USAC CX Devo blog: Racing against the best

Sam O'Keefe tests himself against the top 'crossers

Compile each rider’s corneal abrasions after today’s racing in Loenhout and the aggregate length will be meters in scale. A muddy race, of course, I had a reasonable start, a mechanical, and an ensuing battle to make up ground. Solid legs, good vibes in the van with friends, and the sun or some glimmer of it made the day overall a happy one.

The truth is it’s been a tough streak of European races, and after blinking furiously for some time this evening, it makes more sense to reflect inwardly on that. Racing is tactical, calculated, but more raw and animalistic here than anything we do in the US.

We aspire to test ourselves against the best, but when we get there it can be demoralizing. It’s easy to get discouraged when you line up feet away from the best riders in the world. There’s no hiding, no sitting in once the lights turn green. I’ve tried to avoid feeling incompetent technically, incapable physically, or inadequate mentally in that context, but the highest level literally right in front of me is still human. They pull their pants on one leg at a time in the morning.

I’m learning it doesn’t take anything abstract or unattainable to succeed here. Hard work and dedication; riding figure eights in the back yard, running in the sand with a bike on your shoulder, sprinting up a ‘berg. What I need is more time.

I feel I am at a point where I'm now able to use these race experiences to improve and not let them wear on me even if they don’t all go perfectly. The USAC setup is dialed, and lacking so far is the pieces coming together on my end to perform at a level where I want to be. Blocks like these drive the entire year of training and racing, reminding me what there is to aspire to, and that the process of driving myself and the sport forward never ends.

Any football movie will tell you that character is not in who you are when you win, rather when you lose; that strength is revealed in the ability to persevere through failure. Through the emotional roller coaster of motivation, crushing defeat, re-motivation, I’ve certainly grown as a person. I’ve had many nights to think about who I am as a bike racer and who I want to become as a person with bike racing in my life, but tonight I’m looking forward to our last race in Baal, then onward to nationals and beyond.

Shout out to all my classmates at Middlebury College, and a huge thank you to the USAC staff and my team for the support!

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