What does it take to “make it.”

What does it take to “make it” in cycling? I sure as shit don’t have the secret recipe. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people be great. It’s just like being great at anything, but bike racing, to be great at the high levels, you’ve got to be something special. Practice doesn’t cut it. Contrary to popular belief, getting by on god given talent doesn’t really work either. To be great requires a talent, a body designed to go fast, but equally it requires a determined and insanely powerful mind. I fall short in both categories. I’m probably a bad reference to be offering testimony on this, but it’s Saturday night, I’m bored and I don’t often write stuff like this unless it’s under 140 characters.

I should still be in Texas. I should be racing the La Primavera Lago Vista road races this weekend, but I flew home on Thursday. My knee started acting up last Sunday at the Pace Bend road race — which was an amazing circuit — and it continued to get worse throughout the week while we were in Austin. Even with easy recovery rides, stretching, icing, and more stretching I woke up Wednesday and it was noticeably worse. I knew that racing wasn’t going to happen, so I hopped a flight home early.

I don’t have the brain to be a great bike racer. Sitting at a host house and watching everyone going out for rides and racing, I can’t do it. Honestly, when it comes to the bike, I’m weak mentally.

My pain tolerance is through the roof. It’s actually scary. I chipped my tibia in a crash two seasons ago at Bike the Bricks, I got up, took a free lap, and won a prime before pulling out because I was getting dizzy from a concussion. Spent that night in the hospital getting pumped with antibiotics. I raced cross nationals in Kansas City a week after jacking up my thumb, an injury that eventually required a pin be inserted into a my thumb. But, a nagging pain in every pedal stroke, it freaks me out. I don’t love my bike enough to give up my life, and sometimes it’s injuries like this that freak me out more than anything.

The guys who are great, they would have waited it out in Austin, taken the start today at Lago Vista, and rolled the dice. I don’t have that kind of focus, to keep myself from getting stir crazy, even depressed, knowing I’m not at 100%. Knowing I’m straight up, inadequate. I don’t have the drive to ride while worrying my knee is going to be jacked up for a long time.

I haven’t been back on a bike at all since Tuesday, and I’m already going crazy. I see my PT twice next week. It’s hard to express pain to people who don’t partake in endurance sports. What we do is hard, no doubt, but there’s worse things. I had someone ask me the other day what the most challenging thing I’ve ever done was. I was embarrassed that my response was about bike races. Yes they were incredibly hard, but compared to real life shit; raising a child, making the decision to put down a dying pet, watching a loved one slip away. Bike racing isn’t shit compared to that, but in the event, during the race, it can be hell. We just can’t see past our physical suffering, our pointless suffering.

So, I started this talking about what it takes to make it. Some people view racing at the Cat. 1/2 levels as making it. It’s good, but we’re not great. Far from it. Some of the guys racing Cat. 1s are great, some of the 2 and 3s will be great, but right now, we’re all mediocre.

The great guys, they’re focused. Joseph Schmalz is a great example. I’ve known Joe for just over five seasons, and the whole time I’ve known Joe he’s been at the doorstep of great. Not because he has the god given talent, but he’s so damn focused. His mind works differently than mine. He’s talented, but he’s earned everything. Worked his ass off for it. Other guys, they’re lucky and have these bodies that were seemingly engineered to process oxygen, and most of the ones I know like this, they don’t have the mind to be a bike racer. They’ll never be great.

Joseph pinning it to tie the lab record at UT.

Joseph pinning it to tie the lab record at UT.

I’ll never be great. I probably don’t get enough protein. I like beer. I’m mentally weak. I get depressed, distracted, I’m that downer no one wants to be around. Guys who are going to make it racing their bikes, they’re different. I can’t explain it, which is why this is such a blabbering shit storm of words. Zack Allison is the same as Joseph. He works his ass off. Zack probably has less physical talent than me even, but he works hard. Harder than I care to.

This sport isn’t for me, but I fucking love it. I talk about it constantly. I’m writing about it at 12:04 am on a Saturday night. If I didn’t have it, I would go crazy. But when I have it and I can’t do it; my knee hurts, my leg’s busted, my hand’s acting up, I probably go more crazy.

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CX Nats:: Walton Brush’s Cinelli Zydeco

On Sunday, just before the start of the Elite Men’s race I spotted Chris and Jeremy from Rapha. While chatting, a rider wearing a MashSF kit rolled up. JD was quick to point out the rider’s frame. I snapped off some photos, and later learned the backstory on this custom painted Cinelli Zydeco. Apologies for the poorly lit images, I knocked this out in about 45 seconds before Brush reported to staging.

Chow added, “I ended up having a little less than a day to do it for Brush, so unfortunately, on that particular bike, I was constrained to the existing, stock graphics; and then working around them/with them to create the design you photographed. The rear-triangle of that bike in it’s stock version is hi-vis, so I needed to cover the whole rear of his bike with black vinyl that I carefully hand-cut and stretched/heat-gunned into place.”

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A Real Off Season

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Another Velo luncher on Wednesday, but this time, in shorts and sunshine.

It’s been too long. All of my writing has been focused on VN.com, and alas, this has fallen to the wayside.

Been taking some serious time away from the racing scene, namely the CX crowd. I don’t even plan to contemplate racing for a couple more months. Training has been loosely structured by design, a design that has me wanting to get on the bike every time I do. Once weather starts to take a turn I’ll be riding more and more.

This weekend, there’s no riding, at least not bikes. Skied Breckenridge all day yesterday with my friend from school, Joe. Was an awesome day on the mountain that found us enjoying the sun and beers on the lodge patio as much as the actual mountain, and it’s lackluster snow conditions.

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Tour de Grove

Its been a week since I got back from the Tour de Grove in STL. It was a long drive each way (about 14 hours) I think it was worth it, though. I raced the 2/3 race as I’m a lowly 2 and unable to get into the Pro/1 field, so I felt some pressure to get results as I knew I had some good form after that Nationals criterium.

Friday night was the Loop de Loop criterium. Its the old Gateway Cup-The Loop course, but ran backwards, which makes for a scary pot-hole-filled descent and then a sharp left hander into a narrow alley, quickly followed by another left onto the finish straight and there’s only 200m to go. I spent most of the race near the front, though never really doing any work. I just floated around waiting for someone of importance to get a gap that would be worth bridging to, which never happened. With 3 to go Jason got in a move, got a decent gap, and with 1 to go it had the chance to stick, though one Tulsa Tough rider reeled it all back with me right on his wheel. I got shuffled back on the outside side, but I jumped into the second to last turn and moved up to third wheel. I grabbed some brake before the last turn and then sprinted all the way through it, which had my exit speed about 3-5mph higher than the leaders and with 50m to go I already knew I was clear.

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Taking the win means more at a Twilight race, especially in STL.

It was insane to finally win something (kinda) big in St. Louis. It was a huge relief, though I knew it was going to make the rest of the weekend a bit frustrating for me. I typically feel like I have a target on my back when I race in STL. Probably because the few races I have won, have been from attacks with a lap or so to go, so it makes sense to sit on me. It’s easy to pick on the stupid kid that always goes really fast for one lap. Though, I’m not stupid anymore and not much of a kid either.

Its a shame they didn’t get a shot of me busting open the beer bottle cap on the top-step of the podium. Podium girls should really carry a bottle opener if they’re giving you a beer.

I played it conservative the rest of the weekend. Stayed upright. Made some bad calls in the last laps of the Tour de Grove and the Dutchtown circuits/crits, but ended up 5th on Saturday at the Grove and 4th on Sunday in Dutchtown.

I’m flying to Texas on Thursday and racing five times in five days. Which I couldn’t be happier about. The last couple of times I’ve raced Superweek and had this kind of form, I always got better as the series went on. After an “opener” at The Driveway Thursday night with Colton, I should be good to go for some more 2/3 races… maybe even upgrade to 1’s after this weekend.

I wouldn’t have thought I’d be saying THAT this season.

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Coll Road Nats

My last collegiate road nationals are over.

Post TTT we were in the hot seat for just a minute forty. Photo: Dean Warren

There’s a bitter-sweet taste in my mouth. I have never stood on a podium before (let alone a National Championship podium) and been upset about it later on. We were fourth in the TTT. FOURTH, and yet we were only 20 seconds off of Fort Lewis’s time of 41:34. It’s a hard pill to swallow, as I know I will probably never stand on another Nationals podium again.

For me the worst part is not that we came so close, but that we did so and I won’t get another shot. I finally stayed healthy and kept my head on straight for the spring. Which was, no doubt, partially attributed to my selective racing, and my “work trip” to Sea Otter didn’t hurt either. I was worried about my fitness headed into this weekend, but I had it in my legs.

Four to go, right before Weston attacked for the MILLIONTH (and final) time. Photo: Dean Warren

I rode about 50% of the crit on the front, and chasing hard. Namely, Weston Luzadder (Marian) who was constantly on the attack. My dad said a bystander asked where Zack was about halfway through the race, and why they hadn’t seen him… I was doing my job fine. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be there in the last lap for him. With four-point-five to go we were swarmed and shuffled back. We moved up with three on the lap cards and Weston attacked again, I pulled my brains out. I was swerving all over the road and at two to go I blew sky-high. I rolled the last couple of laps alone and found out Zack had sprinted to third behind RMCCC champ Josh Yeaton (CU) and Shane Haga (Texas A&M). Another podium and I couldn’t be happier for him.

After standing on the podium… I’m ready to put my hands in the air this weekend at Tour de Grove. Racing the 2/3 race should be a nice change of pace.

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Riding

Yesterday I snuck out for a lunch ride on my own. A tricky thing to accomplish at the Velo office where every day there is a ride or two leaving the bicycle alley during the lunching hour.

Once I got my legs spinning, my eyes glanced down at my stem to find that I had left my Garmin on my desk. I had also left my headphones in my backpack. I was in such a rush to sneak out the side-door that I had forgotten the two things I ALWAYS take with me for a solo jaunt.

It was an awesome ride. I went up and came down the front side of Old Stage. Its probably my favorite (paved) climb right out of the box around Boulder. I even got in some short repeats over the top section.

It was a beautiful day, warm, and a bit humid as storms were brewing across the Flat Irons. It reminded me of riding like I did back in the day riding in Belleville and the surrounding small towns, without an iPod or a ticking computer. I talked to myself, a lot, like I did on all those two and three hour rides six years ago. I went slow and really fast, but never knowing what my power output or speed was. I polished it off with a sandwich to go from a little deli near the mall and rolled back to the office. Even took a detour through Valmont and shredded some “green” singletrack on my Venge. Nothing better than sliding through gravel on road tires. It was perfect.

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CX Nationals Preview

Bill and I remounting after the barriers

I got into Madison a couple of days ago after driving up here from the Chicago Cross Cup. I was doing some work down in Chi-City with the One 2 Go Start/Finish crew. It was a great weekend and was a great venue with just a short walk from the hotel to the starting grid.

Up here, its cold and humid. Not my ideal kind of weather, but its what we have and I can make the best of it. Rode the course yesterday with Bill. The ground was pretty much frozen solid with a thin layer of greasy mud on the surface. The course is still very very fast and it reminds me a lot of the Fort Collins course, but instead of climbing the hill twice we’re going up and down 3 times. Thanks to Podium InSight for the interview after my ride.

I’m a big fan of the course and I think that is suits me pretty well. I think that I start 2nd row on Sunday, so I just need to sit in the groups and make the splits happen. Going back to the course in a bit to do some more riding, lets hope that they actually have the power washer running today…

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