I hope this post finds you well and in full swing of summer racing. Here in Boise, we just finished our “super bowl weekend”; meaning there were races on Saturday and Sunday. To put it simply, our scene here in Boise is rather weak compared to other parts of the country. So two races happening in a single weekend is worth prepping the entire season.
The first race was the Anderson Banducci Boise Twilight Criterium. I was racing in the Pro Men field, which takes place as the sun is setting. This is one of the bigger events the city of Boise has to offer. Twenty thousand people line the streets to scream as loud as they can. To be a local racing in the event, you hear your name at least 3-4 times per lap. To put it simply, you cannot get dropped without getting noticed and feel like you were publicly humiliated among your entire city. Since that was my game plan going into the race (to not get dropped) I decided to play it conservatively for the first 30 minutes. About 50 minutes into the race, I had the thought “dang, this is kind of easy. I think I am going to get in a move that goes up the road”; then the next lap I heard my teammate from the side lines scream “Paul- get in a break-away!!” Sure enough, two riders go up the road with a Harley Davidson Rider and a KHS MAXXIS rider. I bridged up along with another CLIF BAR rider. We stayed away from the field for 3 laps; I swear that I heard everyone screaming for me. To look behind me and see the entire peloton and be at the front of the race was a feeling I will not forget.
For the time leading into the final few laps of the race the pace was increased every lap. It felt like doing a motor pacing with 100 of your closest friends. Then the wrecks started to come. With about 15 laps to go there was a large crash (you can look at the pics on cycling news). I was at the front of the pack and not affected by the wreck. However, I could hear and smell the wreck. Two laps later as we were going by the neutral zone about 35 riders tried to join the peloton. As the riders began joining, I could see about 5 blue and white riders in a perfect pace line. The only way that I can describe what was going through my mind is to contrast back to when I was in elementary school and I was walking into the principal’s office because I got in a bunch of trouble for calling people really bad names. In other words, it is a feeling you have to kick and scream and grit your teeth just to get thorough the moment. Although it hurts, it is what I signed up for and trained all year for. Just like when I was in the third grade and went on a swearing rampage with three of my friends at the playground at Highlands Elementary School. With three laps to go we were cruising at a solid 35 miles an hour. Then it became faster and the decibel level of the crowd continued to match the speed. I was in good positioning, but to get to the first 10 people, I would essentially have to kick people off of their bikes. Like I can throw elbows, but these people cannot be moved. The last lap I did everything I could just to stay in the pack. There was a huge split and I chased it down to finish in the lead group. I ended up finishing 31st out of 62 riders. So I finished exactly in the middle. As I crossed the finish line, it felt like I was being championed by an entire city after coming back from war. It was an amazing feeling. Twenty thousand people where absolutely freaking out; I gave people as many high fives as I could. I would have kissed a baby’s head, but I am not that kind of person to do that after a bike race.
The next day consisted of the Idaho State Championship Criterium located in Hidden Springs (a suburb of Boise). Team CLIF Bar showed up, along with a decent number of people from the Pro-1 race from the night before. Going into the race, I knew there was going to be a break that would go up the road. I tried several times to form a move, but it would not work out. About 20 minutes into the race a solid break went up the road and I was going to see if it was going to stick, and if so I would use my last matches to bridge. Sure enough, about half way through the race, a move went up the road; it had a solid group of 4 people all of which seemed very motivated. A few laps went by and it looked like they were gone, so I took a deep sigh in the peloton and drifted off to the right and went as hard as I could for two whole laps to get up to the break that was up the road. There was only one person that went with me and refused to pull through. I pushed close to 32 miles per hour for the entire chase effort. As soon as I bridged to the break, I saw the peloton come in a stringed line. I was completely blown at that point and decided to take soft pulls until we were caught. As soon as we were caught, I saw three people go up the road. The rest of the break and the peloton were quite fried so no one joined the move up the road. I sat in for a few laps until I recovered and realized that the peloton let the group of three go. As the race progressed, the announcers where very clear that they were gone. So I got in one final move with about 20 minutes to go. It was a group of 4 of us, and we were very motivated. I had to skip out on a few pulls because I was quite blown, but I wanted to be as contribute as possible. As the laps counted down, there was no peloton in sight. We all started to look at each other and with one lap to go; we all started to light off fireworks. We all started really digging in the final stretch and I came in third out of the group of 4. I was pretty blown, so I really was excited for where I came in. I placed 7th overall and 3rd for Idaho participants.
As I look back on the Super bowl weekend, I think that it has been a long road since I was almost killed in a serious bike accident involving me being hit by a Chevy truck. Back in July, I was on a training ride, and got completely smoked by a driver that turned into me. I had to take 6 months off the bike, and completely re-vamp my approach to cycling. A huge testament to John Salskov and the SLM coaching Staff as they stood behind me and supported me to not only get back on the bike, but compete at the American Professional Tour once again. When I first approached John to help me in my coaching plan three years ago, I never would have realized that I would have progressed this far. As I was approached by other racers in different categories this weekend, they asked me how I got to where I was in the sport with knowing as little as I do about the sport. (I got my cat 1 before I could change a flat tire, ask John, we have had issues with power meters this whole season because I literally have no clue how any of this stuff works.) I told them that they need a coach that understands you and your goals. I said to others “you can spend 1,500 on race wheels or spend that same money on a years coaching and drop people with race wheels.” And I have to say, I made that quote up. And I must say that I do not have race wheels, but after this race, my wife might make me get some.