31 May 2006


I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this past weekend and my performance in the races. That, of course, has led to a lot of thinking about my performance in general, and where I’m at at this point in my career. And I’ve come to a very important realization: I’m insecure.

Not only am I insecure, I take myself way too seriously. That’s a deadly combination in a sport as hard as bike racing, and is a clear recipe for burnout. Thus far I’ve been relatively lucky to avoid that fate (mostly), but I’ve come close to hanging it up on more than one occasion …

On the way home Monday, Andy and I were talking about the local peloton and the people we race against. I consider myself a “tier two” rider – able to place in (and sometimes win) local events, and every once in a while pull out a big result in a larger regional race. The Midwest has a lot of “tier one” riders capable of winning regional events and placing nationally, and even more “tier two” folks like me, fighting for the money spots and minor placings at races like Snakey Alley and Quad Cities.

I find myself judging my results against the tier one guys, as I should – those are the guys I race against. My problem, though, is that I don’t race up to my potential – other tier two guys on the same “level” as me, or even a bit below, somehow manage to sneak into the results while I find myself listed on page 2 or 3, if at all. It’s not because I don’t know how to race – the results I have confirm that I’m not that bad – I think it’s because I’m insecure.

How else to you explain going off the front at Monsters only to sit anonymously midpack at Willy the next day? Or why, at both Melon City and Quad Cities, I just let myself get swallowed up after a great start, getting passed by other tier two and even some tier three guys? I had great legs on Monday, and I’m not sure I ever even breathed hard the entire race – but for some reason, I just didn’t fight it out. And if you look at my race resume, you see that over and over.

The events I “don’t care” about are the ones I do well in. The ones where there is no pressure, and no teammates or director to watch and tell me what to do, or at the very least don’t have any expectations for me. At Proctor last year, I flat-out told Steve that I wasn’t going to ‘race’ in the crit, I was just going to roll around. I ended up in the winning break. This year at GDVC, I was just there to have fun. At Monsters, I was there for a workout.

On the other hand, when Gary or Steve or Robert or anyone tells me it’s “my day,” or that “this is a big team day,” I inevitably screw it up. I can’t say that I choke – I don’t think it’s so dramatic as that – but for some reason I get into some sort of survival mode, and try so hard not to do anything wrong that I mess up what chances I have.

That’s why everyone knows I screwed up my back on Monday. You never see Raby or Tilford or even Crater on the ground, icing an injury during a race. But when I pulled out, I did it dramatically – I wanted Gary and everyone to know that I wasn’t dropping because I was out of shape. I have a history of such actions, and I really think it all stems from insecurity. I don’t want to disappoint, so I have to make sure there’s an excuse. And in the end, it doesn’t really matter, does it? I still didn’t finish the race, even if my legs felt fine.

Ultimately, I put enough pressure on myself that I don’t need anyone else to do it for me. So I’m going to turn it off – the first phase of my road season is winding down, so at the Wisconsin State RR in two weeks, I’m just going to go and get in a good workout. Maybe play off the front for a bit. If I finish or don’t, who cares? I’ve been around long enough, and am strong enough, that just finishing a race isn’t an objective anymore. I need to do something, and do it for kicks. Just to see if it can be done.

And when I come back, and am racing again, I’ll let it all just flow. I can’t care as much as I do, or I will crack. It happened last year, and I’ve still got some lingering emotions from that. I can’t let it happen again. The great thing is, once ‘cross starts, I’m on my own, no expectations and no history. That’s when the fun really begins.



chiefhiawatha said...

As someone who rides with you and knows you, I agree completely with your self-characterization.

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