I don’t have a race that I’ve won multiple times or even once for that matter and I don’t have a race at which I’ve always performed really well. The bottom line is that I don’t have what people would probably think makes a race a racer’s favorite. What I do have is a race that scared me every single time I raced it. A race that made me nervous when other races no longer did. A race that pushed me through my own cycling barriers… I have the Wilmington Grand Prix.
Let’s face it, I’m a 38 year old amature cyclist. Now, don’t get me wrong; I am OK with it. Why the Wilmington Gran Prix is my favorite race is really two-fold.
1) Let’s be honest, it’s as close to pro as I am ever going to get with respect to venue and ambiance
2) It is a brutally hard race; both the course and the way that folks race it.
The first year I ever saw the Wilmington Grand Prix I was a Cat. 5 and I only came to spectate. I drove straight from a road race in Lancaster County (Mount Joy), where I had just finished in 5th place, and watched some of the fields race. I was in complete awe. I made a commitment to myself right then and there that the next season I would race at Wilmington… period.
The next season (2012) I raced Wilmington as a Cat. 4. I was unbelievably nervous warming up in the parking lot on the trainer. I knew enough to know that start position was everything. I knew I needed to line up early and stake my claim on a good starting position. I would need to get toward the front and stay toward the front or it would only be a matter of time before the rubber band would snap. I was second row at the start and I absolutely buried myself for the first few laps to stay in the front 10 riders. Luckily, Kristin (my wife) was on one of the corners giving me advice and urging me on. As I was racing, and probably half delusional from the effort, I yelled out to her to get the time to the break that I just knew had to be off the front ahead of me and my group. She just casually yelled back, “YOU ARE THE BREAKAWAY!” That year I took 10th at Wilmington. It was the first money that I ever won in a race. For a minute I felt like I slayed the beast… and then I set my sights on Wilmington fort the next year. This time I vowed to do it as a Cat. 3.
In 2013, I returned to Wilmington in the Cat. 2/3 field with a singular goal; to finish. I did finish. I finished 38th that year, but I finished. I survived one of hardest and most technical crits out there… in my opinion. I raced with the big boys (at least the biggest boys I could). I found power that I didn’t know I had.
Sadly, for the last several years I have not been able to get Wilmington on the calendar, but have no fear… I will return. Although, I will probably do so in the Master’s field.
So, why is Wilmington my favorite race…
It’s my favorite race because it pushed me further in cycling than any other race I’ve ever done. It’s on a pretty incredible stage for amature cycling, it’s a tough course that requires total focus, and it’s really hard. I race a lot in parking lots and corporate parks and all sorts of strange venues, but I love the technical crits that have character and force you to examine your own character. That’s why Wilmington is my favorite race.