On May 3rd, I pulled off the best performance of my young racing career at Défi Sportif in Montreal.
My goal going into this event was to show improvement over last year’s performance at Nationals in Madison, Wisconsin. I also wanted to show that I had the ability to stay close to the person who was nationally ranked in 3rd place.
This road race was organized in such a way that I raced with mixed classes of hand cycles and trikes and, at the end, everyone was separated by class to determine the winners in each. Two waves of hand cycles started, each one minute apart, prior to the trikes. In all, we were ten trikes, but fifty racers on the track, including all of the hand cycles. As you can imagine, this makes it exciting to watch but challenging for the participants. We were all fighting for the right position or line to take on the course that would give us an edge over the other.
At the end of the first straight away, I found myself in last position. I was stuck behind a rider who, for some reason, was weaving from side to side making it very difficult, and possibly dangerous, to pass at speed. By the time I was able to pass, the main field of trike racers were gone from sight.
As I finished my first lap of five, I could hear my coach screaming at me to catch up to Frank (Matzke) and for us to work together to close the gap on the main field. I had no idea how far ahead Frank was (or, in this case, how far behind I was), but I gave it my all. After two laps, I caught him, and as I pulled up next to him, pretty spent at that point, I said, “Man, you are a hard S.O.B. to catch!” Then I asked if Rick had shouted at him too. He said yes and we quickly agreed to work together to close the gap.
For the next two laps, we took turns pulling each other around the course – drafting off each other to reduce the workload of going that speed and improve our overall time. Frank pulled first, which allowed me to recover from trying to catch him – thank you Frank!
What was really cool for me, was that during these two laps where we pulled each other around the course, it was the first time I got to use the skills and techniques that I had learned during the training camps – specifically pace lines (including trading positions in the line) and drafting.
Towards the end of the fourth lap, I began to think about the race to the finish – where Frank might make a move to create space for the final sprint and where or how I might make mine. I was in the final pulling position – in front – and, when I looked back, and I didn’t see Frank in my draft. He was off to my right side, still behind me, but outside of the draft. I thought he was making his move to start sprinting. So I went as well.
We were probably 300+ meters away from the finish line. It was a LONG sprint. Of course, Nathalie was there screaming on the sidelines for both of us. I dug deep. And, on this day, I was the better rider by two seconds – taking fourth place in our class.
Afterwards, Frank just said, “Good sprint!” My appreciation of his sportsmanship multiplied, but, more importantly, we agreed to work together going forward to improve our times and chances at podium finishes. Thank you Frank for a race I will never forget!