Closing Out 2015, with Joy McCulloch

Goal setting is tricky business. Last winter, my coach Paul and I outlined my cycling and racing goals for the 2015 season which in turn, focused and streamlined the specificity of my training and racing. As with most goals, however, we had to push the ‘reset’ button several times through out the season. With the canceling of the Nature Valley Grand Prix NRC Women’s Race held in June, I was left demotivated and frustrated with what to do with the remainder of my season.

I came to the conclusion that spending more time at home building my coaching business, with a few opportunities to race while visit family, would be the best way forward for the remainder of 2015. This kept me off of the road traveling and racing, and allowed me to focus on a secondary goal I had put on my list back in December. Winning the SoCal Cup Overall Series.

Photo Credit: Danny Munson

Photo Credit: Danny Munson

The series lasts all season long and runs in an omnium format, which means points are earned at specific races between January and August 30th. In 2014, I was fortunate enough to win the overall title and although it doesn’t come with much fanfare, I was very satisfied having laid out a goal, stuck to the plan, and executed consistently for 8 months, in order to win. This year, I was coming from way behind, having had my sights on out of state racing until the tides turned. We analyzed my odds with the points tallied and committed to giving the overall win another solid shot. Week in and week out, I focused my race strategy on steadily chipping away at my deficit and although my results were not off the charts, they were solid and constant, putting me in the points lead in early August. As the heat began to rise and the racers began to fade from the start lines, my lead was solid. Yet I needed to maintain a consistent presence at the races and earn respectable results to hold it through the final race at CBR on August 30th.

After what seemed like forever, Brian and I arrived at the final CBR race pumped and ready to rock. We have been training in morbid heat for weeks and I was excited to try my fresh legs on one of my favorite courses. As the heat ratcheted up to the 90s, I filled my bottles and took to the course to preview the wind direction, then head back to chat with coach Paul one last time to solidify our game plan.

I was racing solely for the SoCal Cup overall win. I had 108 points, Pam Schuster was close with 100. With both of us racing, I knew that my #1 job was to stay with Pam. If I finished near her, I could hold onto the overall.

Photo Credit: Danny Munson

Photo Credit: Danny Munson

My usual tactics would be to race hard, from the front, launch attack after attack, especially since there was a whopping $1,100 in primes alone up for grabs. However, my presence in the race lulls my competitors into not racing hard, as they look to Pam and me to create the animation in the race. Unfortunately for them, I was OK with solo riders going off the front, as I had my focus on one goal. My fear was had I attacked, the only person willing to counter attack me was Pam, putting me in a sticky situation being forced to cover her move, eventually putting me on the back foot. Racing conservatively is very mentally challenging for me, especially when my legs are fresh and asking to be unleashed.

Through out the 50 minutes of racing, I stuck to our plan and avoided my knee-jerk reaction to bridge to the solo move up the road or attack Pam. “Be patient, be confident, be committed to the plan.” These were my thoughts the whole time, culminating as I was coming into the final turn. I came out of it a bit too hot and not on the wheels I wanted to be on, and as I slightly hesitated my pedal stroke, enough slack was made in my chain and WHAM it fell off to the inside. Gah! Seriously? “Stick to the plan. Stay with Pam. Stay as close to Pam as possible!” I sprinted as hard as I could in my baby ring to finish 10th, just a few spots behind Pam. With my heart rate pinned, I calmed down and reminded myself I had executed the plan perfectly, I saved the finish and was able to achieve the number one goal for the day, which was to stay with Pam and maintain the point spread.

Or so I thought…As the ladies gathered for awards and podium, I noticed Pam was paying extra close attention to her phone, a USAC official and some papers. Instinctively, I grabbed my phone and checked out the SCNCA website where the points are tallied for the SoCal Cup Series. I had checked it several times after the Ontario Final which was the most recent race in the series. The points had been added, I was still in the lead, so I left it be.

Photo Credit: Danny Munson

Photo Credit: Danny Munson

Now looking at my phone screen while I sat on the 100 degree curb, I saw something I hadn’t seen all season: 1st – Pam Schuster 112 Pt; 2nd – Joy McCulloch 108 Pts. What!? Where did these points come from? When were they added? I joined the huddle around the rule book to investigate and all parties agreed that 12 points had been added to Pam’s total within the last week. Our belief was that these points were from the 805 Criterium weekend. In June. This meant that for the past 2.5 months, I had been racing with a deck of cards I believed to be valid and true. Come to find out, I had the completely wrong hand. If I had known about the 12 points when they were received in June, I would have raced each and every one of the races between then and now extremely differently.

I learned long ago to be gracious in victory, as well as in defeat. But man that stings. I don’t mind getting beat, I lose all the time and I understand it is part of the process. But not having the opportunity to race in a fashion to give myself the best fighting shot of the overall win, was very disappointing.

But you know what? I totally won. I won because I learned to trust myself, my coach, my team and my sponsors. I learned to resist the urge to dash after the “shiny penny” that distracts me from goals. And I also learned that I am capable of setting a plan, a goal, and a path to reach it successfully. I allowed myself 24 hours to be upset, discouraged, hurt and disappointed about my situation. During that window I was on a 5 hour plane trip to Hawaii where I had ample time to journal about my season. I scribbled down my feelings of anger, my excitement, the letdowns, the elation of success, as well as what  I was looking for on the bike. Before the plane landed, I closed the journal and wrapped the rubber band around it to seal it tight.

This week you can find me on the beach in Kauai with my rad husband and my ever supportive parents. Life is good. Actually, life is great! I am thankful for another successful and safe racing season with the KHS-Maxxis-JLVelo Cycling Team, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my teammates and sponsors. Thank you!


Thank you to our sponsors: KHS Bicycles, Maxxis Tires, JLVelo, Serfas, Shimano, Velo Saddles, Praxis Works, Xpedo Pedals, Kali Protectives, NDXSports, Bike Religion, Bicycle Blue Book, WD-40 BIKE, Chamois Butt’r, Cycling Illustrated, Rennie & Associates, Kramp Krushers, Ultra Cycle, and Q2.

Follow the team on social media –

Facebook: KHS-Maxxis-JLVelo

Twitter: @iPA_Sports

Instagram: @ipasports

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