It is said that the difference between winning and coming in second is mental toughness. To tell you the truth this summer I have severely lacked that toughness. My head was just not in the right frame. Some people can show up to races and no matter what's going on in their life they can leave it all behind and get the job done. I, on the other hand, am completely opposite, for me to do well everything must be in place so I can focus on the job at hand. If things are going well, it's fucking brilliant but if something is unresolved, I'm rubbish. Last summer was incredible for me, I had nothing on my plate and everything was taking care of. In the time I wasn't working I could be on the bike and training. This year has been a different story, time off work has been a constant struggle making sure things get done. My mileage has been halved to what it was last year.
Add on to the fact of a nasty break up and my mental state has been horrible this summer and it's been very hard to be motivated to do what I needed to do to be the best I could. The usual training rides that would be all out and pushing the pace last year, have turned into contemplative sojourns to figure out what is going on in my life. It's hard to bury yourself, when you already feel buried.
This isn't to say there haven't been sparks of brilliance and improvements. There have been improvements but it never seems to translate into race finishes. It's not that I doubt I can do well or that I am not physically able to, because I know I can, but it just hasn't happened this year. My sprinting in road cycling has drastically improved more than I could ever planned. When I first started cycling, I always fancied myself a sprinter. I clearly don't have the build of a traditional sprinter, i.e. muscular. I have the frame of a pure blood climber. I'm lean, which if you know me is an understatement, and have less to carry up the hill. I'm good at climbing but not epic long climbs, I'm best suited for short punchy climbs, classic type climbs, short but very steep. Last year, in my second year, I started playing around with sprints. I didn't really have anyone really to sprint against. I would sprint with my rides but hardly ever against anyone. I would normally hit 28mph and on the really good days I could hit 30. Not good at all.
It all changed last year near the end of the season. Sara and I were riding with the Summit Freewheelers. We had gone off the back deciding whether to ride to the car or ride back with them. I pulled at the front for a good 5 miles as fast as I could, pulling back Needless to say, when I got back to the bunch the sprint came and I missed it because I didn't have anything left. It was near the end of the season so I didn't get back to contest that sprint again. So I stewed on the near miss for all winter.
Fast forward to the beginning to this year. I'm back with the Summit Freewheelers and in the pack a we come up to the sprint. All I can think is this is my chance to get redemption for myself. I somehow am put in the perfect position second place coming into the town sign sprint. At this point instincts kicked in. I knew when I had to go, and I waited, waiting to pounce, still waiting. Is no one going to go? I catch a wheel coming on my left and that's all I need, I jump on his wheel for a brief second and then I opened up my sprint. I look back just as I crossed the line to see where my competition was and he was a good bike length back. I had finally won my first sprint! I sat up, and congratulated the person I had out-jumped in the sprint. I had hit 32mph which I had only hit once before in a sprint, and it sparked something in me to get better and better.
I soon had started a regular sprint interval workout. In no time at all, I had upped my top speed from 30mph consistently and 32 in my best form, to 34mph consistently and 35mph as my top speed. With more work and a new bike I can now hit 35mph consistently and hitting a 37mph top speed on a pretty regular basis. So this is all to say that this summer hasn't been a total waste. I'll eventually get there and it may take me till next year to get that elusive win I've been striving for all summer. But then again I have the rest of the NEO Powerseries, a couple more Westkae Crits, Rubber City Meltdown and the NEOCX cyclocross series. Who knows what may happen the rest of the season and finally my mind is starting to get in the right place and things should be turning around.