Tuesday, May 7, 2013

On the Hunt

It is a special moment when you realize in a race that the form is getting to a good place.  If there is one thing I have learned over the last few years it is that I can draw almost nothing from what I do in training.  I have gone into races thinking I was invincible and been dropped before the real racing even began, and I have gone into races hoping just to finish and been one of the best riders in the race.  I never really know what is going to happen until the race really starts going and then I know whether I have it or not.

When I get to the race there is always a moment where I really know, it sounds cliché but there is a certain feeling I get and when I have it I just know.  This past week at Gila I finally felt the sensations I have been looking for all spring, and in the moment all I could feel was overwhelming relief.  All week I was solid, acceptable, but at one point in the beginning of the last day I felt what I was really looking for.

The last stage at Gila is the hardest on paper, and often the most decisive for the GC.  Last year a break of 22 riders went clear on the first small climb out of town.  A large portion of the break stayed clear and shaped a large part of the GC.  This year three teams went into the final day with four or more riders in the top 15 on GC and it seemed like, with last year fresh in their memories, each of those teams was intent on stacking a big break with a rider high on GC to put pressure on the leader and try to win the race.

Basically the motivation of the big teams to stack the break led to a very aggressive and hard start where a break never really went.  As everyone’s legs started to tire from the aggression the race began to split and come back together.  At one point I was too far back and the race was shattering, on the crosswind climb.  Without thinking I pulled out of line and went straight across the gaps to the front group.  For just that one moment, maybe three minutes total, I totally felt what I had been looking for, for five months.  I did not feel it all week, or even all day.  But just for that one moment I had found what I was looking for, and for an instant all I could feel was relief.  I thought to myself, “you’ve still got it Nate, it’s going to be okay”, and for that I thank you Gila.

For now the one instant will have to suffice, but I can only hope the feeling will become more common over the coming months.  With a big block of European stage racing coming up I may be getting there just in the nick of time.  I can’t say I am totally where I want to be, but I am a lot closer than I was a month ago.  To me that sounds like progress, and as long as there is progression there is reason to continue, so for now I continue on the hunt.