By Sawyer Shafer
Every season it is important to set goals for yourself with your coach to help set expectations, and have certain races that you will peak for over the season. In addition to that, these goals and “A” races serve as a carrot in front of me during excruciatingly hard training rides, and long stretchers of no racing.
Going into the race that I had chosen as my “A” event for the year, Ore To Shore Soft Rock, I was feeling good mentally and physically. In addition to that, I had recently gotten a bike fit from that had me feeling better than ever on the bike. Going into the race, I knew it was going to be very hard, but I was up for the challenge. As advised by Terry Ritter, I applied for preferred start and got it. This eliminated the stress of getting to the front of the race. I drove up to Marquette the day before the race with my dad, and had a chance to do openers on the last few miles of the course. My legs were feeling great. That night I had a quality dinner, and didn’t have any trouble falling asleep. The morning of the race I woke up three hours before I was due to start, and had breakfast and had no trouble eating it which, along with falling asleep easily, is rare on race day. We got to the start venue an hour and a half before the start time, and I began my ritual of putting my tires at the appropriate pressure and mixing my race bottles. I then started my warmup and, just like the day before, felt I had the legs to win the Tour! I got my spot on the front row with about ten minutes to start. The next thing I knew, I was racing in my most important race of the year.
I positioned myself well in the first few miles, never leaving the top five wheels, and as soon as we hit the two track, I put in a little dig and was able to roll off the front with a group of about six. This group would produce the top six placed finishers. Roughly six miles into the race is a section of road that really scared me. It was miles of rolling hills and I knew if I was going to get dropped, this was where it would happen. Thankfully, I made it through unscaved and still feeling super strong. About ten miles into the race, it hit me that I can really win this. Then a few minutes later we came around a tight corner and I stood to sprint out of it and felt the chain slip like it had just fallen off of the front chain ring! I stopped to put it on and realized I had broken my rear derailleur. At this point, I hadn’t yet realized that this meant my goal was no longer attainable, and that all my hard work and countless hours on the bike were all in vain. The realization that I wouldn’t be able to finish the race hit hard. Very hard.
Looking back on this a few days later, I realized what happened wasn’t too terribly bad considering I didn’t get hurt and the derailleur failure was a warranty problem and no fault of mine. And in the grand scheme of things, one dnf isn’t the worst thing that could happen. It also helped me realize that, aside from this failure, I had reached the bulk of my seasonal goals: I am now a Cat three road racer, won my first criterium, and have posted solid results all summer. This was due to awesome Team support and hard training. In addition, this failure itself can be used to add fuel to the fire, allowing me to chase down my remaining goals and push through the rest of the long season.