Racing exercises our discipline and challenges us to get the most from our bicycling potential. I bicycled for years as part of my everyday lifestyle before I even considered racing. But once I raced I was hooked on the intensity, camaraderie, and pinpoint concentration. What can you do if you channel your drive? Diving in for that challenge makes every other part of bicycling sweeter. Goodnatured competition can send positive ripples through one’s life. Here are a few racing experiences that stand out in my memory and keep me coming back and learning more.
Las Campanas Classic, New Mexico State Road Race Championships, 2015 This race took place on the outskirts of Santa Fe on a fun circuit course. I didn’t have any expectations. I didn’t have teammates to help me, I felt tired, was racing on my mechanic’s spare wheel (tight budget), and got a flat during the race. However I just hung in there. You can’t win if you quit. I did the race the previous year and learned a little about the course. In 2015 I was still hanging around near the finish and I timed the effort to make it work. Sweet surprise. Full report here.
Sandia Crest Road Race 2015 I’ve been coming to New Mexico for years to participate in the Sandia Crest road race. Never won it but got to see some great bicyclists, Drew Miller, Geoff Kabush, Ned Overend, Kip Taylor, Fortunato Ferrara, Damian Calvert. This year I pedaled from home that morning and just thought about relaxing and waiting for the final climb to see how it would sort out. But instead I found myself in a four man breakaway from nearly the start and I ended up winning the King of the Mountain over Heartbreak Hill and then hanging on to grind it out to come in first across the line at the top of the Crest. I think this is one of the most beautiful races around and I never expected to be in a position to go for it. I’m grateful.
Arizona State Road Race Championships 2014 This was my first race of the 2014 season and I’m so glad I made it! Sometimes the highlight of a race is having a first row seat looking at an exceptional performance. It is gratifying when the exceptional performer is on the same team as you. Paul Thomas had an amazing day and took the whole thing while trying to set up his teammates for the win. That’s Paul second from left in the photo above. I’ll never forget the effort I saw that day, and the gratitude I felt for being part of the teamwork. Go Landis, go Paul!
Mt. Graham 2013 This was a pretty sweet win. It is my favorite kind of race and the Landis-Trek team gave a blistering leadout at the base of the climb. They overpowered the field. Great teamwork makes a win a community outcome. This was shared with so many special people. Mai and I also made it a relaxing trip and took time for the hot springs and went to the fair in the nearby town of Safford the afternoon before the race to take in the local vibes.
AZ State Time Trial 2013 Mai took this great picture. I don’t know how she got it because it was on the closing part of the course and I was going all out. The time trial is one of the hardest disciplines because you have to push yourself relentlessly for about 50-60 minutes without letting up. It is pure suffering. But the release you feel afterwards is worth it. I had to try a long time for this. I’d been beaten at this race many times. Persistent hard work pays off. I’m grateful to Mr. Sam Landis at Landis Cyclery on Warner Rd. in Tempe, AZ for fitting me on this Trek time trial bike. Sam’s time investment with me early in the season helped me train comfortably on this bike. I’m grateful for my teammate who lent me his rear disc wheel. Most of all I’m thankful for the Flagstaff Saturday morning community group ride for making me faster over all those years spent having good, healthy, clean fun out to Mormon Lake and back.
AZ State TTT 2013 The Team Time Trial requires discipline. Four people work together to go as fast as possible over 40 kilometers. You are going almost all out and you have to coordinate with finesse & precision. The attenuation and synchronization this takes is supreme bicycling practice. This year I met Lewis Elliot who guest rode with us. He’s an amazing athlete and a testament to what cycling for joy and health can do for you over the long haul of life. We all finished together and went fast and kept safe on a rainy day and brought one home for the entire Landis Team and White Mountain Road Club community (the WMRC sponsors the Landis-Trek domestic elite team). Once again I had a front row seat to watch these amazing athletes perform. I’ll always remember Lewis pulling for a long time letting us sit in his draft. I thought how could he possibly stay on the front so long. Superhuman but he made it look so easy. The mark of gifted athleticism, a dedicated team player, and a strong, selfless person.
Snowbowl Hillclimb 2012 There is nothing like racing from home on a Friday morning. I took the morning off from my job, rode out to Snowbowl, and raced. This year I was racing for my local club Flagstaff Cycling. I had a rough start to the season but finally had some success at the Tour of Gila finishing 8th in the time trial on this road bike with those less than aero Kysrium wheels and I raced smart to win the Tour de Los Alamos in June. Even though this bike was an entry level offering equipped with Shimano’s third tier 105 group (with Ultegra cranks thanks to Joe Shannon and Single Track Bikes) it went pretty fast up Snowbowl Road that day. It was satisfying to ride well in the morning and return to my job by lunchtime and serve. I think one reason is that climb is so special in Flagstaff lore. For 2016 it’s back on the calendar Sept. 18.
Arizona Team Time Trial 2012 This was such a joy to race with this group of good neighbors from Flagstaff. We ended up second on the day but the team that won had Eric Marcotte, Travis McCabe, and George Cyrus on it. If you don’t know that is the current national champion, current national racing calendar leader, and 2012 AZ individual time trial champion. We put together a grass roots team and had so much fun training on waning summer evenings bicycling deep into the pine woods and past the jeweled lakes on Lake Mary Road. We did a really good job working together. Ryan was still using junior gearing. Robert is as solid and humble a rider as I’ve met. His effort is so quietly fierce, I kinda know how good of an engineer (his profession) he is just by riding with him. David is so full of enthusiasm it is easy to see why he has been a key member in the NAU cycling team and fabric of the racing community in Arizona. David kept calling out our progress on the course, so cerebral with the wherewithal to blend mental discipline with physical effort. It was so fun suffering with these guys that day. Pure seamless team energy streaming down the road. I’m humbled to race with these guys not just because the depths of their cycling talents are yet charted, but also because of who they are as people in their families and in their professions and in their communities. Thanks for a special ride.
Ironhorse Bicycle Road Race 2012 There is nothing like cresting two San Juan Mountain passes at over 10,000 feet elevation and soaring down into Silverton for the race finish at the Ironhorse. This was a special day because I got in an early breakaway and was leading the race solo near the top of Coal Bank pass. The race director’s car pulled up next to me and from the window came a voice, someone’s coming. I looked and a rider was approaching. I took deep breathes and tried to relax and get ready to latch onto the wheel. That rider was Lachlan Morton, a professional who has won a climbing stage in the Tour of Utah and is one of the best pure climbers on earth. I spent a few seconds pedaling with him then watched him go. He was about two gears faster than me. I’ve never seen someone sail up a climb like him that day. Sometimes in racing you get to see the mark of where the top level is at. Even if it seems unattainable, the incremental steps are more focused with that picture in mind. This race is so special for the way the community gets behind it. The way the Animas river rushes down the valley gorge during Spring runoff emanating from those high sculpted peaks with deep white snow patches. I am looking forward to going back there. It is an out of this world experience, but totally cool at the end to hang out with everybody else not the least the citizen riders who just accomplished an amazing feat riding their bicycles up and over two mountains.
La Vuelta de Bisbee 2006 We won the Master’s Race as the Grand Canyon Racing team my first year road racing in Arizona. I was a Category 4 (pretty entry level) racer and no one knew who I was. This was a super race because it had four stages and we had to plan and strategize together how we would approach every situation. Stage races have complexity and they also bring into play the elements of recovery, nutrition, and overall well being a little more than one day races. I learned road racing as a team sport in Reno and this race with our capitan Doug Loveday was the best exercise of teamwork I’ve ever experienced. It was like living the dream and waking up to a happy conclusion. What a surprise. I could not have won the whole thing if it wasn’t for the confidence Doug and Rick bestowed and all the effort and sacrifice from everyone of those guys. Road racing is a team sport and these fellows did the most to teach me that. I’m still trying to work it off for them and do my part to pedal the good energy forward. I returned to work on Monday and felt things would never be the same, in a good way.