Little Nate’s First Big Race
As the groupetto slogged to the finish line a twelfth and final time, some 15 some-odd minutes after the winner, a collective sigh of relief breathed forth from the mass of thirteen or so cyclists. We were haggard, not unlike a group of freshly-captured POWs arriving behind enemy lines. Beaten by the harrowing elements and competition; some riders bloody, some bruised, the mood was one of grim relief.
Momentarily I wandered the desolate industrial park, unable to recall the route I’d taken to get to the course from the team van. The white Italian steed I’d managed to pilot into the pavement twice was pockmarked with wounds, and every limb on my weary body was missing some of its protective outer tissue.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the remnants of the haphazard team paddock, and salvation in the form of a Ford E350 van wrapped in Competitive Cyclist sponsor logos. It was only upon clambering in and attempting to destroy a ham sandwich like a ravenous animal that I realized how hypothermic the 40-degree rains had left me. The pain of my injuries began to set in, and rivulets of blood, freed by the slight increase in body temperature, began to run down my limbs.
The van rolled through the storm to our week-long home, an hour distant. I began to change from my torn kit, carefully peeling the shredded lycra from rent skin. I was distracted for an instant by the mental blow levied by the race. Staring off into the vast suburban wasteland of the greater Los Angeles basin, my mind visited upon my own feelings of uncertainty. The initial sting of failure, failure to perform for my team and myself, was rippling through my consciousness, damaging the inherent focus so vital to doing my job.
It would take a number of hours before the return of a past-learned realization: Effectively coping with a miserable day (or days, in this case) in a race is a key skill to riding successfully again. Losing – not just at the line, but by a massive margin, can pummel even the bravest of psyche. Allowing the discontent of failure to seep into the cracks left behind by the shock of a poor performance was not a choice I could live with.
In short, the ever-eloquent Eminem summed it up best.
“Success is my only motherf*cking option, failure’s not.”