This was, quite possibly, the hardest race I have ever done. The course was in the wide-open J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University of Texas at Austin. Combine the challenging course with a 30 mile per hour wind out of the north and things got complicated very quickly. High winds and crashes at a few unfortunate places caused the pack to shatter almost immediately, forming the break and a few unorganized chase groups. Close to 50% of the starters of the race didn’t finish. Fortunately, I was able to stick with the “stay towards the front” part of my plan for the day and I was not caught out behind the crash.
In a race like this, race goals very quickly get modified on the fly; “finishing well” is replaced with “well, finishing.” I spent the middle 45 minutes trying to convince myself that there would be no shame in dropping out. I repeatedly got gapped in the technical section on the backside of the course, which left me with no hope of finding shelter on the cross-wind false flat stretch before the finish. Every lap, at this point, I promised myself I would drop out of the race. Sometimes, promises just aren’t realistic. So I dug deep, put my head down and time trialed back to the back of the peloton during the head-wind section. Every lap I made it back on. As I got more comfortable diving into turns, the gaps got smaller and I actually started to get a chance to recover. Granted, that could have been the pace slowing down, but not opening a gap in the first place certainly wasn’t hurting anything.
In the end, I finished 19th thanks to a little bit of selfless riding from Adrian; when I was hurting my worst, he helped to tow me back to the peloton. He sacrificed his race to save mine. Much obliged, amigo.