Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Time Is Honey

Lately it's been hard for me to find any energy to do anything productive in my precious few free moments. Things have been going full gas since I've been in Amherst, Mass. Most of my writing has been focused on my column in the Embrocation Cycling Journal.. So if you haven't seen it already, cruise over there to find out more of what's been going on.

The job has been more taxing than anticipated. It's like 30 hours of my week are gone, imagine that. I guess after 8 months sans job I was in the rhythm. Oh well, back to the real world. Not really, but I keep it real enough to count. Between the bike shop, training, racing, moving, writing the column and settling in I haven't had much free time but I guess that's a good thing.

The new locale is good but the weather up here has been crap so far. If I wanted shit weather I would have moved to Belgium. I need my SRM back so I can focus on something other than how bad the weather is. Hopefully we will be reunited soon. Come on tax return! Aside from the atmospherics, the roads up here are awesome. Plenty of 10-30 min. climbs close to the house and you can do six hours of flat roads if you want to. If this place was in Florida it would be perfect. Once it warms up it will be key.

Quick team recap. Battenkill was crazy. It was the most stressful race I've done, period. Basically, you're either going crazy hard or trying not to die, for 100 miles. Chapeau to Max and Peter who both showed their tough man prowess to finish in the front group, 14th and 20th I believe, respectively. Of the 100+ rider field of top pros and amateurs, the front group was only about 25 guys. So yes, it's hard.

Much more racing to come and I can't wait. We're still rolling with a somewhat abbreviated squad but we'll be in full force soon. I'm pumped to say the least.

K, now for some R & R. Stay tuned in to Embrocation, I'll be putting up new segments every other week or so. Hopefully I'll have the time to fill in the blanks here. Until then...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It’s Like Christmas…Well, More Like Hanukkah

It’s about this time every year that all of the PRO team camps are come and gone. We’ve been reading about them on and for a couple months now and are ready for racing to begin already. Everyone has all their new team kit and is fit from a week riding in some sunny locale we all envy. Well hold on, not everyone. For us amateurs the process is a bit different.

Being based in New England, the team camp is still a few weeks away. April is a little late to be getting set up on a new bike and most of us have already done a few races. So instead of showing up at camp with our new bikes and all our gear neatly laid out for us in one big bang, it’s being shipped in stages as the team gets it. This way we can begin racing and getting dialed on our new whips before the real racing starts. So instead of one day of presents, we have eight crazy (somewhat stressful) nights.

In some ways it’s a bit frustrating. I’m on my new frame but I still don’t have wheels, TRP brakes, a Thompson seatpost and stem and some of my new drivetrain. You miss out on that huge rush of throwing your leg over a brand new ride and setting off into the sunset but realistically it’s a lot better for the rider. Then my new Mavic shoes arrived and are awesome, but they were way too huge so I had to send them back. Hopefully I reordered the right size but who knows? Clothing was shipped all over the country to everyone individually so there were a few errors that can’t be immediately rectified. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not complaining. This is just the kind of thing you have to deal with before you make that next big step up. I feel like it keeps us humble, as we should be. The team manager, Todd Nordblom, has done an amazing job bringing everything together. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from him. Everything else will be at camp and then we’ll be ready to roll and that’s the number one goal.

It seems like a drag but trust me, the alternative is much worse. When you wait till team camp and nothing is right it’s awful. This way, all of the problems are sorted out before team camp and we can seamlessly roll into the new season. Check out some of the flash new stuff that will be raging on a race near you…

Remember that post when I bitched about wearing old sunglasses? Not a problem.

Best aluminum bike in the world, check.

Random Updates: First race of the season last weekend. Seven hours driving in the rain to race two hours in the rain, welcome back to racing.

I now have a column in the Embrocation Cycling Journal. My biweekly column is called, “Nothing is Written.” The explanation of the title and what it’s all about will be in the first article which should be up in the next day or so. Check it out. It’s a cool site with more a lifestyle twist. It’s a nice break from Cyclingnews or Velonews.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

This Just In

Riders in the domestic peloton are being told to be on the lookout for a bunch of pissed off Aussies and an old, toothless guy. They are wanted in conjunction with a stream of crimes related to ripping legs off. If you see them, please contact your teammates and tell them to "harden the fuck up."

ProTour to Continental, they are out to prove something.

"I do five hours on my easy days." Scary.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pros and Cons

Lately I’ve been focusing on a lot of the negatives concerned with moving. The prospect of living in a crappy apartment and working at a shit job is generating some anxiety. As the search continues, things are starting to shape up and the likelihood of that becoming a reality is diminishing. However, it’s hard to get it out of my mind until things are set in stone.

While that is a reality I have to face, I feel like I’ve been neglecting the pros. Since starting this venture, the standard comment has gone something like, “Do it now, while you’re young.” I always felt that paralleled a lot of other quests where people my age have ventured forth to see the world and began their adult lives. It dawned on me that I haven’t really seen the world. Yes, I’ve traveled to some races but I’ve mainly raced locally and always lived in central North Carolina. I haven’t really gone out and seen the world. I haven’t been backpacking in Europe or thumbed my way around Thailand, both of which seem to be popular these days. Moving to the Northeast will let me see new things, meet new people and gain an entirely new set of life experiences. Yes, there are unknowns in the future and from a certain perspective the darkness ahead is daunting, but that’s part of the beauty isn’t it. The adventure and mystique of the unworn path awaits.

Vermont…the current front runner for locale.

In addition to the drastic changes that are about to happen on the life front, I’m also incredibly excited about this year on the road aboard a shiny new Cannondale. I’m really looking forward to doing more national level races with a strong, dedicated team. While I’ve been on various teams the past few years, I’ve never been part of core group of riders that did almost every race together. Even last year on Mountain Khakis I only raced with the pro team sporadically and otherwise I usually only had one or two teammates. I can’t wait to race with six other guys week in and week out and really be a part of a team dynamic. We have experience, youth and strength. It should be good fun.

So there it is. The glass is half full again. All things considered, it’s shaping up to be a fun ride. The big news this year is that you will be able to come along and saddle up with me and in a forthcoming video diary. Once the season starts, I will be creating episodes every few weeks so you can get an inside look at top level amateur racing in the U.S. and the struggles we face in, “The Pursuit of Pro.” Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Feeling PRO...Kind Of

With another big year of racing ahead, my ebay account is about to see some serious action. The funds have to be replenished to sustain this lifestyle of the amateur bike racer clawing his way to the top. Don’t get me wrong, the support from is more than I had hoped for. Unfortunately amateur bike racing doesn’t quite pay the rent. So I’m cleaning house with some of my accumulated bike goods, a couple frames, wheels, my SRM that won’t work with my new Cannondale bike, etc.

While going through this stuff I had a fleeting PRO moment of selling all of my accumulated product to make some extra cash. Then I had the amateur moment when I remembered that I paid for most of this stuff and the money was going to pay rent because I don’t get a paycheck for racing my bike. Nice.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Can I Get A Hell Yes!

The reason for my recent lack of posts is very simple. The last month or so has been the most stressful time in my life, period. Day after day spent trying to find a team or a job, or both, and dealing with constant disappointment was tough on the psyche. Little glimmers would appear, sometimes allowing a moment of optimism, but it would never last. I can’t tell you how many e-mails I’ve sent in the past two months. It felt like I had a full-time job and that was even more disheartening because I wasn’t making a dime. I was ready to take anything, job, team, personal sponsorship, whatever. The search just kept dragging on and on. I thought it would never end.

Then, out of the mist, it appeared. I was offered a spot on I was busting my ass on all these intricate plans with personal sponsorship/ employment deals. Then the best offer I could have hoped for was just tossed my way. I couldn’t believe it. I guess sometimes things just work out.

So, needless to say, I’m pumped. My reverse of fortune has given me new life., formerly Fiordifrutta, is one of the most highly regarded amateur programs in the country. It seems like a great fit and I can’t wait to start racing. Training for the unknown was incredibly hard mentally but I now have renewed enthusiasm and the stinging desire to work hard and step it up. First things first though. The team is based in New England so I have to relocate, at least from April to September. I’m in process of researching possible relocation sites as well as trying to source some type of income for when I get there, any suggestions?

As of right now, Northampton, Mass. and Burlington Vermont are the front runners. I’m getting really excited about new roads, new people, new culture; it’s going to be interesting if nothing else. I have two schools of thought on the income situation. Part of me wants to be a modern day Cortez and the burn my ships. If I went up there and just worked at a coffee shop or something I would probably be more motivated to kick ass on the bike and try to get a pro contract for next year. I wouldn’t have any off-the-bike career distractions. I wouldn’t have that safety net. It would be success or nothing, like Cortez. The other part of me, the part that went to college and isn’t a dumb ass, wants to be in a situation that is going to benefit me when bike racing is no longer the priority. So we’ll see what opportunities are presented. Who knows, maybe things will just work out again.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dreaming Big

For a cyclist, this is the time of year for dreaming big. As you ponder next season, aspirations of greatness flow through your mind. You can punch through the glass ceiling of your abilities and make anything happen. With another solid year of training and racing in your legs you have become stronger and smarter. There’s no doubt you’re going to take another giant leap forward next year. Throughout all of those races you go over in your imagination you believe in yourself. Nobody ever envisions getting second or third. Why couldn’t I win Elite Crit Nats next year? I could get in that magical breakaway and have everything go my way. It could be my turn to throw my hands up and let out that magical roar. It’s not the roar of happiness from winning, but the sound of raw emotion from deep in your soul. The emotion you’re going through while training, the emotion of countless defeats and bad luck. It’s the silencing of nonbelievers and praise of those that have stood behind you. It’s the purging of inner demons that have haunted your ascension to that moment.

However, as I’ve progressed and become more experienced, this period has become more than daydreaming. Early in my cycling career that’s how it was and I’m sure countless other bike racers would agree. However, when the season starts it’s a different story. Everyone has been dreaming about winning races but for every race there’s only one winner. Accepting this reality is hard for a lot of people. Some get mad and work harder, some reassess their goals in cycling and some just quit. As the years go by, more and more people disappear. It’s not necessarily that I’ve progressed a lot faster than the others that started when I did. It’s that I kept showing up. I worked through the tough times and never lost sight of what was important. Looking back over the past four years, I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve skipped a workout. That’s been the difference. I’ve been able to dream big and stay motivated but also accept when those dreams don’t immediately become a reality. Cycling is a sport with a lot of sacrifice and little reward. For every win there are countless defeats and after all of the hard work and time in the saddle that can be a tough pill to swallow. You have to get some type of gratification from cycling other than winning. Those that don’t never make it.

This year has been a little different. I still find myself dreaming big, but it’s not just about bike racing anymore. I’ve always known there would be life after bike racing. I guess I had always thought there would come a time when I would just walk away from elite racing and that would be it. Bike racing would stop and life after bike racing would begin. However, my vision has widened. If I could stay in the cycling industry, make an actual salary and still race bikes, why in the hell wouldn’t I do it? I’m still young and my prime racing years are ahead of me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to give up racing. I’ve worked full time and trained and raced before, and that was when I was doing construction. It’s not a matter of can I do it. It’s just a matter of capitalizing on the right opportunity.

I recently watched an interview with Adam Meyerson where he was asked who the next Adam Meyerson was. His answer was that he hoped there isn’t another Adam Meyerson. He didn’t want anyone else to go through everything he had to in order to get to where he is today. If you went around and asked cyclists if they wanted to be Adam Meyerson you would probably get a lot of yeses. However, if you went around and asked people if they wanted to be a full time amateur, live off of prize money for 10 years, quit, start a business, come back and finally make it pro and be somewhat successful in their late 30’s I don’t think you would get many takers. I say somewhat successful because he’s still not living off of bike racing alone. He works amazingly hard to run his coaching business and continue racing. Nothing against Adam, I have a deep and profound respect for him. He is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met and I enjoy being around him. It’s just not worth it to me to live the life of a struggling full time amateur for another ten years so I can go pro and barely make enough to scrape by. Especially if I can get a foothold on my career now with a job that I enjoy and still race bikes at an elite level.

Who knows, maybe I’m still just dreaming big as I always have, only with a new variable. Maybe the right opportunity won’t present itself and once again I’ll have to accept that the dream isn’t an immediate reality. If so, I’ll do the exact same thing I’ve always done. Grit my teeth, work my ass off and keep showing up.

"If you can dream it, you can do it." -Walt Disney