Well, that’s not how it’s supposed to go, but sometimes that’s bike racing. In the days leading up to the race, I spent a lot of time scoping out some passing lines. I looked for places that I could make some moves. I knew that it would be a fight to move up the whole race, but I still never would have anticipated just how much.
I was the 78th rider called to the line. That’s the 9th row. That’s 78 people in front of me that could make a mistake and I had to be ready to adapt and overcome. It’s so far back that I cannot even see the start light. (We start the race when the light turns green, rather than when a gun goes off).
They announced, “We will start anytime in the next 15 seconds.” My eyes were fixed ahead, waiting to see movement at the front of the group. And we were off, I was slowly creeping off of the line, with my eyes still forward trying to anticipate every moment.
Then right in front of me, a girl went down. I saw it and was able to adapt. I moved right and I kept moving right. I felt like I was avoiding all of the chaos around me, until…a girl ran straight into me. Her pedal became tangled up in the spokes of my wheel and we came to a complete halt. She appeared to be in a bit of panic mode as she continued to yank her bike forward, bending and mangling my spokes with every aggressive pull. She was making it worse. I finally yelled, “Stop!” I think it startled her and she paused for a moment to look back at me. I leaned over, reached down and pulled her pedal out of my spoke. I looked back up and the pack was already up the road. Nothing like giving everyone at the World Cup a 10 second head start. When I hit the first corner, I was dead last. I was 104th.
This isn’t how it’s supposed to go. I couldn’t help but feel that way as I waited in line to enter the single track still tragically far back in the pack. I quickly pushed the thought out of my head and realized that today would be more than physical adaptation, it would be mental as well.
There was no point in lamenting the start, but there was a lot I could try to change in the next 90 minutes. I burned a lot of matches executing passing, sprinting around on the inside of corners, trying to sneak by riders when they couldn’t block me in. I also spent a lot of time waiting in line at the single track, and hiking up the single track in a line of riders behind someone who had made a mistake. Adapt. Adapt. Adapt.
I kept pushing forward. I knew that my place in the finish wouldn’t represent the rider that I am, but I knew that every place mattered nevertheless.
In the first few laps of the race I passed a lot of riders and there is a huge physical and mental and emotional toll that that takes. By the final laps, my body was aching and I was suffering just as much, if not more than I would be if I was in a position that I deemed ‘respectable’ or within my goal range. I laid it all out on the table on a day where the chips were stacked against me. I’m disappoint in the result, but I have no choice but to be proud of the fact that I never gave up. I finished in 69th position. Nowhere near where I had planned, but a lot further up than that 104th where I turned the first corner.
Onward and upward! One of the hardest things to do as an athlete is move from one race to the next picking and choosing what pieces to carry with you. I choose to carry with me the fight, but the rest I will leave behind. It’s all smiles heading into the official Olympic Qualifier in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.