August 28, 2016 (West Chester PA) – Last weekend our team attended the last event of the USA crit series called The Iron Hill Twilight held in West Chester Pennsylvania. After a full season of racing criteriums in the US our team was sitting 3rd overall in the team standings and I was 5th overall in the individual standings.
A solid result meant the 4th place team couldn’t over take us on the final day. In the individual competition I was only 7 points behind the 4th place rider but over 100 behind 3rd place. I needed the race of my life to pull into 3rd, it was nearly impossible mathematically but I wanted that final podium spot.
The race began and I was at the front getting in moves and animating things early but five mins in I knew I was in trouble as I just didn’t have the legs I have enjoyed most of the season. I was breathing like a fat kid and when I pressed harder on the pedals there just wasn’t anything more there. Things were about to get ugly. Another issue….I was having problems with the course. There was this one off-camber corner that I just could not master.
Most were having problems with it but I was really screwing this one up. Lap after lap I had to jam out of the corner closing gaps. This is all bad, and like I said earlier, things were about to get ugly. As the race went on I slowly started to lose positions. A call up to start the race had me top 5 the first few laps, but soon after I was riding top 10. A few laps more top 15, then top 20 and so on. Every lap it felt like I was dropping back a place or two. I watched as my teammates moved in front of me helpless. I was drifting back, tapped out and struggling in the worst way.
This went on for the first hour to 70 mins – 185 average HR backed up everything I was experiencing. I wanted to quit. Pain with minimal hope. Getting 40th or worse wasn’t going to advance me or the team in the standings but not finishing might contribute to us even losing a spot. I thought a lot about the tough talk I give all of my team-mates including the athletes I coach. How could I possibly pull out and not see this race through?
My teammates tried to pull me back into position but I was so far back and just dying a slow death. They knew I wasn’t myself but they still believed if I could just get closer to the front we could save this race and everything would be alright. I followed and tried my best to advance with them. Then it happened. With about 12 laps to go coming out of the off-camber-disaster corner a rider over-cooked it sitting mid-to-back of the pack and clipped his bars on the barriers causing a crash.
He slammed down hard right in front of me I went right into him and over my handle bars. Anton [Varabei] my teammate did the same. We both went down launching right over this fallen rider. Like a cat Anton luckily landed on his feet. I got it a bit worse but was lucky to not be hurt too bad. My bike was ok but it took me awhile to regain my composure. Anton ran back to the pit with a flat tire. I got up slowly and rode towards the pit. In a daze riding alone on the start-finish straight I rode into the barrier and fell for the second time.
Embarrassed and now with a bloody knuckle I watched the group whizz by me at 50 km an hour. I got myself up and thought what else could possibly go wrong. Once in the pit I connected with Anton and we got ourselves ready to finish this race like we both know we could. We needed to try our best to salvage things. With a big push we were back in the race. The two-lap breather and a solid hit of adrenaline had us both advancing through the field towards the front. Anton took the lead and worked me little by little through the field.
The final few laps weren’t pretty but working together we managed to finish a pretty respectable 11th and 12th place out of the 105 riders that took the start. Respectable but not good enough to advance in the standings. We re-grouped as a team behind the podium to hug, share and reflect on the battle we all had just endured. Ice cold towels and cokes all around for this shattered bunch. I sat on the pavement in shell shock blown away with the hell we were all just put through.
There was nothing enjoyable about that race. I was just beyond happy it was over. I wondered “why do I do this to myself?” Then I heard the announcer calling my name to come to the podium. No one said anything to me and I had no idea what had happened.
The 4th place rider Eamon Lucas was part of his team’s lead out train and pulled off once his work was done, and then I heard the rider that went into the barriers and crashed with us was Ben Rykema, the rider who was sitting 3rd overall in the standings. He didn’t get back into the race. Meaning finishing 12th moved me to 3rd overall!!!!!
I enjoyed the podium celebration with fellow Canadian Ryan Aitcheson who won the USA Crit series overall and then got to enjoy a second podium celebration with the entire RealDeal/D’Ornellas p/b Garneau squad as our result secured 3rd overall in the team standings as well. Ben was ok and joined his team on the podium with us. His team finished ahead of us taking 2nd place and we shook hands to celebrate a very tough season of crit racing.
Podium celebration video here.
Big thanks again to my teammates. It is amazing what we have achieved together this year. We have all needed to lean on each other this season to get through it and I’m thankful to be able to share all of these wonderful experiences with such a killer group of people. It is a very special group – the hashtag #dreamseason says it all.
I hope you enjoyed the write up. Please make sure to take away a few things from it. Shit happens, never give up and you can accomplish way more together than alone. Thanks for reading.
REAL DEAL RACING
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