National championships. The big one. The culmination of an entire season of training, how do you handle not being nervous for that? It's a hard question, but one everyone who wants to make cycling the focus of their life has to confront. For me it was perspective. No matter how I did there, I still had a great season and built my fitness. The course was perfect for me and I was peaked, ready to rip it. I did the pre-race on Wednesday to open my legs up. It's a good thing I did as I was not feeling very good for it, I need a good race to open up my legs after not racing for that long.
The morning of the race went really well. I had almost no nerves and was able to get pumped up for the race really easy. The conditions were really muddy. It was that really thick mud that slows you down, which is ok for me, but I would have rather raced in the greasy mud the day before. I did a great warm up and lined up for the race, raring to go race in the mud. My start was a little lackluster, I lined up behind the wrong racer and got to the first corners around the middle of the 60 juniors in the race. There was a few pile ups on the first few corners and the leaders got away. I stayed calm though and moved up on the hills and technical sections. The race was rather surreal, I knew I was in a lot of pain, but my mind seemed to block all of it until after the finish. The first hill was un-ridable, but the running hurt everyone and so it did not affect me negatively. There was a slight uphill right after the hill in which I was able to gain a lot of places. I flew down the hill into the run up and managed to get some time on the group behind me before the stairs. I failed to ride the sand pit in the the first lap, which costed me a few spots.
As the race went on, my bike started to get heavy with mud. For some reason, I did not think to pit and get a clean bike. It was a mistake which probably costed me a top ten, but there is no such thing as a perfect race, right? after the first lap, I never lost a spot. In the next two laps, I managed to catch 20 some riders and move up to 18th. I gave it everything I had in the last lap to try and catch Ian Mcshane on the last lap, but a slight bobble on the last few corners made me 10 seconds shy of catching him.
In the end I managed to beat a lot of riders that normally place ahead of me and had a fantastic race. I was only a minute out of the top ten, which made my mistake about not pitting all the more painful. I did everything else perfect, which was my goal. I am going to take a few weeks off the bike now. After that I will start building for a fantastic road season in 2012!
A big thanks to Matthew Moses for all the awesome photos! You can check out other great photos of this race and more at http://www.moses-images.com/!