Thats how I felt yesterday. Pretty big breakthrough for me. Went to the race with my head in a good place, and just decided today was a good day to go for broke. Left "finishing" out of my head, and replaced it with pain. Started at the front and didn't leave the front until I went shooting out the back. Spent 45-1 hour minutes not out of the top 20 (about 150-200 strong group) fighting tooth and nail for wheels. Super fun and windy course. Long for a Kermis course, about 9km, with 2 super long cross wind sections along the canals, crossing brides at either end with some sweet 180 and 90 turns. Super important to be in that front echelon on the long cross wind sections. Something clicked in my mind, I no longer shied away from the front and being in the wind. No longer worried about fighting hard for my spot. Stayed calm, and dug deep. Followed attacks, launched my own attacks, bridged to moves, and worked the front of the pack. If this were a race I was planning on winning, I would say I raced like an idiot. Spent too much energy too early (as shown by a DNF), but I raced. I raced until my legs could not get me back on. I knew I made my presence known as while riding around after, I heard some kids talking in French saying, "there's the American who was off the front!". Thats how you know you raced here, when the local fans recognize you. The move that finally undid me, was a longish break with 2 Belgian tanks. I attacked going over the bridge heading into the 180 then 90 combination turn onto the hardest long cross wind section and these 2 came with me. We worked well together, trading pulls through the wind for some time until the pack closed us down and the counters went. Suddenly with me on the front, dudes started counter attacking us, from all sides, and back I went. I tried a few times to jump in line, but my legs wouldn't jump hard enough in the wind with the pack strung out single file. Pop. Tried to just drop it down a gear and catch back on, but there is very little chance for anyone to get back on when dropped in one of these races, so called it a day. Changed into my warmer clothes and did some easy miles for the legs around the course.
Now I have the taste and it is all I can do to not go out and ride hard today. Need the recovery day, I know. But I just look forward to the next race on Sunday.
Today will be an easy day, filled with movies, naps, some eating and general recovery. Many of the guys are into their last week or 2 here, weird to think I still have almost 3 weeks now instead of a week... But nice, I have learned so much, but will learn even more now. On the plus side, with all sorts of dudes leaving, I should clean up on "adopted food" and leftovers for a while! As for a lesson of riding the front, didn't make the winning break, the race ended in a pack sprint (not a large pack). But I did learn that riding hard and aggressively will earn you some respect in the pack. If you ride hard and confidently, the pack will "allow" you to remain unscathed. Next time, more undercover work. I will make that break.