I was reflecting on my last two cyclocross races. I did poorly--and I felt like I did poorly--in the first race. I finished in 9th place but a mechanical issue with my saddle prevented me from giving a good effort outside of standing on the pedals for most of the race. After half of the first lap when the saddle went askew I was all alone in the race. In the second race I felt I did well and finished in 8th place. However in this race I was battling back and forth with three other riders, the guys who finished in 5th, 6th and 7th place. I crashed in a turn on the second to the last lap and those three pulled away as I had to put my chain back on.
One commonality these two races shared is that one of the racers in front of me had some sort of problem that caused them to fall behind. In each race that person climbed back up in the standings during the race, which included passing me. And this is the thought that struck me while going over both races in my mind.
You often hear that you should choose your battles, the reason being is that you don't want to fight a battle that turns out to be an exercise in futility. There's a difference in bicycle racing--cyclocross racing in my example--in that sometimes the battle chooses you and you're left to determine if you're going to answer the challenge or not.
For example, in the second race where I was in a group in which we were going back and forth taking and retaking the lead from each other, I was answering the challenge. Every time they tried to pull away, I reeled them back in. When it looked like they were coasting I darted ahead to keep the pressure on. This continued for four and one-half laps until my front wheel slid out from under me. Getting back on my bike I was left alone again. I kept an eye on the three guys in front of me and during the last 1-1/2 laps they didn't pull away any farther. But I didn't get any closer to them either. That was the battle that chose me and I didn't respond.
When you're all by yourself in a race, it's easy to take it as hard as you want and that's exactly what I did. Those other three guys were just as tired, dirty, and worn out as I was. I only needed to step it up just a notch and that may have made a big difference in that 1-1/2 lap distance. Or it may not have. But I won't know unless I get my mind right first.
This Saturday brings another opportunity.