Bicycle racing is a funny thing.
The beauty, to me, is actually in what comes before the race. Sometimes you feel shitty waking up. You close your eyes 3 hours too late, sleep fitfully and wake up 4 hours too early, before the sun, to prepare yourself to face incredible competition and pain without the promise of winning or even any return.
You do this because, after a while, it becomes intrinsically fun, and impossible to explain why so to anyone who hasn’t done it.
You get used to the routine, the ritual; making sure you get a good meal the night before, your shoes are in the right place and your clothes are clean. Eating a proper breakfast, meticulously going over your bike with the utmost care, making sure it’s spotless and working perfectly mechanically. I suspect half the race is the preparation for it, and as good as you think you’ve got the process down, there will always be something you forget, miss, or realize you needed afterwards. And you never feel one hundred percent ready for the race once you’re standing at that starting line. It’s just the nature of the sport.
Once you’re standing in the starting bunch, in the slow seconds before the sound of the starting whistle, all the preparation you did, all the mental psyching-out you gave yourself fades away, and you’re left with your legs, the road and the racers around you.
There are moments in a bike race that happen in slow motion, and replay in your mind. A slide-out crash you barely avoid in a hard corner. The wind whistling past, and the sound of dozens of freewheels all sounding at once through a turn. A moment of feeling perfectly in tune with the machine. All these are accompanied with the nervosa of being in a bike race, and realizing that the person who punishes everyone else sets the pace. You’ve got to have your wits about you.
The Boulevard Road Race, held near the border of San Diego’s outlands and the California / Mexico Border, is a popular road race that has been held at the beginning of February for a number of years. This was the first road race for 6 of our team members, and one of the first races we have all done together. Road races are more uncommon than criteriums in Southern California, so we took our chances, not having experienced one before.
It was brutal. High winds, heavy gradients and a pelting sun, along with a 5000′ altitude splintered the field. Climbing uphill against gusts crushed the wills of many riders, causing a number to opt out of even doing a second lap. 25 miles into the 45 mile ride, our team had gone from solid and frosty to Alexis involved in a crash, Gabriel and Beto flatted out on the road and the remainder of the team, Pedro, Andrew and Aaron strung out, riding individually solo through the course. It was a disappointing day for the team, but thankfully aside from some scuffs, none of us are seriously injured, save our egos!
We all learned today, about teamwork, strength and just how far we have to go. If anything, failure is one of the strongest motivators – but I don’t think we failed today. We learned, and now that we have a goal to shoot for as a team, we will be approaching our race training with even more dedication than before. It’s a constant process. Most importantly, we had fun racing as a team for the first time. That’s really the best thing about it.