I've been wanting to write lately, but was unsure of a good subject. I just kept coming up with half-thoughts, ideas that didn't really lead anywhere. Then it occurred to me that, together, they could make a complete story. Or it could just be a series of disjointed, half-finished thoughts. Let's give it a shot, though, and see what happens.
When asked about my history with bikes, my story invariably includes the phrase, "I grew up on bikes." I phrase it that way intentionally. Bicycles have played a part in every phase of my life, from training wheels to race bikes.
My mom recently decided that it was finally time to redecorate my room at home. In doing so, she entered memory lane, stumbling upon all of my old school stuff. I had notes and schoolwork in my closet ranging from middle school through college. I'm a dork, what can I say? You never know when you might need to look up your end-of-semester poetry assignment from Mrs. Jones' class in 7th grade. Or, perhaps, an essay you wrote about bikes when you were 16 years old.
I'm sure my mother was crying as she read this essay, because let's face it, she's going through all of my old stuff. She's going to be crying. (Love ya, Mom!)
I won't bore you with the full thing, but here are a few excerpts that really stood out to me. For context, I was writing about when I first learned to wheelie on my BMX.
On my bike, hours at a time, I strove to keep the front wheel off the ground a little longer than the last time. It was during this time that I discovered that merely sitting on the seat and pedaling was a great way to reflect upon, or even escape, the world in which we live. If I am angry, I can vent all that energy by riding as hard as I can until my lungs scream for oxygen my muscles on the verge of collapsing. Even when I am calm, riding is an exhilarating experience, transporting me out of reality and into my own little world.
I try to ride every day, just to clear my head of the chaos around me. I have learned many more tricks, donated more than a little flesh to the pavement learning them, and still live to ride.
I do not know why it is that I am so addicted--maybe I am just meant to ride bikes. I also don't know why riding clears my head so well--maybe it's a s simple as the pedaling motion is also turning the gears in my head. Either way, bicycling has become my refuge from the pandemonium of life and an unrivaled form of expression.
Reading that now, it makes so much more sense to me now that I fully understand what it means to be an introvert. (Side note, if you really want to know more about me, read that post. That's me exactly.) I still love to go on long solo rides, and now I know why.
When I was just a local mountain-bike racer in high school, there was a race not too far from where I lived. It was a relatively unpopular trail, though, so it didn't get the greatest turnout of the series. In the Sport 15-16 category, especially, there was a poor turnout: 1. Me.
To make the start waves more efficient, they simply put me in with the next group. I thrive off competition, and the promoters had just given me plenty. Nevermind that it was over a dozen full-grown middle-aged men, I wanted to beat them. I don't think I beat them all, but I sure as heck got the holeshot.
This wouldn't be the last time in my racing career that I tried to "punch above my weight."
In 2010, I spent the summer as bike racer. I had worked at an internship the previous two summers and wanted to spend my last in college enjoying it.
I put several thousand miles on my truck that summer driving back and forth across the country. One trip in particular was special, though, in that Shane came along for the ride. It would be his first real trip to a bike race outside of Texas, a fact that I never realized until he pointed it out to me recently at the Cascade Classic.
The race was the Tour of Lawrence. We opted to skip the street sprints on Friday night, choosing instead to save our legs for the more important races and save money on a hotel by paying our Grandmother a visit in Oklahoma. The next day we finished the drive to Kansas just a couple of hours before the race, which didn't go great for either of us. It was a technical, difficult, and wet circuit and we just didn't have a great race.
That evening, we rented a hotel room with two full-size beds. I used my AAA membership to get the room rate down to $40 for the night, so it was a really nice place. After we unloaded the bikes and gear into the room, we went around the corner to Dominos--we had a coupon. While Dominos was making the pizzas, we walked next door to the gas station and bought two half-gallons of milk.
We spent the evening on our beds watching some movie (for some reason one of the Bourne movies comes to mind) with our two medium Dominos pizzas and our milk.
Checkout was late morning. We consolidated the leftover pizza into one box and loaded up the truck. It was still 6 hours before we would race, so the brothers Haga went to watch Toy Story 3 in 3D. Yeah, I teared up when Andy gave the toys away, what are you gonna do about it?
Anyways, the movie ended and we returned to the truck with our eyes barely open because the sun was so intense. It was a hot and muggy day, and my truck was filled with still-damp race clothes from the day before and a box of pizza. You can guess how that smelled.
The crit that evening went slightly better. My last-lap flyer failed, but Shane pulled off a decent sprint and won his half of the gas money and hotel room. It had started raining hard half-way through the race, and 2 minutes after the finish, the course was flash-flooding.
When I signed with Kelly Benefit Strategies in 2011, I immediately knew that I would never leave the team voluntarily until I was in a position to make the big jump. The level of support that I received was obviously unparalleled on the domestic circuit, so there was no good reason to want to be anywhere else.
The support paid off, too, especially this year. People noticed. I did a good job of compartmentalizing everything that was going on this season. Focus on the races when I'm racing, and deal with negotiations in between. I had a great group of people to talk to while all this was happening: friends, family, team staff, and my teammates.
Two days after the ink was dry, Marcel Kittel won the first stage of the Tour de France. My mind exploded a little bit, for sure. My new team held the yellow jersey of all yellow jerseys, and I could say nothing.
Finally, after sitting on the news for so long that my butt was sore, the announcement came just days before my 25th birthday that I will be performing on cycling's biggest stage for the next 2 years with one of the most dominant teams on the circuit.
To answer your question: surreal. It feels surreal, the knowledge that all of my experiences have led me to this point.