Konrad Report - My First Cat 4 Win

Ed. Note: This report originally appeared at CriteriumCoaching.com as part of a race report contest.

When it was over I threw up. I was exhausted, exhilarated, and ecstatic. I have been racing bikes since I was about ten years old. My racing age this year is 15. I have won (and lost) many junior races over the last six years. However, this is the first full year that I have also raced in the men’s Cat 4. I first raced Cat 5 in 2009. When I first raced Cat 5, I could not keep up with the pack for the entire race. I was usually dropped off the back. In 2010 I began the season again as a Cat 5 racer, but eventually qualified to move up to Cat 4. For the 2010 bike racing season I usually participated in both the junior category and the Cat 4 category at any race I attended. I have always done pretty well in the junior races, but racing against a much larger field made up of much older riders was a big challenge this season. I was again dropped off the back during a few races, but I also began doing better in this category and was able to achieve some decent results. Our bike club, ABD (or Athletes by Design) put on a big race weekend at the end of August this year. It was at this event that I had one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life when I won my first Cat 4 race ever.

The Winfield Criterium is the biggest bike race that our club sponsors each year. I have participated in this race for the last six years, and this year I would be racing in two events: Junior 15-16 category and Cat 4. It was a beautiful summer Sunday, and the juniors’ race was the American Bicycle Racing (ABR) National Championship race and was scheduled for early in the morning. There were only seven of us in this race, but the competition was pretty tough. In the end I was able to sprint to the finish line and claim first place, but it was a close race and a tough one. The second race for me that day was the Cat 4 race. Up until this race, the best I had finished in this category was in the top ten. It was not a huge field of racers, but about 35 Cat 4 racers came to the line. Some of the juniors who had raced earlier (including the 1st and 2nd place winners in the Junior 17-18 Category) were also racing Cat 4. In addition, there were many riders that I knew from our bike club as well as riders I had met at other races. Although I had decided to give the race everything I had, with three laps to go I actually had thoughts of giving up. I pushed myself past these thoughts and decided to stick it out and give it my best shot. On the last lap I sprinted to the line and with less than ten feet to go I pushed ahead of the rest of the riders and took first place.

In looking back at this momentous win, I can remember some parts of the race very well while others are really just a fast-motion blur. Sitting at the start line, my adrenaline was pumping like a jackhammer tearing up a street. Although I could distinctly hear the crowd around me chatting away, I hit my mental mute button and took off at the sound of the starting whistle. This race was scheduled to be 35 minutes long plus three laps of the course. This meant I would be going around this one-mile course about 20 times. While there were only four corners to this course, the first one is only about 30 yards from the start line. The next corner leads up to an extremely steep hill on the back side of the course. I knew this was a mountain that I would need to climb at least 20 times in the next half hour or so. At the top of the climb there is another sharp angle followed by a quick descent into the final corner of the course. The last section of this course is a pretty straight, flat section of the street leading up to the finish line. It was this part of the course that I considered my best chance to move ahead. As I mentioned before, I considered giving up on the race entirely with three laps to go. But somehow I was able to dig down deep inside myself and pull out just a little bit more. I rode the last two laps of the race like a car running on empty. I desperately pushed down on the pedals again and again and just hoped I had enough in me to make it to the end. On the final straightaway I was in the lead pack with about six other guys. No one was more surprised than I was when I somehow managed to cross the line ahead of them all!

Looking back on this significant occasion, I can honestly say that it was both memorable and a bit of a blur. Thankfully, I have pictures of the winners on the podium, and I am the one standing above the number 1. This race was probably the most exhilarating race that I have been in during my six-year career. While this will hopefully not be my last Cat 4 win, it was undoubtedly the one that I will remember the most. Oh, and the prize for first place was $90, which was a really nice bonus!

Here is a podium shot from my Cat 4 win:

And, just for fun, here are a couple of the Junior 15-16 podium shots:

(There were rumors that the cute girl in the white shorts was going to give me a kiss, but she must have chickened out….)

Podium shot from the ABR National Championship Junior 15-16 win: