I guess in the natural progression of the MAMIL is that you eventually think you’re good enough to start racing. Well I’ve watched the pros, and I’ve even spent time on shop rides with sometimes racers, and I realize I’m not all that great, but I want to see what this body I’ve earned can do.
But first I needed to figure out what it was that I wanted out of bike racing. I think this is the philosophical question one whom is not so keyed by competition as I am. For some, their competitive nature would have led them to racing and competing a long time ago. For me, I had a bit of that competitive juice squeezed out of me in High School. I learned that I could get over obsessed by winning, and when I finally stepped back and looked at myself, I didn’t like what I saw. I was always someone who was there to support the team, be quick to be a good sportsman, and took more joy out of playing the game than the outcome. But somewhere in high school, that flipped, and I stopped being a good sportsman, and got furious at not winning, or not making the team, or would look to cheat to win, so I stopped playing. I kept being a good team supporter, and took joy in that. I eventually settled on games/sports where you competed against yourself and competition against others was tangential; Bowling, Golf, Computer Games (not First Person Shooters, or anything that involved Player-Versus-Player).
So it is under this setting that I went to rank what it was I wanted:
- A team — Watching pro cycling, you realize that it takes a team to win. One rider can’t do it all, even on one day races, monuments, or especially stage races.
- A TEAM — Not a bunch of guys who get together every so often and race. I want to learn, and I know while I can read books about racing, I always learn better by doing, and by getting help from others. A real team works to improve all it’s members.
- Proximity — Close to home. Most teams have team rides, and I didn’t want to have to ride/drive a long distance just to make the rides; it’s much easier to be committed and show up when the barriers to doing so are low, especially on days when you’re not feeling it.
- Friendliness — If I’m going to be spending a lot of time *NOT* with my wife and daughter but with these folks, I want them to be fun and friendly, and not so totally one-tracked minded that it’s cycling, or nothing.
- Family Oriented — Much like the point above; my family is the most important thing to me. I am not a paid professional, and I am not ever going to compete at a level where I can make money from this sport, so rule 11 is pure bullshit. If the team doesn’t understand that (after getting to know me and my background), I won’t want to be a part of that team.
It seems the Washington DC area is a hotbed for cycling teams. Some are just too large, and from what I understand, members would show up to races and not know anyone else wearing the same jersey. Some were just too far away to make the team rides regularly, other are mainly focused on women’s racing or juniors, or, in the case of my good friends at Team Bikenetic, solely focused on cyclocross and mountain biking. And the others were seemingly focused at higher categories than me starting out at Cat-5.
So I was considering a couple of teams that I knew a couple people on, when after really turning myself inside out going up the climb from Wolftrap up to Route 7, my friend Sean made a comment that I should talk to him about racing and if I wanted to get into it. I met him for coffee one morning and he at least convinced me to come ride with the team before Christmas.
It was just supposed to be a Zone 2 day doing laps around Haines Point… Un Huh. Zone 2 for everyone else meant Zone 4 for me. But at the same time, I was being given valuable lessons on how to take corners at speed (though the road was wet and cold and I really really had to let go of some fear there), how and why to keep up on people’s wheels (it’s not just about you, it’s about your teammates behind you), and other tips, plus learning to ride in very close proximity to others.
After a few more team rides, I knew that I could barely hang on to the Cat-3 guys; I suck at knowing when to rotate off the front — when I finish a pull I have trouble getting back onto the end of the line. I still have issues with those pesky corners, but I’m getting better. I’ve been dropped, both on the flat and on the hills, so I know I need to work on conserving energy.
But I was very happy to get the official invite to the team. I am now the newest member of Team Veloworks-Spokes Etc.
Last night we had our first team meeting, and I got to meet most of the team that I haven’t met yet on rides. They’re a really social and fun group to be around, and I look forward to racing for and with them. Team first, don’t be an areshole, and other good information was distilled and dispersed to the team.
I’ll be starting out at Cat-5 (i.e. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing level), with 6 goals:
- Don’t Crash.
- Seriously, Don’t Crash.
- No, really, Don’t Crash.
- Don’t Crash and Finish A Race
- Finish in the Pack
There’s only one other Cat-5 this year in the team, and he’s a much stronger rider than I am at this time, but I hope that we can work some fields at Cat-5 and see what we can do.
My first official road race (Felix 26 doesn’t count) will be the Tidewater Winter Classic put on by the William and Mary cycling team. Probably a good intro to racing; for the Cat-5 race it’s two loops of a 9.8 mile course (as my teammate Brian put it – it’s a lollipop (circle on a stick) course) and the starting and finishing straight.
Nice thing about this race will be that I’ll be able to race without having to take 2.7 million corners, since it’s a road race and not a criterium. I’ll see what it’s like racing in a pack, and all the things we haven’t gone over yet in drills with the team.
Can’t wait. Hopefully it’ll be warm/not raining/not snowing…