...of the podium
2nd - Nature Valley GC
2nd - USPro TT
3rd - Fitchburg-Longsjo GC
2nd - Redlands Classic GC
7th - Tour of California St. 5 TT
2nd - Tour de San Luis st. 3 TT
3rd - Tour of Elk Grove GC
2nd - Tour of the Gila st.3 TT
2nd - KOM at Philly
10th - Tour of Utah Prologue
It was difficult to write down these results and it's difficult to look at them. My top 10 failures and shortcomings racing this year are there for everyone to see. The top 3 particularly evoke a sick feeling in my stomach just looking at them. After each one of those first 3 results listed, I remember thinking how teaching high school chemistry or working in a research lab wouldn't (COULDN'T) possibly be as painful as what I was feeling at the time. All that I knew is that I never wanted to feel like that again - and the safest way (so the logic in my head goes) is to find a new line of work. Of course, it doesn't take long to come to my senses and remember that I'm living my dream job and there's no way that I could willingly give it up. So the only choice is to work harder, learn from my mistakes, and make sure it doesn't happen again....but it will. I will always have soul-crushing disappointments in this sport as long as I'm racing at this level. The trick is to let them go. This year has been a lesson in recovering from failures. People may look at my season and see the (apparent) Individual NRC title, all the TT wins, all the GC podiums and say it was a dream season. I will look back at this season and remember how I let my team down by losing the GC lead on the last day in dramatic fashion in both the Nature Valley GP and the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic. I'll remember how it wasn't me pulling on the stars and stripes jersey on the podium after the USPro TT. I'll remember how I had to ship off 8-10 leader's jerseys to different family, friends, and sponsors because I couldn't stand the sight of them and didn't want them in my house as none of them were from the last day of the race.
This is not to say that I dwell on the negative. I'll certainly remember the moments on the top step as well. I'll keep in mind that since turning pro, my final NRC placings have been: 2006 - 47th, 2007 - 104th, 2008 - 54th. And looking back, I'll be proud of how Bissell came together throughout the year and scrapped for every point possible to earn the Individual NRC title by a mere 7 points! Because let's be honest, what is more indicative of a "Team" title? Is it the Teams classification where you score the most points by placing 3rd, 5th, and 6th rather than just 1st? Or is it the individual standings where the entire team sacrifices their races for 1 person's placing? I believe it's the latter. That's why I am so happy that Bissell was rewarded with the #1 spot in the Individual NRC standings. I time trialed well, but the team slayed themselves for my podium finishes. Without that commitment and sacrifice, I'd currently be 3rd at best in the standings. I believe that WE (the riders, staff, and sponsors) deserve that title.
So, I'm planning on using all these rollercoaster experiences to help me keep an even keel during next year's adventures and challenges. Because some may think the stakes go up next year racing at a higher level, but I don't believe that to be true. You can be just as exhilerated (or devastated) by a small local race with 18 starters and a few parents and girlfriends watching as you can by a prestigious NRC race with deafening crowd noise. It all depends on INTERNAL drive, motivation, and goal setting and has very little to do with the number of fans present, prize money, or number of countries providing live video streaming.
BUT FIRST!!! We have unfinished business at the Tour of Missouri next week where last year I learned some valuble lessons about being a pro. In last year's edition, I was so cracked mentally and physically from the season that my attitude was a joke and when I found myself as the only GC guy on the team after getting in the decisive break, I fell apart in the last 3 stages and went from 6th to like 15th because of stupid mistakes and general unprofessionalism. Moral of the story: SUCK IT UP PANSY-BOY!!! And ride like you're capable no matter how much you hate your bike at the time.
FTR: I do not currently hate my bike and am looking forward to smashing some stinky Euro-trash next week. :)
Sorry for the length (of course it's your choice to read my heartfelt ramblings, not mine) but it's an emotional day for me. I've already had 20 or so congratulatory emails, calls, and texts today. Oh, and I peed in a cup for some USADA reps this morning too after we watched the end of the Vuelta stage. They come over to visit so often that we're on a first name basis. All this before noon - Big day!