetime. The tutalage Paul has offered me has been invaluable to my success which is truly rooted in an increase in my confidence and self-belief.
I am beyond humbled to be the CA/NV Time Trial Champion, and CA/NV Criterium Champion. It seems surreal that less than a year ago I was questioning my ability to be a bike racer and to win races at all, let alone the ones that counted. I hope that I can represent these jersey’s adequately and be able to give back to the peloton that has given me so much.
I can’t wait to talk to the next junior, newbie, or seasoned cyclist about racing, achieving goals and making it happen. Thank you to everyone for the high-fives, congratulations, and messages of support and excitement in my success. I truly am having the time of my life.
Thank you KHS, Maxxis, JAKROO Custom Apparel, Shimano, Serfas, Hammer Nutrition, Rudy Project, IRT Wheels, Xpedo, Velo Saddles, Praxis Works, Rennie & Associates, Q2, Bike Religion, Chamois Butter, WD-40 Bike, Bicycle Blue Book and the Management of IPA sports.
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