That Moment In The Race
The Ladoga Road Race is deceptively hard. Only 84 miles and with only ~3,000 ft of climbing, on paper the race doesn't come across as too much of a beast. One major factor that makes this race such challenge is the Californian mid-summer heat. I say this as I try to explain my performance in the race. With my team's support I managed second place, but it's more how that second place came about that sticks in the mind. In total, ~70 miles off the front, with the last 35 being faced with just me and one other breakaway rider but instead of the win, the second step on the podium was the best I could muster.
There comes a point in the break (and, too, in the field sometimes) where you go from feeling chipper to having the first seed of doubt. I don't mean negative thoughts about how your competitors are better than you and how you couldn't ever possibly win, but that first glimpse of going from feeling powerful, on-point, strong- to suddenly realising that actually, I'm starting to feel this. The point where you start to get tired.
The race unfolded with my teammates and I making what turned out to be the winning break at mile 15. At mile 45 after a lot of work we hit the major obstacle of the race: a 15 minute climb. I took the opportunity to push the pace on the climb which served to jettison all but one remaining rider from the break. The next ~30 miles we were alone together out front, before multiple attacks by my break companion jettisoned me. The first I was able to respond to, but the second was enough to do for me, allowing him to get a gap and ride the last 7 miles alone, with me coming in behind, unable to close and compete for the win on the line.
That moment in the race, where your effortless, high cadence spin gets a little slower. That moment in the race where your computer used to be telling you surprisingly big numbers: 340, 350, 370 w, but now, under labour, starts to read only 290 or 310 w. That moment in the race where you get a flick to send you through to your turn on the front, but instead of reacting immediately with purpose, your response is drawn-out. Your response is noticeably delayed, not from idleness or lack of desire, but from the fact that as your face hits the wind your legs are feeling the extra resistance. With 15 miles to go at Ladoga, I had that moment. I'd felt strong all race. I'd contributed whole-heartedly where I was supposed to and in just a matter of a few miles had gone from knowing I could win to trying to decipher a code that would enable me to unlock victory as the not strongest rider in the break. I never managed to crack the code.
It happens, cycling is an endurance sport and the higher-level competition is not only massive in length and elevation gain, but also raced fast- especially in the break. Training, nutrition and race experience can delay, or maybe put-off entirely that moment. Or, sometimes they can't. Either way, that moment is what makes the winner. That moment is what makes the losers. Can you ever totally avoid that moment? I'm not sure; I'll work on it. One thing is for sure, I have no regrets: all in, full gas, 70 miles out front: - a fantastic way to race.