Well, first and foremost, after my spell of bad luck and crashing, I finished this race upright, like a normal person. So, if nothing else, I at least managed to shake that monkey off my back.
However, it wasn't until today's race that I realized the hit my confidence has taken. As EventServices would say, I still don't know how to win a bike race, and today I really, REALLY didn't know how to win a bike race.
This race was way up in northern MD, over an hour from home for me. This resulted in a paltry turnout from my usually rollin' deep team, but I was happy to see Clifton, aged 50 but pretty damn fast, in my race. The course was 1.08 km long, with a gradual uphill and a sweeping right leading to a 40-foot "kicker," then a gentle descent into a rough but wide 90-degree right, and a fast false flat/slight descent to a gradual uphill finish.
So, knowing that starting position was going to be important, I got to the line early, but people were still taking warmup laps. I figured "meh, I'll take one more too." Of course, I find 40 guys lined up when I come around the next time.
The course itself was actually more challenging than it had been billed. The group bunched up a bit on the hill but then got strung back out on the descent and into the hard turn, only to bunch back up. Clifton and I both were uncertain about how we were feeling, but with 10 laps to go we're both feeling pretty good, and the course/pace have whittled the pack down from 65 to around 35. We're both sitting pretty in the top 10, and we're thinking strategy. We decide that a 1-man leadout isn't much so we'll just sprint on our own.
Unfortunately, the prime bell rings with 3 laps to go, and the pace quickens. On this lap I let a gap open up that I thought wouldn't last over the hill, and learn that I was wrong. I end up having to chase all the way to the 90, at which point I bomb through the turn with no brakes and find myself back on the pack, even picking up a couple spots. On the next 2 laps I just can't make a move. I tried on the hill and there was nowhere to go. I tried in the 90 and took it a little wide, almost ending up in the dirt and losing some more ground. I hammer to get back into it and my legs are screaming. The bell lap slowed things down a bit, but I still found myself hanging on the back with nowhere to go. I try to make a move in the turn to no avail. I hammer it out and pick up a few more places to finish mid-pack. I learned that any short steep hill is bad when you climb it 32 times.
I really don't know how to win a race. The legs were there, but the brain was not. Maybe it's the jet lag and large amount of drinking I did while I was off the bike and out of town. Maybe it was just bad luck. But mainly, I think that my confidence really took a hit from my "2 races, 2 crashes" streak.
It was too little too late for today, but by the end of the race I was back to making aggressive moves and getting my bike handling back, so I feel like my brain recovered a bit. We'll see what happens at the Greenbelt race on Wed and the next crit on Sunday... I'm going to a wedding in FL on saturday afternoon and flying back early on Sunday, so it'll be a time crunch to make it to the race...
Props to *new* guy for a top 10 finish today... While my legs felt good, his clearly felt better.