Opening weekend: Tidewater Classic & Cavalier Crit

Alright! Things are happening! Here’s where my head’s at a week or so after the season’s start.

In preparing for a race, I’m often of two minds:

  1. I want to win so very badly
  2. I just want to ride a race I can be proud of.

I admit that it is a fool’s errand to want to win every race you enter. It is particularly foolish if you’re a beginner. But why bother signing up and racing if the goal isn’t to win?

Then I’ll often consider that there’s nothing wrong with losing a race, the important thing is to enjoy it and race enthusiastically. Even if I go out in a blaze of glory on a short-lived solo attack, that’s totally fine. It’s fun to roll the dice, even if your odds aren’t good. It’s fun to turn yourself inside out to help a teammate get a result.

Anyway, the season properly started last weekend.

The William & MaryTidewater Classic is a ~40 mile circuit with an uphill finish into York River State Park. Out representing Sweet Spot was Mike King, Neil Etheridge, Jason Walters and myself. 

Before the race, we caught up with the Carytown Bicycle Co. race team, who made the short drive east as well.

We all agreed it’d be wise for our teams to work together throughout the race, on the shared agreement that all bets are off in the finish. Our teams were some of the only ones from Richmond, we train together on the weekends pretty often, and with about 8 strong riders between us, we thought we could make sure we were all in good positions.

Mike is by far the most experienced of us and it showed. He did all the little things, like point out guys who might be crash-prone and remind us when to have an energy bar or gel. He was basically our road captain. For Sweet Spot, the idea was to maybe send someone up the road in a breakaway, but mostly try to line up Neil or I for a sprint finish. 

With about 10 miles to go, I was flicking through my gears on one of the circuit’s short climbs when my chain fell off. I immediately dismounted and feverishly tried to throw it back on the rings, all while counting the seconds I’d have to make up to regain contact.

In that moment, with grease on my fingers and other riders passing me on the side of the road, I was accepting I probably wasn’t going to have a chance to win. To just regain contact with the peloton I’d have to burn a huge amount of energy, and long sustained efforts are not my strong suit.

I got back on the bike and as I put my foot through the pedal to take off again, my rear derailleur snapped completely off. My race was over.

Ain’t much interesting to say about it other than: it sucked.

It sucks to pay the $40 to register, wake up early, shove oatmeal and espresso into your moth, drive out to Williamsburg, go over tactics with the team and have most of it be going according to plan, only to have a mechanical issue take you out of the race. It sucks. It sucks to be out a couple hundred bucks to have your bike repaired.

And it really sucked to not have a chance to roll the dice. Neil’s in fantastic form right now and I’d have loved to be his leadout, but I was walking back with my bike over my shoulder as the peloton passed me heading for the finish.

I caught up with the team after the race and they said the finish was absolute chaos, with Mike and Neil finishing somewhere in the top 20.

After getting back to Richmond, it was quickly determined that my Ultralight wasn’t going to be ready in time for Sunday’s race. I spent the afternoon whining and pouting and even considering not racing Sunday.

But I turned to my old Cannondale which had been relegated to commuting duties ever since I got my Ultralight. It’s a great bike, but does not compare in terms of performance.

But any port in a storm, right?

The Cavalier Crit was super technical with 8 serpentining turns and a U-turn around a roundabout, all of which were made even dicier by the fact it’d been raining practically all day.

I went into the race having effectively nothing to lose. I just wanted to finish a damn race after the way Snowcone and the Tidewater Classic went. It was only Jason and I there representing Sweet Spot, and our strategy was basically to fudge it.

Since it was a small field of about 20, I liked my odds to finish top-10. I think getting too caught up in tactics and strategy can really take the fun out of racing, and it was great to let loose after being disciplined on Saturday.

The race was an absolute blast. Tons of people launched attacks and we all took turns at the front chasing them down. We all pushed the limits of our bikes as we screamed around wet, tight corners and powered up a short climb in the middle of the course.

With a lap to go, a guy (whose name I didn’t get) went off the front and built a solid 10-second gap. We were all too cooked from playing Calvinball the entire race to catch him, but I was able to sprint to second place. It felt great to finish a race, even better to finish on the podium.

All in all, it was fun to spend a whole weekend racing, especially in some unfamiliar places. We didn’t get the results we hoped it for, but we got the early-season jitters out and most importantly, kept the rubber side down.

Next on the calendar is the Shamrock Crit Saturday in Virginia Beach, with the Sleepy Hole Crit in Suffolk the day after.

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