Thursday, September 06, 2007

Gateway Cup
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Twelve months ago.... I was just catt'ed up to a 3 after significant cat 4 wins at the Tour of KC. When I pulled up to the line, someone asked me, "you racing with the 4's." I answered no, I was going with the 1/2/3s and she said, "you picked a helluva introduction." My stomach was in a knot. The race started and it was fast. So fast I was dropped and puking by a tree the end of the 2nd lap.

Last Friday, I was again on the line under the lights. But, although pre-race anticipation was high, there was no fear. Only a quiet voice in my head. "Slow down and be fast. Your legs feel good and you're strong. Take your time and strike hard when you do." The race starts and I make sure I get my pedal and after the first corner I'm towards the rear of the pack. A fleeting flashback, then confidence as I apply power as move up the outside to the front quarter of racers. The attacks come hard and fast, but pretty soon the XPLANE women are making themselves felt by not only reacting to attacks, but firing several of our own. Eventually a counter gets me off the front and away eventually yielding a 2nd place finish.
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Carrie Cash (5th), Megan (3rd), Kelly Benjamin (1st), Samantha Schneider (2nd), me. I have to keep those thick soled flip flops... I think they give me an extra 2" of height. :)
The goal I had going into the Cup was to finish at least once in the top 5. The outcome was a top five finish in 3 out of 4 races which yielded a 4th place finish in the overall. So, of course I was pleased, but have since identified several errors which had they not been made, might have resulted in an even better finish. For example, in the non-top 5 finish Washington Ave. race, I worked hard trying to get away and really spent some matches in order to take a $50 prime. The result of this was not having the legs to sprint up the hill at the end. That being said, perhaps a stronger mental focus on what I was in the race to achieve might have given me the mental strength to drive my legs and hang onto someone's wheel.

Because breakaways are my thing, I did a lot of attacking and counter attacking with my teammate, Katie Weber. This led to two successful escapes. In the first, Friday night, Katie had been off the front with a group of 4 for three or four laps and it seemed like maybe they'd stay away, but eventually the field pulled them in just before the 4th corner. At that point, K. Benjamin, prepared for my counter, immediately looked to see where I was at, so I didn't move. Instead, I drifted back a bit and came around the corner, then hit the gas up the inside. Shortly, Rene from Vitamin Cottage in CO and I were away and putting time on the field. I might have pulled too much though, but I was desperate not to get caught. In my opinion, 2nd was a better finish than letting the sprinters back in the game. Of course, what I did wrong, was to not attack Rene in the last two laps. I should have attacked and just ripped the corners. Maybe I could have won it then. Who knows? But, the lesson was drilled home and future breakaway partners should take note. ;)

The 2nd successful breakaway was the last day and the unfortunate aspect was that two of the toughest sprinters (Benjamin and Schneider) were in it. Consequently, Megan (Vitamin Cottage) and I did a lot of the work and I really pulled the last couple of laps. We had a 20 second gap, so I suppose there was time to play games and try and get at least one to come around so I didn't lead everyone out, but I really didn't want to risk a secure 3rd or 4th place finish for a field sprint after working the breakaway. As a team we had a goal of finishing two of us in the top five and with me in the break with the only two sprinters who might be able to beat my teamie, Carrie Cash, we had that goal on target, so I just went for it and ended up fourth. Had I been thinking more clearly (and will next time), not only will start the sprint a little early, but I *will* pop back around and catch someone's wheel.

The highlights were twofold.

First, working with the my XPLANE/Team Revolution teammates was so much fun and I'm excited about next season and our further refinement in how we employ everyone's strengths. Second, the Gateway Cup was evidence of what determined goal setting, training, and support can yield. When my coach and I drew up the season's goals way back in November, the once in the top five finish seemed overly ambitious to me, but Marc said it was perfectly reasonable and maybe I should even aim to win one. Friday night when I picked up my check and medal, it occurred to me how critical it had been to have someone help equip me, train, and to help build my confidence. So, thanks, Marc for everything you do. Another huge thank you goes out to my family. Without their support there is no way I could train enough or race enough to get the fitness and experience that leads to maximizing potential. Finally, to each and every spectator and friend who hollers... you cannot imagine how important that is. When my legs are tired and spirit is fading, to hear your voice is like a powerful tonic. Thank you for coming out and making the race so exciting.

See you next year, St. Louis!


11 comments:

LoupGarou said...

Great report. Best one yet. That last paragraph moistened my usually dry eyes. :) Can't wait to hear your cyclocross stories.

oldmanandhisbike said...

Congrats on your great finish.
Setting goals and acheiving them? I will have to try that some time! :^)
Sorry I couldn't come out and see you race in person this year, but I was "shouting" encouragement from the Internet!

Dad said...

Really tickles me to read your race reports. First because they are quite interesting to me, and secondly, I don't sense any pained facial expressions as in the old days when I asked (demanded maybe) the same step-by-step report concerning the just completed barrel race. *L*

The same young ones I help today have those same expressions and glass-eyed look when I demand the instant replay. *L* I reckon it's not till you get the burn in the tummy to win, and to win, and to win that instant replay becomes vital. I'm glad that it has stuck with you, for it has moved you up in the game rapidly. Congratulations...and we look forward to this Saturday too!

Keep believin' for wins are manufactured in the mind and the practice pen...event day is just another day at the office.

VeloCC said...

Sydney, I know you are a very gifted rider, but you are also a very hard-working one. And what your Dad said in his last paragraph is in your blood:)
I know what you mean with the support that makes you a better rider, even though, it is still YOU who has to keep those pedals moving.

I have to thank you for being such a good role model and friend over the last year. You helped me to keep my pedals spin a bit faster...

JuneBug said...

You totally inspire me. :) The goal setting is such a great idea. The best goal of all is to have fun!

Congratulations on your success and the success of Xplane!!!

I can't wait till next season!!

ROCK!

Danielle said...

Sydney-

Great job making the top five. For that matter, great year racing!! You rock.

I'm going to be attempting my first road race next weekend and I feel like I'm picking a hard one to start with....it will be interesting to say the least!!!

Chris said...

Syd, I have enjoyed learning about you this year and reading your great reports. You have come a long way in a short time. Fantastic job!

Don't forget all us little people when you are famous :)

Carrie said...

Sydney, if Dad were still around he'd say we came to 'Beat ther' ass!!', and stayed hooked.
You have a big drive and that is what it takes to achieve the right perspective to reach your goals.

That "deep seat and far away look", will always be in the back of my head when Dads yells at me to "Keep Drivin' at 'em.

Your Dad is right, what we learned in the practice pen, is guts, and grit, and that is something that is hard to teach.
Congrats Sydney!!!
Carrie

Marc said...

:)
I thought of just leaving it at that and I am.

emory said...

dearest sydney the feelings are mutual if i remember correctly your always cheering me on to hollering strategy and other riders positions helped alot i've been meaning to ask if you want to help me train now that i have 9 races under my belt and am soon to be a cat 4 for next season congrats on the win your favorite champion emory

sydney_b said...

Emory, you make me grin. You're going to be kicking some butt in time. I bet those cat 4 races are going to bring out the other side of your good nature and I personally can't wait to see it. :)