The week leading up to the Valley of Fire Stage Race was nothing but nervous excitement and endless research on what road racing is like. Even during the drive down I was asking my team mate endless questions on what I should expect, good tactics, what to do and not to do. But on day one, as soon as the whistle went off for the start of the crit I realized that most of what I had been expecting and all of what I had been planning to do was getting thrown to the wind. The next thirty minutes I just had to trust the training I had done and the reflexes I didn’t know I had. These pulled through and the crit ended cleanly, allowing me to focus on the second day’s road race.
After a good night of camping I was lined up with 45 other CAT 4/5 men, ready to test my mettle in a much longer event. Confidence continued to build as the pack rolled up and out of Overton, passing by the jagged peaks and rollers of the Valley of Fire state park. It wasn’t long before the turn around and everyone began to hammer their way back down the road. Nerves rose as the group tightened and picked up speed, travelling at a consistent 30 mph while within hands reach of another rider. This continued straight up to the finish line in Overton at which point everything turned into seeming chaos. Riders began to hammer ahead, some making it around the pack some, like myself, getting caught in the middle. I crossed the finish line in 11th place and realized that I could not have been more excited. The entire ride I felt strong and everything at the end came down to positioning and experience. With this in mind it is time to start the collegiate season and build that experience, so that the next stage race I go to can become a podium finish.