By Joshua Friedman
We on the men’s elite team have been fortunate that the Elite Amateur Road National Championships have been within driving distance the last four years. That means we can pile our gear and bodies into a Zipcar to compete against the country’s best amateurs.
This year’s edition was in and around the rolling hills and historic sites of Hagerstown, Maryland for the second year in a row. Everywhere you turn there are historical markers recalling important moments of the Civil War. It’s difficult to take it all in when you’re racing but the significance of the place permeates the air and you can catch it if you take a second - hard to do at the national championships, but not impossible.
The race organization did a fantastic job with the race. The courses were beautiful, safe and challenging while everything ran with precision. This is the benchmark of racing we hope to see every time and allows us, as the people racing, to focus on the race.
The format for the last four years has suited my focus (fortunate once again!). The time trial, my stro
ngest discipline, is the first day. And this year the day before the time trial wasn’t pouring rain with frogs jumping across the road, so the preride on my Specialized Shiv TT was actually useful. I altered my plan from the year before to go much easier on the descents and smash the climbs. The preride confirmed that I was going to hold to the new plan.
Race day had calm winds and it wasn’t blazing hot, although we do have an early start. Time trials are boring to watch and even more boring to read about. Here are bullet points instead!
I put my Zipp 808 and Super 9 to turn my Shiv TT into a spaceship, squeezed my body into my Craft TT suit that fits perfectly (only in TT position, don’t stand up) and went out to smash.
The plan felt way too easy. But I held to it. I knew it was right when I was still falling apart towards the end.
I went 50 seconds faster than the year before on the same course and did 7 places better for 27th. Getting closer to my goal of a top 20. A good day out.
The next day was the road race on a rolling course but with nothing too punishing, but also with almost nothing flat. What was punishing was the wind. We woke up to flags trying to jump off of their poles. The beginning of the race was pretty mellow, at least for me, because I wanted to save as much as I could for the 180km. I didn’t do enough long, long rides leading up to the race but had a plan to stay mellow, out of the wind and keep eating.
Racing heated up a little earlier than I had hoped because of the wind. People dropped wheels in the crosswinds pretty early. I probably should have been more patient but burned a few matches to ensure good position. I definitely paid for those efforts and tried to recover as best as I could. I’m not going to lie here, there were no heroics and I tried to stay so well protected that I never saw the front of the race. I did go out the back of the race late and rode the last bit with one other rider who was generous with snacks because I was cracking. Race over. No result to write home about.
After a rest day was the crit. I lasted something like 18 minutes in the crit the year before. I had low expectations, which sometimes leads to great things. I don’t have the courage for technical crits like I used to. I felt pretty good for a while this year. My new crit machine (and road race machine) for 2019, a Specialized Allez Sprint and exact copy of my old machine free of wear and tear, is the perfect bike for these situations. No lying, this is the best road bike I’ve ever raced, and I’ve been racing since 1997 - that’s a lot of races and a lot of bikes.
The bike didn’t hold me back, it was mostly my brain. I lasted 50 minutes, while a marked improvement, didn’t get me to the finish of the race. Back into the Zipcar for the drive home, another national championship week under my belt. Here’s to hoping that 2020 is another great location with a great promoter that is in driving distance.