Today was the Utah State Criterium race, and also my first race as a Cat 4 racer. It was fast and furious to say the least. It was a very fun race and while I didn’t do as well as I wanted to (21st), I also was able to finish with the bunch, which felt like a personal victory.
As I have been obsessing over the race, you know you do it too, I realized something interesting. I have stopped making excuses.
The truth that none of us really want to admit is that in cycling there is always an element of chance. No matter how good we are there is always the chance that something will go wrong and put us out of the running. Any cycling fan who watched Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador battle it out on the Porta de Balès will never be able to forget that. It was an intense game of Cat and Mouse until Andy dropped his chain, and Contadors attack went unanswered as he tried to get it back on.
Races are won in seconds, either seconds at the finish line or seconds on the course. While we can influence some of those seconds, others just happen. Whether because of something we did, or because of something someone else did, and the test of a domestique is what they do with them.
That brings me back to excuses.
Because of the uncertain nature of this sport we engage in it is easy to assuage our egos at the end of a race by listing out all the external forces that caused us to do more poorly then we thought we should. It’s easy to do. Some guy clipped my line, there was a crash in front of me, my tires were low on air, I didn’t sleep well the night before, my nutrition was off, the list could go on all day.
While they may make us feel better about how we did, they also give us an excuse to not train harder. A reason to not push a little more into the red zone. Because, it’s not our fault, someone else prevented our victory.
But the truth is that none of that matters. When it really comes down to it we can’t control outside forces, no one can. All we can do is make the best of what the race throws at us. Because in the end it doesn’t matter how many people cut our line, or bumped into us. In fact it doesn’t even matter if we win or lose. What matters is how hard we race, and whether we leave it all out there on the course.
Excuses just make us slower.