ALP Athlete Andy Bennett started coaching with Jennifer Sharp in November 2016. Together, they identified Andy’s strengths and weaknesses and came up with a game plan to increase his confidence on the road. Andy is a hard worker and also holds a full time job at USA Cycling. He continues to push himself, even when he’s uncomfortable. Even this late in the season, Andy demonstrates that every race is an opportunity to get better at the process. Below are his thoughts and observations about the Longmont Crit.
Coming into my 2017 road season, I definitely had some demons. However, I walked away from Colorado’s State Championship Criterium in Longmont this July with an enormous amount of confidence. I didn’t win a State title or medal but the confidence I gained from this event will allow me to progress in seasons to come.
My demons started back in 2016 when I crashed out of three different road races. I grew up riding BMX, where crashing is a part of the sport. And so the first two crashes didn’t affect me much. But for some reason, the third crash wrecked my confidence. I wasn’t critically injured but I was starting to think about the “what if’s” while racing. I found myself riding toward the back of the group, leaving gaps going into corners, and even straightaways just because “what if” something happened. I wanted to give myself more time to react.
Throughout my whole 2017 season we (Jen and I) focused on regaining my confidence, so I could ride near the front of the race instead of at the back. We talked about the safer places to ride in the pack, how to leave space for cornering and rebuilding trust within the group. Before the Longmont race, Jen and I pre-road the course. She took me through the lines she used during her race and talked about where the race could lull due to the features on the course and where I could move up. I was then able to visualize entering and exiting the corners and figured out which ones I could pedal through. The finish straight was slightly up hill, and Jen explained there would be a lot of bulging of the field, which provides a great opportunity to move up within the field.
Being the rock star she is, she stayed four plus hours after her race to watch mine. Throughout the race I was able to stay in the top third of the field. I was maintaining my speed through the corners, allowing me to pass riders on the exiting straightaways without burning my matches. With three laps to go I found myself in great position, and with one lap to go there were only two riders ahead of me. The lead rider dropped off, leaving me second wheel coming into the last corner. Unfortunately, the rider in front of me hopped his rear wheel around the precarious manhole cover in the last turn. I tapped my brakes, swinging wide around him. This caused me to lose enough momentum a few riders were able me to pass me on the inside going to the finishing straight.
Even though the race didn’t end as well as I hope, I gained a lot of confidence in regards to riding in the pack, cornering, and trusting my overall fitness. All of these factors allowed me walk away with a smile and I look forward to the next race.