We're at the Tour of Virginia now and my eyes are wide open after a much needed reality check the first day.
I always knew it would be hard. I always knew that the riders here would be fast. That was understood, but knowing in your head about what you think might be hard, and knowing in your legs are two entirely different things.
We have an incredible set-up for this week - all we have to do is get on our bikes and ride...preferably fast. It's really almost freaking me out. I've never really had someone take care of me. I felt bad the first time I was told to go away and relax instead of help out. It's really a different experience, but something that I know will pay huge dividends over and over this week. I can't say enough how appreciative I am for this support, I just hope I can ride well enough at some point to actually warrant this kind of professional help.
We also have an absolutely perfect food plan for the week: a friend of the team's - Ramon Taimanglo, who is an incredible chef - pre-made us meals for the whole week, so basically all we have to do is add a little water and heat up the food and we're eating gourmet meals in the comfort of our hotel room or immediately after a stage. It's genius, and it's delicious to boot.
Oh, and we're racing too...today's racing was quite the opening. I rode so, so hard in the time trial, cracked with about a half mile to go, and finished a spectacular 85th - 37 seconds behind the winner on the day, Russ Langley. It blows my mind just thinking about how fast that is. I felt like I went at least somewhat fast, but to go a full 37 seconds faster, is just mind boggling. I hope I can be that kind of fast someday.
The team was really tightly grouped in the TT. We were all within ten seconds of each other, Tiago, Chris, me, and David. David is pulling off some quality riding: just a few days ago, he wasn't coming due to some nasty sickness, so he's gotta be happy with that.
After the morning time trial festivities that left me feeling like a 50-car pile-up wreck, we rolled on down the road to downtown Lynchburg for the evening crit...WOW. If the time trial was eye-opening, the crit was something along the lines of earth-splitting. Some 175 riders took the start on the one mile course, complete with its frightening descent to super fast leftie to a steep hill, all connected by two fast straightaways (or something like that).
The start was mad. I felt like I sprinted for the first five laps and I was still barely in the top 50, and that's with the benefit of hindsight, which probably means I was closer to 100th.
The downhill left turn scared me senseless, and the ensuing 55 kph-plus speeds on the back stretch were wild. Immediately after that we would come to a near stand still on the steep hill. Out of control! I really haven't participated in too many really big races in my 'career', so this has already been quite the experience. I did this race last year, but there's no doubt that the race has taken a quantum leap forward in terms of both field size and quality. I've honestly never done a crit with 175 riders before - it's hard to envision, but when you think you're in a decent position and you look in front of you and see riders numbering something along the lines of the Mongol horde, you start to think things over a bit...like: 'What exactly AM I doing here?' and 'Can I actually race at this level?'
After much thought given to the topic, I decided that I can, not for any other reason than the fact that I just figured why the hell not, right? I'm trying to make it sound simple, because I need simplicity, being so slow in the head and all.
So the big goal for tomorrow is to try and get in position to actually race my bike and not watch the bike race from half a mile back. I just want the opportunity to at least TRY. I'd love to make the early break at some point - and I figure its well worth fighting for, because otherwise, what exactly will I be waiting for? To get dropped on the big climbs at the end? That doesn't sound so hot to me.
Our plan as a team is to race the first hour as hard as possible and do our damndest to make the break - hopefully someone gets in it. If not, then Erik figures it was a good opener for later in the day when the finale creeps up.
I'm looking forward to the rest of the week. It's time to step up to a higher level, or get destroyed trying. Or something Rocky-sounding like that.