Victory in the Houston Grand Crit

the prelude

After a series of criteriums in Rockwall and Dallas, I scheduled a race in Houston called the Houston Grand Criterium.  It took place in downtown Houston in a park called Sam Houston Park.  It was near the historic district which has a very similiar feel to that of the Matrix Challenge.  The area had very unique houses that were preserved by the city.

After the Rockwall Criterium, I knew I had to be a bit more specific in my training.  I followed the advice of one of my peers (who is a coach and trainer at work), Lealon Gammel, who has helped me improve my muscular strength and muscular endurance specifically for cycling.  As a friend told me by the name of Bob Hebb, “the fitness industry is very rewarding”.  I agree with that as Premier Fitness has helped me on so many levels.  The team I work with is fantastic.  I have never worked with such a great group of individuals in my life.  To the front desk, childcare, trainers, management, the customers (a big shout out to all my customers!!!), and most importantly God, that place is a great ‘ball of energy’.  I have described the team as a syncronization of energy and communication.  If any of you are who are interested in the diagram I draw to represent the team, come find me.  I will illustrate it for you.

The training I have done has incorporated active stretching and exercise which can be found in our sports performancing training program and Crossfit.  I also adopted the Paleo diet thanks to the encouragement and surrounding of hardcore Crossfitters.  It works!

The week before Houston Grand Crit, I shared my goal to some friends, “I want 1st place.”  Some responses were very supportive.  Some were along the lines “yeah thats a big goal”  I had confidence in my training and abilities.  I didnt wait for approval or doubt from them.  Their responses didnt change my thoughts.  I wanted to win this thing.

I studied video of the track, where attacks were, and people attacked (to simply define ‘attack’, its the moment that a rider unleashes an extreme load of energy on the bike to win or get out front) anywhere from 15-20 seconds from the finish.

I am feeling good and confident.

the race

Our race started at 8:15am, Sunday 5-6-12.  The announcer opened the course for a test ride or to lineup.  Danny, Natalie, and I lined up.  Danny had said the course was not technical so it wasnt important to warm up to it.  We are far right of the finish line.  I request that I pray for us before we take off.  I also asked other cyclists if they wanted prayer but they declined.  In fact, I even think I saw them move over a few spots because I offered it to them.  Maybe that was just a coincidence?

“………….Father God, we race this morning in your glory and not for ourselves…….Amen”

A few minutes later, the announcer is so bragging on my temmate, Natalie, for racing mens CAT5 race.  I even heard the race official say “there is a female in this race?!”  Yep, Natalie just got done with the womens race and immediately hopped in our race.  Guts if you ask me.


The race starts, I hit the clip and right starting gear.  The race starts pretty peppy like all starts in a CAT5 race.  I was 2nd wheel.  We had a light crosswind to our left and I was overlapped to 1st wheels right to shelter from the wind.  It wasnt much but I knew a 40 minute criterium was going to be a blast!  It sure is easy to stay up front.  Oh, just the second I think that, here comes the peleton working their way around to my right and left engulfing me to the center.  I got swallowed up like the crashing of waves on a beach shore.  I ended up shifting toward the middle.  I found a safe spot to the far right and I took it.  However, there was a challenger trying to contend for that spot.  I ‘closed the door’ on a rider so to speak and I dont think he liked that.  Keep in mind we are only 90 seconds in the race and already fighting for position.  The rider works his way next to me and he banged bars and elbows. I did the same to hold the position.  Though it was a hairy moment traveling 23+mph, our composure was maintained.  No remarks were made.  Its racing.  Nothing personal.  We speed up towards the 1 mile turnaround which is a low speed 180 degree turn.  I hit the brakes but the pavement was really slick so my rear wheel locked up.  I fished tailed but my bike balance kept me up.  It felt like car racing coming from 140mph braking down to 60mphish around 150 meters, in a turn!  We hit the U turn and I swung out wide and hopped the curb because no room was given to me.  I sprint for high position.  Im there.

A few laps later they announce a preme (pronounced PREEM).  This is an intermediate incentive for the racers to cross the finish line first next lap to win a prize.  This does not dictate the overall winner but the winner for that prize.  I was not interested in it.  I was interested in going on a counter attack.  In the last 600m to the winner of the preme, the riders were riding really aggressive.  I did notice alot of the riders at this race were really really young. 20+.  I stayed with the main group and the preme contenders cross the finished line and didnt fall back, they kept on going with the group.  If anybody goes for a preme, usually the contenders near ‘pop’ and have to recovery quickly to the back of the field.  These contenders hung right on to the front.  This is an indication that this field has some pretty fit people.  Bigger races bring bigger challenges I now notice.  I am in for the challenge.

After the preme was done, they announce another preme!  Usually this isnt done back to back (at least in the races Ive participated in).  So instead of cooling off from a preme, they launch another.  Again, alot of aggressive riding!  Here we go to the end of the 2nd preme, and guess what?!  They launch another preme.  back-to back-to back premes.  So it was a slug fest.  I was closer to the front on the last preme so I quickly made the decision to try and maybe go for it.  Nobody was going?!  I do a sneak sprint 4 wheels back but the guys upfront launched before I can get up there so I closed off my sprint.

Okay, enough of the preme’s.  I got pushed back to the back of the group.  People were really holding their position well.  Kudos.  It wasnt an easy race.  I snake my way far right.  They are cramming me to the right curb.  I have inches of room before I bang bars or bang the curb.  I am riding in the gutter.  No room to take and no room given.  I see a metal grating which covers a water drainage coming up in 20meters.  “Rider give me a few inches”, he moves and I barely miss the grating.  “Thanks Rider”  (thumbs up)  He acknowledges.

Moments later, I get boxed in the center after being up front.  I finally unbox myself and I am on 2nd wheel.  15+ wheels back, a 3 man crash!!!  It sounded nasty!  Lots of bikes and bodies hitting the ground at 24+.   The pace lifts a bit but we turn around to analyze the gap, there was none.  Odd.  Oh well and on we go.

The announcer announces the final lap.  Here we go!  I am feeling really healthy despite of my heart rate cruising above 180 bpm.  Before we get to the sharp 180 degree turn, I knew position was important.  My body is operating at 95% at this point and we got 1000m to go. I make an effort to be in the top 5 before the u turn.  Here we go……and….. I got in.  I am 4th wheel.  This is great!  1st man picks up the pace going into the brake zone.  He gaps the group a bit.  We are risking everything we got to catch him.  The speed entering the corner was fast!  2nd wheel, 3rd wheel fly off the course!  They unclipped to save a crash but they are off the course and had to hop a curb!!  I almost did and I lock up back brakes.

By this time, guess what happened to 1st wheel?  He has a gap of 20 meters and I am chasing to pull the group.  This is not the position I wanted to be in to win this race.  Danny is on my wheel and I am pulling the group at 26+mph.  He is directing me to keep the pace steady so I dont blow up.  My legs were complete trashed.  We got about 800m to go and I am left forced to chase and pedal!  1st man was pulling away and nobody was committing to the chase at all.  I even lifted pedaling and nobody wanted to be upfront.  This is bad.  On with my pull.

I glance behind me to see what the peleton was going to do.  Attack to the right or left?  I saw a few people to the left so I shifted the group to the left.  Thanks George Hincapie for the idea (Stage 21 TdF in Paris 09′) I am already pulling longer than I had thought.  We got 400m to go and I give it………one……..last……tug……and …… KABOOOM. I blew up.

s   l  o  w  m  o  t  i  o  n

I saw the peleton lash out in rage for the finish line in front of me.  Lots of guys fighting for the lead mans wheel.  Danny pulled away.  My mouth is wide open with my teeth grimacing.  My teeth are dry and lactic acid is drowning my legs.  The peleton goes ahead 1 rider at a time.  I am sucked back around 30+.  All this great efforts for 30+?  I came down here for a 30+ finish?  No way, really?!  I trained for a double kick though?

snap out of it!

I kick it in high gear.  I use a lower pedal mashing cadence.  I am in my drops.  My legs are spinning.  Of all things I didnt think I could sprint anymore a long pull and after blowing up.  I sprinted for the last 120meters.  I make a few spots.  Finish is coming!  A rider in front of me crashes and I have to dodge his crash in the sprint.

22 of 51

My legs were absolutely mad at me.  I couldnt pedal.  I was able to give “knuckles” to other riders though.  It was a great race.  There was a great show of athleticism, skill, and sportsmanship.

I am cooling down and I find a curbside by Natalie.  Natalie was withdrawn from contention.  I unclip from my bike and I cant even stand up.  My legs are just drowning at this point, yes, race is done, and theyre drowning.  I chat about the race with Natalie.  We discussed our race in a sentence or two.  I cant even stand up!  Danny finds me and he has the biggest grin on his face.  “YOU DID GREAT MAN!  You were leading me out…*this*…..*that*…. I needed another 200m from you but hey, you did awesome!  If I had another 200m, I woulda nailed it!! Youre gonna do great in the upcoming races!!  This isnt about that I didnt get the extra 200m, its about you doing great!”  Thanks Danny!

I chat with fellow racers and discuss their race.  This was some peoples first, I give them encouragement because they finished last.  “You know, you got out here and gave it your best and as long as you had fun doing it, thats what matters most.  We have all been there so keep on doing what you are doing, keep at it!”

There was a large amount of Asian riders which in my personal experience is unusual.  They looked like foreign exchange students.  They didnt speak english.  Its so cool to see different backgrounds and walks of life racing bicycles.  One of them was on a down tube shifter too.  Thats awesome if you ask me.

I pack up my bike and drive off.  I am off driving down the freeway having a deep discussion with God.

Heavenly Father, where was my victory today?

He told me.  I got c h i l l s and g o o s e b u m p s  in the car, literally.  I almost started weeping.  His voice is so powerful.

It is not about my victory but His victory.  His Kingdom was glorified and the Word was spread.  Seeds were planted. His will, will be done on earth as it is in our heavens.

I ask you readers to answer privately.

Are we glorifying God and his Kingdom in our lives?

Whose victory are we after: His or ours?

Does it matter?


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