Keep those pedals spinning
There is no doubt that collegiate cycling has been one of my favorite parts of cycling since I began riding again two summers ago. With my collegiate career coming to an end I was excited to head down to Asheville, NC for USA Cycling’s Collegiate Road Nationals.
I drove down planning to race just the ITT on Sunday as I had been deemed ineligible for the road race since I hadn’t competed 3 collegiate races. There was some back and forth between USAC, our conference director, and myself as the official rule has an asterisk that made it possible for me to race. Originally I was able to register, deeming my eligibility, but later it was revoked. When I showed up to registration they provided me a number for the RR as well as ITT and I double-checked to see if I was on the start list. Since I was on the start list and no refund was issued I assumed I was actually good to race. I was excited to have the opportunity to get after it in the RR and after pre-riding the course with some new Texas friends I was excited to rip it up the next day. The course was interesting with 5 tough short (3-5 minute) climbs followed by a long flat 20k stretch along the river. How it would play out was anyone’s guess, the hills should break it up but the long flat river stretch could easily bring it back together.
The RR started with a 400W “neutral” roll out up the first hill before settling until the racing began a mile later. The pace stayed high with a couple attacks but nothing interesting. The pace was hard enough to shed most of the 156 person field and we hit the river road with ~50 riders left. Attacks continued to little avail as the group was too fresh for anyone to really get away and the pace remained stiff. Coming into the start finish 2 riders were up the road but the group was coming in fast. With the pace already hard and 2 up the road I attacked through the 1st feed zone and up the first climb and got a quick gap. I wasn’t happy to be alone but hoped it would keep the pace in the group high. The idea was that the harder the race the better it was for me. Just as I rolled over the hill two more riders, one from Florida and another from Lindenwood came across and we worked together up the 2nd climb. We caught the 2 up the road quickly and got to work with ~30s on the field.
I assumed this wasn’t THE break but that being up the road was a good place to be with the hard pace changes expected in the group. I thought a group of ~10-15 would make their way across and that would be the final selection. I was surprised we still stayed clear through the hills and we hit the road and rotated well together. Thinking the catch would happen soon I was surprised when the Commisaire car held a white board out the window that read 1’35”. Okay, interesting. By the time we hit the hills for the 3rd and final lap we had 2’. I thought I was riding smart, Connor Brown (Lindenwood) was taking long pulls and I thought if (University of Florida) didn’t drop me on the climbs I would have a good shot for the win. We stayed together till the road but Connor was just too strong and drilled it to the line leaving me to hang on for dear life and a 2nd place finish. Not what I was looking for and finishing runner up in some ways feels worse than finishing further back, but the legs didn’t have it. Frustrating.
That evening in the results I realized I was DQ’d. I petitioned and tried to fix what I thought was an unjust DQ but in the end, for the reasons stated previously, the DQ would stand. I think that there is enough leeway in the rule USA Cycling believes I broke that I should have been eligible to race and furthermore that if I am on the start list I should be in the clear. After all, I’m a bike racer, and if I’m given a chance, I’m absolutely going to race my bike. That being said I understand and will respect the decision and it was within their right to enforce it. That being said, I’ll take this picture and still make the case that when the chips were on the table, I finished 2nd at Collegiate Nationals.
I was hoping to exact revenge in the ITT on Sunday. I felt confident in my abilities, especially after resting on Saturday while the rest of my competitors hung on for dear life in the crit. I was no doubt feeling a little tired but believed I could pull it together for 20km. I was the 2nd to last starter and knew my biggest threat would leave 30 seconds after me. I went out at a solid pace, catching my 30 second man quickly and kept it rolling until the turn around on the out and back course. I did a quick time check to the guy behind me and knew I had the edge on him. Unfortunately the 2nd half didn’t pan out as well. The monkey jumped on my back hard and it was all I could do to keep pushing the pedals. I just kept thinking “it’s for a national championship, it’s for a national championship” and even that at times didn’t feel motivating enough. There were three little rollers at the end of the TT course, rollers I envisioned myself blasting over on the way to victory. Those rollers seemed so much bigger on Sunday. Still I gutted it out and blasted the last 1K to the finish leaving everything I had out there on the course. As I came across the line I heard the announcer say, “and that’s Bryan Lewis, putting in the fastest time of the day”, a sigh and I thought I had it, not matter how bad I felt. Unfortunately 27 seconds later my 30-second man rolled in and my dreams were squashed once again, this time by a measly 3.51 seconds.
It’s hard to deny I just wasn’t quite good enough this weekend, something that will frustrate me for a while, probably longer than I would like. It doesn’t matter how many times someone tells me how great it was, it wasn’t what I wanted, what I hoped for, or what I thought I was capable of and to be honest, that sucks. It will be okay. I can’t dwell on it for long as there are big races coming and another shot at a national title at the end of June. If I wasn’t already focused for Amateur Nationals in Lake Tahoe you can be sure I am now!
Keep those pedals spinning