So much has happened since I have been here, so I will write this in a few parts, and release over the next couple of weeks.
Let's go back to where this all started 3.5 weeks ago.
In the first week of April I finally had my P-1 visa approved, and within 2 days of my passport arriving, I was on a plane to my home for the year, Atlanta.
All of my team mates had arrived within a 48 hour period, so we were all in the same situation, in terms of being in different time zones and jetlagged.
I arrived on a Thursday evening, and on Friday morning we all drove to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Charlotte and Belmont NCC(national criterium calendar) events.
The three hour drive to Charlotte went very quickly, as it was nice to sit and talk with all of my team mates, and also welcome a new rider into our team, Scott Ambrose from NZ.
Having done a good base prepartion during the Aussie summer, as well as some good racing back home, all I was hoping for was too finish my first few races.
Well, was I in for a huge shock!!
To be honest, I had no idea what to expect from this level of racing, but talking to a few people back home, it was clear to expect a new level of intensity, craziness and insanity of bike racing.
Earlier in the day, the team had a great start, with Scott winning his first race in the category 1-2-3 support event. He lapped the field, then helped out Justin to get a higher place, so he could move up from cat 3, to cat 2, which he did successfully!
The rest of the team had their first race in the downtown district of Charlotte. It is traditionally a twilight race, where thousands of people pack in to see the race. Over 30,000 people were circuit side, and with over $40,000 US in prize money up for grabs, you knew it was going to be fast.
I started near the middle of the bunch at Charlotte, and followed another Aussie -Steve Hall- to get near the front. I was making good progress, until I was
slowed by a crash in the field. Within 2 laps of this I clashed with another rider, and lost 6 of my 16 spokes in my front wheel! Lucky for me, it happened right in front of the SRAM neutral service. Excellent. One lap out. Drink, have a gel, and prepare to try fight back into position.
I don't think I have ever been in a race, where I have had to sprint out of every corner, to then grab a handful of brake at the next one, and still not make any positions up on the field. At one point I saw a rider solo break at the front, which I was just amazed by. I'm suffering so bad at the back, and he is off the front!!
I never moved up after bring re-entered into the race, and eventually dropped out after the half way point. I wasn't too dissapointed, but I now knew what I was in for this year.
Race day number two. Located in the town of Belmont, North Carolina. Only 30-40 mins from Charlotte. The course was quite technical, with some left-right combo turns, but made hard by a climb on the start/finish straight each lap!
Before the race start, It was good to catch up with my mate Gary Ryan, who owns Vie13 cycling apparel, and now lives in the US with his wife, Theresa. It was nice to have a good chat, and talk about the races we had on the track. Our best race together was in a Keirin, where the judges couldn't tell who actually crossed the line first!
The tactic for today was to spend the first 2-3 laps making as many places up as possible, which actually worked well. I manged to move into the top 30 or so places, and hold position. Then all of a sudden, after 30 mins of up and down this hill, my legs decided this was too much, too soon. Of the 130 riders that started, only half finished. Of my team mates also in the race, Scott and Corentin only finished, with Michael, Gerd and I withdrawing at different points of the race. This demonstrated how tough the circuit was, and once again, gave me another bench mark for racing in the US.
Having now spent my first three days in the US, and racing two of them, I was quite excited for the year ahead. I came away from the weekend questioning if I was ready for this, but quickly realized, if I always fight, and continue to push, I will improve, and hopefully soon enough, I can be near the front end of the races, when it counts.
Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out over the next few weeks for some more stories about my adventures so far!