It was my home for the last two weeks and now I am leaving. Fausto, our bellhop has several cabs lined up to take the parents to the airport. It is early in the morning and he moves like he has been awake for hours. Probably because he has been, each day he starts his shift at 3:00 PM and works until 7:00 AM the next morning. He is directing parents to taxis and translating English to Spanish for the cab drivers. As Fausto energetically moves back and forth from the lobby to the street, the team is waiting for the bus that will take us to the airport. Down the curb I see my parents and brother get into a cab and drive off into the chilly darkness. They don’t know it yet but their flight has been cancelled and they may not be leaving Mexico today. Other parents are leaving and all of the team members have assembled….
| |Lauren Shirock/photo US Cycling
Ben Sharp is standing nearby, he looks concerned and now he his yelling at me “They are driving hard off the front”. It’s on now. It is the fourth lap of the road race and Sharp is on the hill telling me that there is a break. For three laps we paraded around the streets of Aguascalientes with little activity, no attacks, no big breaks, just out for a Sunday ride. It happened on the fourth lap; I thought for sure it would go later. I am out of position and several riders are driving hard on the front. The field is close at this point and a couple miles down the road as we emerge from an under pass I see my Dad and shout at him, “How many, how far?” He shouts back “a little over ten seconds.” I have to go now. I make my way through a couple turns and onto the straight away, moving up on the left side of the field, I jump. I quickly got a gap off several bike lengths and thought for sure that I might be able to make a successful solo bridge. However, the field closed as it strung out in a pace line. I was caught but drove hard down the straightaway. I pulled off, looked for help but there was none. Two Italians had moved up to the front to shut the chase down since they had riders in the break. I told one to pull, but she would not, so I screamed at her to take a pull. One of the Italians said “Sorry, I can’t, I have two riders away in the break. I can’t pull.” This was Worlds, I thought, come on pull. But she wouldn’t. The Italian girl spoke English well but what she really said to me was, too bad, you missed your chance, you are stuck in the field now and the best you can do is settle for eight place with the rest of us. It stung. The rainbow jersey was in that group of seven, so was the second and third spot on the podium. As we turned to head back out of town, my Dad shouted that the break was now at 26 seconds, they had gained 10 seconds in the space of about 3 kilometers. They were now fully organized and driving hard. I realized the world championship was riding away. It was so discouraging; I wanted this race for the last 12 months. From the time I left Belgium last year until this day, I wanted this race. The Italian girl’s commitment to teamwork astonished me. Here in the US, at least during junior nationals, everyone always says that you ride for yourself regardless of how many teammates you have in a race and how they are doing in the race, you ride for yourself. But this Italian girl was willing to give up a shot at Worlds for the sake of her teammates. It truly amazed me. I attacked again one last time. Unfortunately nobody else wanted to chase and the break was too far up the road for a solo bridge so I settled back into the pack for a field sprint. As our field was coming through the last turn of the final lap, teams that consisted of 2-4 girls were setting up for their final sprint. One girl made an early jump to set up her teammates so our sprint started with about 500 meters to go. Racing towards the finish line, I saw a gap on the left side open up so I moved up in the field only to take 20th overall.
The trip from the Andrea Alameda to the airport is only about 30 minutes; you quickly leave the city limits and head south along rural roads. You leave the city and there is no doubt that Mexico is a poor country. However, the people of Mexico were some of the best I have encountered. The Mexicans were so passionate about cycling. After the race I was greeted with throngs of kids wanting my autograph and picture. There I was finishing 20th place, the 19th loser, and these kids are crowding around me like I was a world champion. The children of Aguascalientes were like this to all the riders. Never before have I experienced such a show of support. Yes, I felt awful about my result in the road race. I trained long and hard for this event. I won almost every road race I entered this year, except the one that counted. Getting up at 4:00 a.m. to drive five hours to race at the Jefferson Cup and then turn around and drive five hours to go home in the same day. The next week I was in Maryland, after that New Jersey, New York. I climbed that hill at Bear Mountain four times all to get ready for Worlds. Then you miss the break, no one wants to bridge and it is over. Racing is unforgiving, people say that road racing is kinder than track racing. They say that road races are longer and if you make a mistake there is more time to recover and correct the mistake. That is not true at the World level. You might get a second chance, but if you are on your own, you get one chance. It was just me and Sinead Miller riding for the USA. The Italians and the Aussies had four or five riders in the race. Other European teams entered four riders. Sinead rode hard but cramped early and fell off the pace. We wanted to win, but we fell short. But those children and their parents, how they treated us, the admiration that they showed us helped to take away the sting of defeat. I’ll never forget that. Win or lose, bike racing teaches you something about yourself. This trip to Worlds taught me something about others.
I am standing in the airport in line for my flight with Ben King; we were the only two members of this team that were also in Belgium last year. The airport is small, crowded this morning, riders from Canada, Belgium, Nederland’s and Italy are all standing in line waiting to depart.
This is what I hope to be just one part of a series of reports from my trip to Junior Worlds, hope you enjoyed.
This Article Published 2007-08-15 08:33:14 For more information contact: [email protected]