While the majority of VuMedi was fighting for victory at Land Park and Bariani, the team’s lone east coast rider was fighting a battle of his own against the elements in what was an epic beginning to the east coast’s opening weekend of collegiate races. While Alex Gaidis lives in San Jose, he goes to college out on the east coast. After anxiously hearing the results from the early NorCal races rolling in for the past month, he was eager to finally get out and stretch his legs with some racing.
This past Saturday marked the opening race of the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference (ECCC). The week leading up to the race consisted of sunshine and temperatures in the high 40s — beautiful. The only sign of the wretched winter the east coast endured was the pothole-marred streets. The Brown University Cycling Team drove down to the southern tip of the Hudson Valley, NY for what was sure to be an exciting race. The course was a fast 3.7 mile counter-clockwise loop around a lake — generally flat with a few rollers on the backside of the course. The races proved to be even more exciting than anticipated as torrential rain flooded the roads, filled potholes, and soaked riders to their bones before the first lap was even finished. Mud flew everywhere, fog reduced visibility to fifteen feet, and snow banks turned roads into narrow, 5-foot-wide bottlenecks. It reminded me of the classics. I watched riders from the C and B categories finish so cold that teammates had to undress them because their hands were to numb to do anything useful. But, needless to say I was psyched as I thought I had been training in similar weather — I hadn’t. Luckily I had my Jackroo bibs on so the wet didn’t give me any saddle sores. It is the little things in life.
The race kicked off. As expected, moves flew left and right and it soon became apparent who had done their off-season homework. I tried to mark every move I could, but eventually a break slipped away and I wasn’t a part of it. I worked with other riders to reel the break back in but to no avail — the break of two riders stayed away. The peloton, successfully disoriented, trudged on with the race. Wary of attacks now, the peloton let nothing get away. Without team members, a successful chase was futile and the race culminated in a field sprint for third. I crossed the line with a top-ten finish, happy that I didn’t crash and made it through the race in one piece. It was a killer race, it definitely got me stoked for the season. But at the same time I was bummed with my result, and the hunger in my belly for a result only grew overnight. I went into Sunday’s criterium highly motivated and looking for a result.
After a good night of sleep, sharing a pull-out futon with another racer (not sarcastic!), I was feeling amped to race. The criterium was located on the Rutgers campus in New Jersey. The course consisted of a counter-clockwise loop with three corners and a finish that was uphill and into a strong headwind. I ended up riding to the criterium with another local A-racer who showed me some of the scenic back roads New Jersey has to offer — truly beautiful, even with a roaring headwind. It took us around 2.5 hours to reach the criterium. My legs really started to open up and feel loose about an hour into the ride. A few efforts later and I was feeling pretty good about the race to come. Aside from a flat tire I got riding to the criterium, everything seemed to be going well for me. It is impossible for me to have a bad day when I have my pre-criterium breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter and some coffee — oh, and of course a solid morning bathroom trip.
I analyzed the course before racing. I noted that the final corner coming into the finish was sharp and sketchy. Remembering Bryan’s previous win at the first Red Kite Criterium this season, I made a mental note of the final corner. The gun blew and I settled into the first third of the peloton. I was a factor in the race — never more than 7 riders from the front. I hopped on anyone’s wheel who put in a dig and broke away from the peloton. After the break getting away the day before, I wanted to make sure I was a part of it, so I got in every break that formed. It hurt, but thirty minutes into the race one of these breaks got ten seconds on the peloton. The break grew to five riders and the gap slowly grew. Twenty, thirty, forty seconds we heard from the spectators (and five seconds from that one nimrod trying to make us nervous). We worked well together sharing the work and making sure our move was the winning move. It was.
With one lap to go we lapped the main field. Remembering a chat I had with Bryan a week prior, I launched my attack 400 meters or more out from the finish. I made it to the sketchy corner with daylight, railed the corner and put in another dig to carry myself across the line in first place. I couldn’t believe it worked! I am so grateful for the advice Bryan gave me, as well as all the support our wonderful sponsors have given us so far this season. I also can’t forget to thank AJ, who continues to believe in my development and success. I am very fortunate to have such wonderful support!