Lesson 1: Feelings vs. Reality
by: Kristabel Doebel-Hickok
I’ve begun my off-season from what felt like two seasons. The first was the races that I did with the women’s SPY GIANT RIDE team that Michael Marckx, CEO of SPY, so generously worked with me to form and nurture. It started on January 26 with a win at Poor College Kids RR and ended with another win at Devil’s Punchbowl RR on May 11. What felt like the second season began in mid-May when I joined Team TIBCO, and it ended with the Brentwood Grand Prix on August 4. How quickly I made such a big jump, from racing regionally on a club team my first season to racing nationally with the winners of the overall NRC Best Team my second season, make the lessons I learned quite vivid. I know, and never forget, that there are many talents out there that are striving to reach a higher level and might like a glimpse into the experience I had as a neo-pro. So, one by one, I’ll share some of what I’ve come to realize having made the transition.
What you FEEL is not always the reality. Recognizing that how I feel in a race is usually more symptomatic of my own weaknesses rather than the actions of the peloton or my bike has helped me start to do the work to become a better racer. I thought of this when a racer rolled up to me after the Brentwood Grand Prix. She said something along the lines of “All the women were cutting me off in the corners. It’s crazy.” And she was not pleased with the OTHER racers. Considering that she is not a wheel that I would exactly choose to be on, I told her that a good portion of the field is incredibly experienced with skills that far surpass ours and she might want to be careful what she says. Let’s just say her reply indicated that she was still certain it was all the other riders causing problems, not perhaps her own skills. To an extent, that was me a year ago or even more recent than that. I felt like other riders were pushing me into the gutter, riding me off the course, about to bump into me, and nearly taking me out in corners. When I made the jump up to NRC level races, I found that the women ride even closer and what I think is not enough room for a single rider is enough for two in that peloton. It was I, not the other races that had an issue.
The list of goes on…I felt like the person holding me for the start of a time trial was leaning me to the side such that I would fall over when he let go. Not only did I feel this way, I actually fell over at a couple starts. But again, the problem wasn’t the way the starter held me, it was a whole collection of things that I did at the start (no pressure on the pedals, choice of gears, etc). I also felt like the deep(er) dish Reynolds wheels that Team TIBCO put on my training bike were catching enough wind to make me fall over. In fact, I was trying to react to every element with my handlebars rather than my weight. My teammate, Shelley Olds, told me on our first ride together that believe it or not we actually ride these wheels because they are faster! And “you are a strong athlete, you can control your bike.” What? It’s me, not the wheels? She was correct, and I am now quite happy training on my Reynolds Assualt wheels. But I must say, I get pretty excited to put my Reynolds Thirty Two Tubulars on come race day. I am a climber after all. The same goes for every new piece of equipment I got. I swore my Fuji bike wouldn’t turn to corner, and then Ron Peterson fit me to it and I found that it handles beautifully. Problem solved, by fixing the rider not the top-of-the-line equipment.
Looking back on it, what I should have told that racer when she complained about the other women was to take a closer look at how she can make herself feel comfortable in the corners. The racers are going to keep racing just the way they do, but she can work on her skills to be a steady part of the peloton rather than an angry individual. My riding got a whole lot better when I learned to take a look at myself as a racer rather than blame things like the equipment, other racers, and course profile. I also might have told her that immediately after a heated race is maybe not the ideal time to ask questions or complain to other racers, but that’s a whole other lesson that I learned by trial and error.