Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Season's Ending

It's hard for me to believe this, but all things point to the fact that I only have one race to go for the 2011 season. It is incredible for me to believe that this is the ending of my second year as a pro cyclist. It seems like only a few months ago I was proposing to Lisa on a ski hill in Minnesota. And in reality, that was over 2.5 years ago, and I have now been married for over 1.5 years! Yikes, where does the time go, seriously!

So let's talk about the two recent races. I went to France for Paris Bourges on Thursday and Paris Tours on Sunday. Going into these races, I was really uncertain of my condition, and I was struggling to find the proper motivation. It was in the last week of training before Paris Bourges that I did some self-reflection and came to the conclusion that I needed to shut off my SRM and just ride. So that's what I did, and I had some great training just enjoying being on my bike and doing whatever I wanted; nothing structured. And on Thursday in Paris Bourges, I had confidence and motivation to stick myself in the action.

The conditions for Paris Bourges couldn't have been much more dangerous. It was lightly misting/drizzling for the start, so the oil/dirt on the roads was at its peak. We started full gas, and I was incredibly nervous because the roads looked like ice. The asphalt was worn away to the point that it was mostly just the tar remaining. It shimmered in the wetness and passed at an uncomfortable 50+kmh. It didn't take very long for the first crash to happen; although it was in a weird spot at the crest of a small hill. I narrowly avoided that going off into the grass for a few meters. Then it was maybe another 20km and another crash in a slight left hand corner. I was in the front of the field, and we were spread shoulder to shoulder on the road. It was nothing short of a miracle that I didn't go down because the guys on all sides of me went down; literally the guys I was shoulder to shoulder with hit the deck, and I kept my cool, didn't slam the brakes and made it through. I was thanking my lucky stars at that point.

The race was full gas all day because a break of about 12 guys went up the road, and one or two of the French teams missed the break; not good for them in a French race! We had Geoffroy in there, so our situation was good. As I said, the race went full throttle all day. At one point, we were maybe 10 seconds behind the break, but all the sudden we sat up, and they went away again! I rode attentive in the field all day knowing there was a point where the race would definitely get harder. As expected, the full gas turned to attacking over full gas at the exact point I predicted. I followed as best I could making it into the lead group of about 15, that swelled to about 50 after a regrouping. Then on the next climb, I followed some moves and made it into the chase group of about 10. I had Geoffroy up the road, so I didn't want to pull hard, but I also knew that getting myself up to him was advantageous. Our group chased and caught the fallout from the breakaway; however, we were not gaining time on the 6 leaders, so we sat up. It seemed clear at that time the break was going to make it. The peloton regrouped to about 60/70 guys though, and a violent chase ensued. I was actually dropped at one point, but managed to chase back in.

We caught the remaining breakaway (Geoffroy included) about 1200 meters from the finish. It was painful to witness for two reasons. The first was that Geoffroy was so close to winning the race. The second was the carnage I witnessed in corner before the last kilometer banner; the same moment the break was being caught. I was cruising the rear of the field at this point because I wasn't interested in contesting a wet, twisty final with a huge chance for crashing. As I suspected might happen, some guys went way hot into the corner and a big pile up happened. As I came through the corner, I saw Manuel and Ben laying in a big mass of guys, and about 20 meters after them, Geoffroy was laying on the road. It was unbelievable really. At the end of the day, we had 6 of our 8 guys crash: one broken ankle, one dislocated shoulder, one injured too badly to race Paris Tours. I was so very happy to cross the line in one piece, and I was also very happy to know I had raced well and gained confidence that my form was good.

Sunday brought Paris Tours. It started with a little rain and a lot of wind. This race is notorious for the crosswind explosions, so I tried to ready myself for the fight. I was lacking the motivation to play shoulder bumping though, so when the pivotal moments came, I was too far back and couldn't fight hard enough to make the selection. I did finish the whole race, but I of course feel disappointed about not being at least in the selection. The good I can take from the race is that I felt a confirmation that my condition is good despite missing the split. That provides me with confidence as I look to this weekend and Lombardia. I hope for better weather than last year, and I hope my form builds from the last two races to put me in the lead group in the end. I'll do the best I can to finish the season on a high note.

1 comment:

Scott K said...

Would love to see you hammer this one home Matt! We will hope for good weather and dry roads. Best of Luck!