PSU Easterns: 10 10 10!
Over 16 hours of driving, three mcdonald's stops (I got shakes each time), and the complete drainage of two ipod batteries equals ECC conference championships trip. The two races Yi-Boe and I were competing in took place in a town actually called State College. Yes, the town, is called "college." That's sort of like if Providence was called Art School. During our stay in host housing (thanks matt!) I was reminded how great it is to go to a school smaller than 50,000 students.
Saturday morning we woke early, (our host had to leave for race organization), and killed time at various starbucks, waffle shops etc. before heading to Black Mo forest, reuniting with old friends and prepping our bikes for-- OH DAYUM Yi-boe forgot his shoes! Yeah so I ran around pleading for shoes before Christina (MIT) hooked it up cx style with some crank brother pedals and mtn shoes.
Yi-Boe has been training like a mofo for this weekend and his expectations were high. He was the perfect contender for this race as he weighs almost nothing and is willing to attack. Unfortunately, he flatted out of the race about 12 mi in to the 21mi loop. He raced an aggressive race, sitting around 4th wheel, and told me he had no problems on the three early climbs. But he's pretty pissed he didn't get a shot at Black Mo. Honestly, had he not flatted I expected him to roll up in first or with the lead group. A frustrating day for Yi-Boe he handled it notably well, and, hey, it's how you deal with losses that makes a good racer.
Almost as soon as he switched pedals back with Christina I was kitted up and ready for the A race. I was really hoping for a win, double points and everything, I felt strong, trained smart the past week and had trusty Yi-Boe in the feedzone. Unfortunately when your race is 85 mi you just don't win on a solo break. Exactly the move I tried with 35 mi to go. To be fair, I don't know how but I just suddenly ended up out front alone, and when I hit the bottom of Black Mo with all intentions of sitting up and waiting for the pack, the moto told me my gap was 3:20. Now, really that is nothing, but to my ears it sounded like a winning move. I busted my ass up that 5 mi climb.
Only to get to the top and hear the gap was down to less than a minute. Yes, it turns out the reason I got a gap on the field was because they had all taken a pee/remove warm clothing break. Humiliating. After demolishing my body up that climb I barely hung on to the 9 guys left of the peloton. The last lap coming up Black Mo I was out of water and got popped off. I simply stopped my bike, took a leak, and rode 6mph up the rest of that hill. I rolled in at 10th with a few stragglers who caught me on the descent.
We woke sunday morning with renewed vigor and inspiration from watching a few minutes of Die Hard before sleep the night before. Our BBQ from previous day's banquet stirring our GI tracts, we ate a solid breakfast at the waffle house. The crit course was fast and fun looking and the weather seemed to be coming around for Yi-Boe's final race of his college career.
And he did phenomenally. For not really having a crit racer's body type he raced a perfect race. always on a wheel until the last lap, he finished 10th and took each corner smoothly. All this should be taken in consideration of the fact that he was on borrowed pedals, shoes, and wheels, so yeah, he rocked it.
My race, was insane. I think everyone agreed it was the hardest, most dangerous crit anyone has done in a very long time. This is mostly due to the fact that it was raining for ours and some heavy hitters had come out for championships and really turned the pace up. My legs were shot from the previous day and I held on for dear life to come in at 10th. I heard/saw a crash almost every single lap. And the pace never slowed past a single-file line. All this but still a four man group lapped the field. Insanity. I am still finding black sand in my ears.
It was a hard weekend but sometimes you have to make mistakes to grow as a racer. I can only speak for myself but this was one of those important race weekends where I really get the motivation to work harder and racer smarter. Though I couldn't place beyond top ten, I still earned enough points to rank 4th overall in the conference and 2nd in DII schools. Upon announcing my ranking Joe Kopena said "virtually a one-man show all season." Boy, I can't wait to get some other teammates...
Congrats to RISD for a solid season. Two weeks until I fly out to nationals and get my you know what handed to me. Team party on friday.
photos courtesy of Yi-Boe Huynh and Kristina Chnaider