I love when Zac comes home (back to the States) from a trip abroad racing for Team Heavy Pedal and one of his first reactions is to jot down his experience. We discuss the events a lot after his races and he is able to share the excitement, of actually being there. Zac is a calm and collected guy and it shows in his demeanor and his writing. We will continue to share his thoughts on competing, socializing and enjoying his time riding with the team.
Every race I do represents a challenge. Whether it be stressful travel, or a stacked professional field, it never seems to be easy at the top level of our sport. It is grueling. My final races of the season with Team Heavy Pedal were the last two Red Hook Crit Championship Series held in Barcelona and Milan. Both required every last bit of my racing experience to finish.
The Barcelona race was my first time back racing overseas in a few years. After being thrust into a different time zone and culture, I became easily overwhelmed. I got a freak flat in qualifiers, which set me up with starting 70th on the tight, twisting course for the final race. I got caught behind a crash on the second lap. I quickly lost site of the front of the field, where I knew I could be, and had to be. After a strong 4th in the opening round of the championship in Brooklyn, I had to settle with no points from the Barcelona round. In reflecting on this race, I realized that I had put too much pressure on myself. I knew that I had to adjust my game plan and prepare wisely leading up to the next Red Hook Crit finals later in October.
Upon returning home, I immediately took my experiences from the Barcelona trip and put it to use as I prepared for the grand finale of my season in Milan. I entered the race relaxed, knowing that though I lacked the freshness which propelled me to a top 5 in Brooklyn, I had the accumulated fitness of a whole season to give me a shot at an equally impressive result. My new Heavy Pedal teammate, Crihs Thormann, qualified in the group ahead of me and was able to give me some great feedback on how to tackle the fast, flowy course. A few bad crashes had delayed the qualifying hours, and we were nervous. Yet we both made it through the chaos, and put our Zephyrs solidly in the field for the final. At 50th on the grid, I had my work cut out for me, but I also knew I could move up if I was patient and got through the first laps cleanly.
The race went exactly to plan. I bided my time through the first few laps and made sure I rode through them safely. The opportune time to move up came at about six laps in, as the pace eased down the backstretch of the course and I sprinted straight to the front of the pack. I was able to maintain this position for the rest of the race, but I was a bit too active in chasing down many of the attacks which followed. The Iride Modena and Impulse Stage teams were well represented and repeatedly dished out impressive attacks. I found that I was unable to follow all of them. When the race came back together for the finale lap, it ended in a crazy bunch sprint between the twenty lead riders. I lost a few positions with three to go. Things were getting hairy, and I also underestimated the pace of the final three laps. I had predicted that the chess game for the finish would commence between three to go and the finish. This, however, was not the case. The final three laps were the hardest I can remember in any Red Hook Crit I have ever competed in. I put every last bit of energy I had into that final lap, finishing 14th in the lead group. I know that I raced a bit better than the final results suggests, but nonetheless I am grateful for that result from Milan because I overcame a lot of obstacles to get there.
Overall, I ended up twelfth in the 2014 Red Hook Series standings, and I was able put The Heavy Pedal on the team board with my points from Milan. As a roadie and a newcomer to the fixed gear community, I am amazed at how much of a family this racing community truly is, and I am thankful for the support and hospitality which I received in both Spain and Italy. It has been an honor to represent The Heavy Pedal throughout the second half of this year, and I will never forget these trips. I plan to enjoy a few weeks off the bike to soak in this incredible season, but my thoughts are already drawn toward next season and the back streets of Brooklyn, where this circus all began.