Sunday, June 26, 2011

2011 Road Nationals

The National championship is a really big deal.  There is allot of honour in this race, and it demands your respect.  If you win this race it will immortalize you.  For the rest of your life you are a National Champion.  There is a lot of weight, focus and pressure placed on this one day.  In my last year as an Under23 racer I was here to validate my strengths.  Unfortunately I did not do enough to control my own destiny.

I am proud of my Time Trial result.  To place 16th in the country is no disappointment.  I managed my strengths for 45km, a distance that few can master in a solo effort.  Thursday was good, but I would rather forget the rest of this weekend.   I raced only ¼ of the intended distances.  I showed neither strength nor weakness, only poor execution.

On Saturday, in the Road Race, I knew exactly what must be done.  The roads were narrow and the pace would be very high on the flats.  There was one climb each lap, very narrow with 20% grades.  With over 150 starters it was absolutely critical to maintain a good position at the front of the peloton.  As soon as the race started I stuck right into the front 20 riders.  I was amongst the likes of Meir, Tuft, Britton, Rollin.  I was in the right place. As we approach the base of the climb a moments lapse into passivity and I have given away 20 positions.  Now I am in a position where the mistakes of others will reveal my own.

We ascend the climb like a box of sardines, with hardly room enough to turn your pedals.  There are accidents in front of me.  Some people crash, someone breaks a chain or pedal, others just go to slow. Each time by my own fault I am losing ground.  At times we are almost standing still and I am literally spinning my tires.  I have slipped behind weaker riders; there are gaps over the top of the climb.  We chase but the time between us and the leaders hopelessly balloons.  After 50km I leave for the showers.  I did not do what needed to be done.

On Sunday is a criterium.  It is not a UCI sanctioned event but is none the less a National Championship.  This race has earned the nickname “The Nationals Revenge Criterium”.  Revenge is what I was after.  I was fresher than most of the peloton and again Knew exactly where I fit amongst them.  The course is very technical with two punchy humps.  No matter what the outcome of the race I am motivated to show my face amongst the leaders.  Little did I know, I am lined up for what is likely to be my most anticlimactic race this year.

I made sure to be on the start line just behind the call ups.  I was ready to defend my space or die trying.  When the gun went off I rode 100m on a flat tire.  I went to the service pit and exchanged for a fresh wheel.  The race went hard from the gun and was in a long single line.  I was released near the middle, but the peloton resembled the fragments of a hand grenade.  Almost 75% of the field did not survive the first two laps.  I rode in vain for 15minutes; jumping from group to group until the commissars informed me we would be lapped and needed to pull out.

My time as an Under 23 has finished.  There really isn`t another chance next year.  Next year everything will be different, but somehow the same.  The Under 23`s have never raced separately, just a race within a race.  Next year I will be racing against all the same competitors.  What I want as a senior athlete is the same as an Espoir.  I want to be a bike racer. 

 I need to have greater control over my own destiny and make my own luck.  I need to do, what needs to be done.

Cuylar Conly

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