Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Welcome to Expert?

I recall many years ago a sport racer who won the VA State series. He smoked everyone in the class and was riding up with the experts a lot. At the awards ceremony the promoter shook his hand, gave him is award and said welcome to expert.

Recently I've gotten some good results. 3rd at Massanutten, 3rd in the Mill Mountain Time trial and 1st at the Carvin's Cove XC and 1st overall for the Omnium in Vet Sport.

Last year the results were really good too. A 1st, a few 3rds, 4ths, 5th, 6th. Granted we have some really small fields in Virginia but that shouldn't take away from the level of the competetion, in fact it tends to mean that there is just less pack fodder and more hardcores come out.

I've been racing long enough to be cognizant of the sandbagger phenomena and don't want to be one. Given that I don't destroy the field I'm confident that I'm not one. However the general consensus seems to be 3 top 3s or 5 top 5s as a good indication to move up and give someone else a chance to get called up.

I've been thinking of making the jump to Vet Expert. This is a big deal. Expert really is a whole different world, and the jump from sport to expert is a significantly larger step than from beginner to sport. As my friend Skip says, expert is for real. I was asking my coach Dave Morris about vet expert and gushing over how fast those guys are. He said that by that time you get to that level most of the pack fodder has gotten filtered out.

Racing expert is actually one of my lifetime goals. In fact I pulled out a sheet of paper dated 10/9/96 and the Lifetime goal listed was a top 10 in a regional expert race. Given how small the fields can be sometimes that might be a reality if I just cross the line.

I actually raced expert for a little while right before my first son was born. What a fiasco. I moved up just because I'd been in sport class for so long and wanted to get "more money's worth" by doing the longer courses. I certainly was a mid pack sport racer. It was sad acutally. I pretty much rode caboose every race. Alone, typically last place. Discouragaing. The one upside was that I never quit a race.

It wasn't very much fun actually. Coming back to racing these last few years has been a lot of fun. I'll be the first to admit that winning and getting your name called is great, but the most enjoyable part has been just being competitive with some other racers. To really race and not just time trial.

I think I'd do better this time around, but understand that it is going to be a very humbling experience. The reality is I train around 5-8 hrs a week. I imagine some of those guys put in 15-20+. It is concievable that I could spend the rest of my racing career as a mid packer. The thing I'm worried about is that the jump is going to be too big and that I'll be right back where I was years ago, bringing home the caboose.

This is where non-racers just don't get it.

Jason Sager said it nicely on his blog:
" People forget that if you measure your bike racing success on paper results alone that, well, there's only one winner, and most likely it ain't gonna be you. Enjoy your time in the trenches. That's where we all live, save for the occasional gopher jump out of the hole to check the view at the front."

Think about all those guys that dedicate everything to being a midpack pro. Or our American pros that go to Europe and rarely break the top 20.

Why do it?

If you have to ask that question than you'll never understand the answer.

I'm going to ruminate on it some more.

In some ways it's like having kids. I'll never be 'ready'.

I was plannig on racing expert in some VA-derailer series races just for the training because those courses are real short in sport class. Basically go balls out till I die than do whatever it takes to make it over the finish. I imagine that racing in vet-expert for real isn't going to be much different.


At 2:17 PM, Blogger Warren Schimizzi said...


I say go for it! You'll do fine. I have the same dilemma for the Derailer series; Singlespeed and Vet Expert will be equally competitive. Both will have fast company, just one will be shorter (SS). I can relate to the "where am I?" thoughts you're having about your abilities. I wrestle with that all the time. I go to WV and race the Singlespeed class and finish last every time, but closer and closer to the guys in front of me each time I race. I could most likely place high in the Sport class every time, but there are some extra-fast sandbaggers in WV! I always end up racing the Expert length b/c I know it's going to be a benefit to my fitness - even though I have little chance of placing. As far as the Derailer Series: you were right there at every race last year in the to 5. Vet Expert will be a little faster, but everyone has to deal with lots of traffic at these races and can't go balls out. Besides, Experts have to pace themselves a bit more because of the added distance. You'll do fine. Just remember to have fun at every race. You can't control who shows up to race against you, but you can sing at the top of your lungs while you're racing to freak everyone else out!

At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second that - go for it! You made it to the top of the Sport food chain, so there's really nothing left to accomplish in Sport. There will always be guys racing Sport that choose to keep getting podium finishes year after year and never move up.

I don't consider myself genetically gifted and work very hard for every ounce of fitness. I just moved up to expert last fall... It really boils down to "why are you racing?" If you want to continue to improve, and take on new challenges, move up. It may be important to put your ego aside to keep from getting discouraged, but it's also great motivation to step your game up and be the best rider/racer that YOU can be.

Best of luck, Mike

At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say stay in Sport class another year and then move to Expert. You've done well in Sport and it has taken alot of hard work and dedication to get to this point. Go and enjoy it for another season and see if you can make improvements and build the next level.

Again, you've done well, but not to the level of a sandbagger. I have to agree with Warren, there are alot of WV sandbaggers!

At 2:28 PM, Blogger dmc said...

I just made the jump at the Deer Valley NORBA National, the speed of Expert is way faster than sport, but it presents new challenges and has motivated me to focus my training even more.

At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure you know this but I think the mental jump is the hardest. The speed is faster but the intimidation factor / mental focus is what its all about really. Do at least one expert race this season. You've got the legs, but you'll need the focus/confidence. Thats huge.

At 4:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done in getting to where you are now, but if the guys train 15-20 hrs a week then you must at least try and match this (to a degree) to have any chance of competing with them.
Have another season within the sport class but start implenting the distances and intensities of the experts now.

At 10:35 PM, Anonymous Eddie O said...

If you do make the move upward, you will also need to raise your commitment level. Those guys racing expert now are not better than you, they just train more. If you can find the extra few hours a week to give yourself the chance to compete, then go for it.

Eddie O


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