Learning. Experience.

I really loved the feedback I got on my last post! Between the post and the race, a lot of good conversation happened here, on Twitter, and that good old-fashion face-to-face communication that may never have actually happened as it was not meticulously documented.

Many people understood my frustration with a lack of upgrade, some thought I should have been granted it immediately and many said I deserve it and will earn it in due time. I will indeed do the races to get the points. My next race will be the Exeter Classic criterium in Exeter, NH. I am a bit nervous, as crits are quite intimidating to me.

This brings me to my next point. Experience. Many people stated that I should not get my upgrade until I have the proper experience. Which is a weird argument because 3’s and 2’s race in the same field…. Nevertheless, experience is necessary not only to be a successful racer, but also a safe rider. I do wonder if they mean tactical experience or riding experience. Let us assume it is riding experience.

A statement on my views on my experience. I almost joined an “elite” women’s road team for a full racing calendar this season, but I did not. I chose not to because I felt committing to the elite peloton would be putting myself and others at risk due to my inexperience. I had committed my summer to learning basic skills. Riding in a group, cornering at speed, riding off-road, the ever elusive wheelie, etc. One of the ways I am trying to gain experience is through the race series run by the New Hampshire Cycling Club on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. These races are run on a NASCAR track, utilizing both the oval and a 1.6 mile road course. This is a great opportunity to learn good criterium tactics, as well as accelerations and jumps, crucial skills for my main discipline of cyclocross. There are three groups that run on any given race night based on one’s own self-assessed abilities. I ride with the A’s, the fastest and most aggressive group. So not only am I gaining fitness, I am also gaining group-riding and race tactic experience. And from what I hear this racing experience used to count for USAC, but it has become an unsanctioned event. Making it obviously all the rage.

Racing at Loudon is quite different than the road racing as I have come accustomed to it being. It is fast almost always. It is surgey. Last night it was fast out of the gate and I simply watched everyone leave me. Then I chased. I couldn’t latch on and had to wait for them to come pick me up again. On any other given race night I hop around the field depending on what is going on. If a break goes, half the time I don’t care because the field is awesome and there are lots of wheels to chase. In road racing I find after taking a pull or trying to rejoin after a failed attack and can just put myself anywhere, be it the middle of the field or that back. If I pull off the front at Loudon, then go to casually rejoin? Just kidding, I can’t seem to tell my legs how to simultaneously get off the front while still going fast enough to rejoin their 25 mph gaggle. Crap I just got dropped cause I am an idiot who can’t figure out inertia. Well, I guess I will soft pedal for a lap because I can’t chase the field I literally just watched pass me. All like, 30 bikes. Corners? HAHA YOU’RE PEDALING DOWN THIS HILL INTO THE TURN I HOPE YOU DIDN’T WANT THAT LINE WHERE I JUST PUT MY BIKE SNOOZE YOU LOSE.

All that said, I have been dropped from Loudon, I have made solo laps to earn sprint points (One day I may actually win sprint points due to my sprint!), I have stayed in all night, I take hard pulls at the front, and sometimes it is all I can do to sit in and be brave enough to let these guys push me around a little. I once pulled myself out of the race for a few laps because I got so nervous at how people were swerving I just needed to re-group mentally.

Want to know how to get experience? NEED experience. The reason I want my 2 upgrade is so I can go get my butt handed to me at a big event. I want to struggle all the time, and that is why I race bikes at the elite level. That is why cyclocross is a passion because it makes me struggle so much in so many ways! I want to rely not just on power, but also on skill and experience.

So if anyone reading this wants their butt handed to them on a bike, come to Loudon. Thursdays. I ride from my place at 4:30, get to the track by 5:45. $10 reg fee, $5 gate fee. Sometimes there is pizza. (This invite also applies to those who will be doing some butt-handing)

I will leave it Exeter to show me how my pack-riding, cornering and general crit skills are coming along.

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