Editor’s note: Carmen Small is training to race the team pursuit at the Rio Olympics, and will be contributing rider journals to VeloNews throughout the upcoming season. She’s been a professional for nine years, and prior to that, she taught middle and high school mathematics and did a brief stint at Denver Community College.
Excitement pours through my veins … Wait that’s not excitement. Its panic — the puking, sweating kind of panic. I run to the bathroom for what seems like the one-millionth time to try to compose myself. I can’t be so nervous that I might puke. Breathe. Come on Carmen. Breathe.
It’s just riding a bike, right?
Welcome to my very first track race, and it’s no little local event. That’s not really my style. I dive right into the deep end at the last World Cup of the track season in Cali, Colombia. Sink or swim, my first time racing track is a World Cup race, in a semi-open track. Three, two, one, the gun goes off … All anxiety leaves my body as I hear the blast. It’s all business, and there is no going back. It is four and a half minutes of pushing physical and mental limits, while riding inches away from your teammates.
During the two days of racing, I think I experienced every possible human emotion. I had never before ridden rollers so many times and never experienced such highs and lows in only 48 hours. All of this was a new experience and a bit overwhelming, but I’m proud to say I surpassed all expectations and succeeded.
I didn’t puke, didn’t crash, I did not false start, and I’m glad to say I didn’t have to run any of the laps. I did make the U.S. World Cup team.
I’m happy to have accomplished that goal and to have walked away with a bronze medal to boot. My teammates did an incredible job, the event staff were amazing, and I was overjoyed to be a part of it.