Mid-Season Delusion Reset.

I'm one of those guys that has a certain over-inflated perception of myself and my abilities. I have this concept of where I fit in the big scheme of things which may or may not have any basis in reality. Inevitably I run into something or a series of somethings that cause me to re-assess. This year, thanks to nearly a month off the bike and a couple SoCal criteriums, my delusions are in a state of flux.
 
Swimming in a small pond, you never really know where stand among the larger population of fish. Occasionally you'll get a rider that competes outside, giving you a slight sense of perspective, but you never really know until you line up yourself and see how it goes.
 
On the surface, my results out in the great big world are anything but encouraging. Seventh in a Cat 5 crit and 5th in a Cat 4/5 crit aren't ProTour-level finishes. However, once I put them into context, they didn't look so bad. I can look at this from a couple directions:
  • I was cooked. Days of walking (gasp!) around Disneyland, several Ditch rides, and a solid group ride pretty much ensured I was anything but fresh. As I get older, I'm finding rest is actually a good thing. Whoda thunk it? My power numbers in a recent Kulis crit, when I was just sitting in and generally not doing anything, were considerable higher across the board. In the El Dorado crit, I was bleeding out of my eyes and the numbers were anything but noteworthy. I need more naps.
  • I didn't know anyone. Teamwork rarely plays a role in lower-level races, but just knowing the players and their strengths/weaknesses can be a huge advantage. For instance, before the GS Andiamo crit I had the clinic to evaluate the other riders. One guy couldn't corner worth a damn and kept opening gaps. I didn't want to be on his wheel, because he'll burn himself out long before the finish. He won. Guys I pegged as strong were the first to fall off. My eye for ability needs calibration. In the El Dorado crit, I was even more on the back foot since it was a last-minute thing. I didn't have time to cyber-stalk the other riders, and burned myself out closing gaps.
Combine those two factors, and my USAC race resume really has little meaning other than I was there, pinned on a number, lined up, and eventually crossed the finish line. I hadn't targeted the races or made any special preparations for them. I just signed up at the last minute and raced, desperate for something besides another ride up and down the Santa Ana Ditch. I needed the intensity, so I got what I paid for.
 
Back home in the little pond, my results haven't been stellar either. Usually I peak in the spring and then begin a long flatline that lasts until the snow falls. I can normally sneak in a result here or there against more talented riders who aren't up to speed yet. This year is different. I'm carrying around ten more pounds than I'd like. Thanks to the plague, my form is still improving steadily, although it still isn't quite where it was before the month-long break. Here and there have been indications things are going well, but I've tried not to place too much stock in them lest I jinx the trends.
 
So, I'm in uncharted territory. That doesn't do much for my confidence levels, and often belief is all that separates a good result from a mid-pack result. It doesn't take much for me to restore my delusions of competency, though. A solid result in a TT, not being dead last in a hillclimb, a top 3 in a mass-start race... these are the things that give me a boost and push me to dig a little deeper following the belief that a breakthrough is just around the corner. Usually all that's around the corner is an Escalade piloted by a teenaged girl crafting a masterpiece via text along the lines of "OMG [poop emogi, rainbow emogi] FML." When confronted by art of that magnitude, my racing aspirations take a back seat. Coincidentally enough, that's where you'll find my mangled body after I fly through the windshield. FML.
 
At this point I'm just hoping for a glimmer. Anything. The way the Masters field has been stacking up this season, I'm keeping my expectations low. That's probably a good thing, because the universe has been quick to slap me down recently if I start acting hopeful.

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