Riding to race v. racing to ride

Now that I’ve started racing a little bit and have two wins under my belt for the week (Tuesday PIR and Rose Garden Circuit Race #3) I’ve been thinking about racing versus riding. I’m a Cat 5 racer not because I don’t ride, but because I don’t have race experience. But what people think when they see Cat 5 is “Oh, you’re a new rider”, and while I don’t think they mean to condescend it is a little frustrating to come across that sentiment when I just did a 115 mile freaking Rapha race. But that got me thinking about people’s motivation to ride, and my own motivation to race.

Through the winter our pals from various cycling teams rode with us to stay fit and train for the racing season, and for the love of riding. I was just riding to ride. And when I race it’s for fun, to see how I like it, and to ride differently from my norm. How hard can I ride for how long before I can’t hang on anymore? Do I have it in me to sprint one more time? It’s not the same as sprinting for the county line signs on a recreational ride, knowing that you’ll all stop for water in 15 miles and take a break.

Making the mental shift from “it’s just fun, and oh look at the pretty scenery” to “this is a competitive strategy and I need to be alert at all times” has been hard for me in longer road races. I don’t want to miss out on the views, the wildlife, the camaraderie of cyclists riding together. The competitive side of me wants to win or at least finish well, and when I don’t I can beat myself up about it a bit. After my 10th place Banana Belt finish I was pretty frustrated, and it took an amazing ride in The Dalles to remind me why I love cycling. In a weird way, racing is my intervals training for my long weekend rides.

Don’t get me wrong, winning is fun and I look forward to next week’s race line up of Monday and Tuesday PIR then the Rose Garden Circuit Race finale, and I hope to win again. But what I’m really looking forward to most is the ride we have planned for the weekend. A spirited 70 miles, lots of climbing, a good bit of gravel, portable speakers, and some awesome cycling ladies riding for the love of the ride.

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