I've long been warned that Asper-Gavere can be one of the toughest parcours on the circuit. On Friday, the course seemed almost innocuous. A couple steep sections here, a big climb there, but nothing to get to fussed up about. One night and buckets of rain later, the relatively safe seeming Gavere course turned itself into a giant slip and slide. Muddy ruts shooting off into fence posts on the downhills and boggy ground trying to suck your wheels under on the ups. I was torn; will this be terrible? Will it be amazing? Can it be both?
Now that the Canadian National Championships have come and gone and a week's time has given me a chance to process the race, I thought I needed to put my experience in words.
First off, I want to be clear that I'm absolutely thrilled to see my teammate, Raphael Gagne, take the title and I'm equally thrilled that I was a big part of that win. As a team, we knew we had to work together to take the title and I feel we did that to perfection.
Yet, despite that, I'm left feeling a little empty. Empty not because I didn't have a good pair of races. I did. If anything I feel I raced better and stronger than I did a year ago. But empty because of how painfully close I came to getting on the podium both days. I had no realization of this before the race, but it turns out that 4th is just about the worst possible result to get in a race. I was left wondering what could have been. Wondering how I could have gone that tiny amount faster. Wondering if I was hungry enough.
Up until this season, I had continually outdone my own expectations. A podium at last year's nationals? Amazing! A 2nd in Iowa? Never imagined it! A year ago I would have been happy with my results this past weekend. To be honest, I had no idea how it felt to work really hard for something and come out just short. Adam Myerson told me a couple years ago and again last week, "you are too strong now to just ride hard." I didn't know what it meant at the time, but I realize the truth in that statement now. I can't just ride hard and be happy with the result anymore and it took until this season for me to realize that.
In retrospect, Nationals needed to happen like it did. I allowed myself an experience of what it was like to come devastatingly close to something I wanted and instead, came up short. With every race I do from now on, I will race hungrier because of what happened. I took a step towards learning how to win, whether that be the race or my group, by realizing how much I don't want to lose. So Nationals, thank you.
The following is a piece that I wrote last year for Cyclocross Magazine. I was in the midst of finishing my final year of University and, quite frankly, had very little time to do the whole bike racing thing in any way that resembled full-time. While I have begun to focus more on cyclocross this season, much the same still rings true: obsessing over cycling can lead to benefits, but it can also lead to a detrimental and fragile mental state. Go ahead, be tough on yourself right after the race, but then move on and get on with the rest of life, training, and racing. Enjoy!
After months of work, it's fair to say that I'm more than excited to announce the Red Truck - Garneau p/b Easton Cyclocross team. Alongside the building the team, I've also started to brand myself as MVDH Cyclocross. Hope you enjoy!