Having warmed up, I got some time to talk to Nelson Valis
, the first African-American cyclist to win an Olympic medal (1984). Others spoke with Nelson because he was a childhood hero, but I honestly didn’t know his accomplishments. He was kind and friendly to everyone but was particularly encouraging to me as the newbie parked next to him. This man broke boundaries through racing and here he was humbly supporting and still giving to the cycling community, even inviting a few of us to dinner after the race. I caught myself wondering how many boundaries could be broken by those who haven’t been able to show their true capacity due to race, sex, financial constraints, or lack of support. The least I could do was give it my all!
The seconds counted down and I was off the line. A tailwind and downhill section gave me time to settle into the drops and into my mental space. Diane started before me so I was on the lookout for her on the other side of the road on her return to the finish line. Yelling encouragement to a teammate gave me extra umph before the turn-around where a headwind greeted all riders for the remainder of the race. My plan was to get into a harder gear up the final bump to the finish line so I pushed. I’d given it my all and was happy. As I was prepping for a cool down ride, I suddenly heard my name and that I needed to stand up with the other riders that placed because I’d won second in the open Merckx category (riding a road bike rather than an aero time trial bike). Wait, What!?! Another lesson learned- cycling shoes don’t help you run/walk quickly and leaving your phone behind means not getting a photo of your teammate that won first.