Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tour of Murrieta - Perspective

For me, Murrieta was an experience in mental adversity much more than physical adversity. Things got off to a reasonably wild start on Saturday's Criterium. I've never done this race before. All I've ever heard about it is that there tend to be a fair number of crashes, especially in the second corner where things narrow down from a couple lanes wide to a single narrow lane. In category 4 races where things never seem to get strung right out you can quickly see how a big wide pack of riders going into a narrowing corner is going to lead to problems. With 100 guys in the field, there was definitely a good opportunity for things to go really wrong.

Naturally however, the idiots that are out there are always able to throw you a curveball or two. About 10 laps in there was the requisite corner two crash as it looked like a guy didn't do a good job of holding his line and the clown who was behind him had overlapped his wheel. As always, this is an easy recipe for a certain crash. What was most interesting was this guy from Citrus Valley Velo who didn't seem to be paying any attention to what was going on in front of him, didn't see the crash, and came barreling past me and others and nearly smashed into the back of the crash himself.

Not to be denied, this same Citrus Valley guy then managed to get involved in a crash right in front of the finish line. A few guys apparently weren't watching what they were doing and went right over the traffic cones that were set up in front of Ralph's announcing stage. I really can't understand how this sort of thing happens, but sure enough the Citrus Valley guy and others went over the bars and crashed right there in the home straight.

As for me, I kept it pretty cool in the field, took the odd pull and did my best to get a good finish. I was up in the top 10 with half a lap to go. As always my issues with my left foot and resulting inability to sprint with the fast guys, resulted in me dropping back into an 18th place finish. Nothing spectacular, but it was the best I could do on the day.

Fast forward to Sunday's circuit race and things got even hairier. On the menu was 11 laps of a 3.5 mile loop. As usual for road races, the course was open to traffic, so the center line rule was in "effect". i.e. if you cross the center line, you're out of the race. For some reason however, the officials did no enforcing of the rule. When this happens, it really makes things dangerous because you've got idiots shooting up the open road on the wrong side of the center line, then trying to duck back into the field. In one case a guy clipped by bars as he tried such a stunt. When I gave him a piece of my mind about it he seemed to be befuddled by why I was so concerned.

Making things even worse, there were again 100 or so riders and not a lot who were willing to work on the front. The result was points where things really bunch up and slow down. Again, prime time for a crash. I believe we had 5 on the day in the circuit race and some of them were real classics. In one case I had to try to dodge a bike as it returned to earth from 5 or 10 feet in the air. My favorite however was the moment when I turned to one of my team-mates, remarked that there were a certain number of people that were riding like idiots, and noted that there were going to be more crashes. Literally 5 seconds later 3 guys went over the bars right in front of us.

I managed to keep it safe and get through all the crashes okay. With a couple turns to go I again got up near the front, but the result of the sprint was even worse than the day before. In this case I was going as hard as I could and people were streaming past left and right. In the end I came through in 31st. A very demoralizing result.

Days like these really make me question why it is that I race:

1. 5 crashes in the circuit race, 2 crashes in the crit.
2. My inability to put out the sort of speed that everyone else can means that even though I have as good or better of an engine as everyone else, work my tail off, etc.; it counts for nothing because at the end of the race they leave me in their dust.

When you consider these two points together, you begin to question whether the risks that are associated with racing are surpassed by the benefits. When the results are mediocre, why put yourself through the risk of racing?

The bottom line for me in all of this is that I need to figure out whether there is something I can do to overcome the issues I have with my left foot. If the answer is no, it only makes sense to bring the curtain down on my racing "career".

Stay tuned as I have some ideas in the pipeline regarding some tools that might help me do better despite my foot.


mateo372 said...

Hey Eric,
Was surfin around and happened across your blog. Good to see someone else on the team has one! Probably wouldn't be a bad idea for more on the team to start one up so we can see what others are thinking about their training, and other stuff in general. Hang in there with the racing. I know how you feel. After my crash at Murrieta this year (my first one on the road), I've begun to rethink why I do this myself. I've came to the conclusion that I'll only race as long as it still is fun. I've never worried too much about results, (it's nice to finish high), but more about having fun while I'm out there. If you're still have the competitive feeling, and still get excited when pulling up to a race, then keep at it, regardless of the results. Talk to ya soon! Matt Marshall

mateo372 said...

Here's the address to my blog...