The Secret Reason I Wanted to Race

All season long there was exactly one race that I was completely fixated on doing.  Part of the attraction of this particular race, was that I knew (everyone kept telling me) it involved a lot of riding uphill. But I also had another, more secret reason for wanting to race the 2011 Cascade Classic Stage Race…

In order to even GET to Cascade I had to do a lot of racing – I was a brand-new Category 3 racer when the season opened, and in order to register for Cascade, I needed to upgrade to Category 2. And that meant I needed to earn upgrade points by winning early-season races.

From early February to late-June, all I thought about when I wasn’t physically AT work was bike racing. Would I be able to race Cascade? At which races would I have a chance to win some of those precious 25 upgrade points?

There were only so many weekends when I could get away from swim coaching, so every week I sat down with my calendar and the Northern California race calendar and strategized. It was going to be tight, I had to straight-up WIN most of the races I entered. But still, (nearly) every week, it seemed possible. With hope still alive, my thoughts turned to other more important concerns. Primarily: how would I do against the world-class riders who would undoubtedly show up for Cascade?

Because that last question was my secret reason for wanting to do this race. I wanted a chance to see how I stacked up against the best women cyclists in the world. And the best ones usually showed up for Cascade.

This year was no exception. The women’s Pro field was littered with current and former champions of all kind. National champions from a half-dozen countries. Olympic champions. World champions. (Yes, plural.) And then there was me, former Para-cycling World Champion time trialist, who was less than a full year into competitive bike racing.

I spend a lot of time on the speaking circuit telling people that the Paralympics are the Olympics, that Paralympians are Olympians. But it’s easy to say that when there’s scant, if any, events where you can directly (and fairly) compare the two. But here I was, upgrade in hand, registering for a 6-day race that would, for me, be a test of my “Paralympians are Olympians” campaign. There would be Olympians in this race. Did I have the skills, the fitness, the talent to back up my claims and race with them? I sure liked to think so, but, really, I wasn’t too sure.

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