Last race is done. And I went down in flames. Was actually quite upset with myself originally. Got popped from the group somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour. I wanted to leave on a high note. I had distinct goals for the race, I was to: right smartly aggressive (ie. at the front, go with dangerous moves) and most importantly I was to make the break. That is something I have wanted to do. But have always spent myself in the wrong moves. But the more I thought about how I got got dropped, the more I realized how I had accomplished my goals and how much I had learned, not only today - but during my stay.
I used as many of the tricks I have learned as possible. I got to the line, backed myself right into the front with confidence, nodded a few hellos to riders I recognized. And then went. Fought hard, took a good hip check early while fighting for the top 10 spot I knew I wanted. But didn't back down, in fact just looked over and moved my bars up and a head of his. Checkmate, the spot is mine. The first few laps were hectic, many attacks going, but nothing too threatening. Followed the attacking wheels, but stayed out of the wind myself as the whole pack continued to be dragged along single file. Moved up in corners or out of the wind. But generally just stayed at the front. Got up in a few attacks, but nothing stuck long. Finally the move went. You could tell, 10 is generally the magic number here. If a break has 10 decent guys (everyone knows whom must be there) it will probably stick. Usually starts with 2-3 attacking, then 2 more bridge up, then 2 more... Until the group is large enough to motor away. That is what was happening. I went. The gap was already decent, so I probably should have gone earlier, but it was now or never. Two guys from Beveren (Quick Step development team) stuck themselves to my wheel, and would not pull through as they already had a teammate up the road. I buried myself in the wind to get across, but I made it. I touched the break. Unfortunately, I latched on right on the longest of the cross wind sections. So my stay was not long lived. But I had made it. Pop. Back towards the peleton, which was quite far back at this point. Tried to recover with some deep breaths. The field came by quite some time later, single file death line. Latched myself on. But could only hold on for about 5-10 minutes. Before exploding. The pack would not slow up to give me the recovery I so desperately needed. Apparently someone was missing the move, and wanted to be there bad. In the end, the break stuck, winning over the field (which got pulled a lap early) by about 5 minutes. And as I sat, I realized this. That is what racing is about: pushing yourself, making yourself uncomfortable and then learning from it. That is how you get stronger, and that is how you improve. Still not able to win here, but have learned some of the lessons that will help me come back stronger later. I know what must be done over the winter to help bring me to that level. For now, its back home for me. Time for a new school, more new experiences and a whole lot of training. But maybe a break from the bike first. I'm off to go watch the pros at work, maybe I'll get some good pictures today. Going with Ann, Bernard and Santi to watch the start of Stage 3 of the Eneco Tour of Belgium. Maybe some more free schwag to stuff my suitcase with?