This four-part series will take you through what I’ve been doing for the past eight years of my life, at least the bike riding part, which could be argued is really the one and only thing I’ve done.
First, a little background for those who don’t know the story: I began bike racing in 2006 during my Sophomore year of college. I was a rower who’d done way too much training that fall and winter and screwed my back up temporarily. As a remedy, my parents were smart enough to buy me a road bike while I took time off the erg (they knew I wouldn’t quit training and messing my back up further unless I had another activity to do). Coincidentally, I’d just read Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About the Bike a month earlier, which helped plant the seed.
As I awaited the arrival of my Trek 2200 to show up at the bike shop down the street (Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life), I planned and plotted my new career as a cyclist. OBRA (Oregon Bike Racing Association) seemed to have a rich schedule of high-paying bike races starting…in just two weeks!! I was actually impressed that one could win money in a race and/or make a living doing a non-ball sport. Rowing did not offer this, even at the highest level.
Over the course of an afternoon on OBRA’s website, I decided that instead of one day rowing in the Olympics like I’d planned earlier that year, I’d instead become a professional cyclist. The bike arrived and was built up half a week later, with me in the shop for hours pacing back and forth in anticipation. It was pitch black outside by the time it was done since it gets dark in Oregon before 5:00 in January, so my first ride on it was in the dark. I had no lights, had ridden a road bike once in my life for about three minutes, and wasn’t familiar with any roads a half mile away from my house. I got lost quickly and hit a cat/raccoon while ripping down a descent within half an hour of riding. This was exciting. I already liked this sport. I sprinted up and down hills and came home ready to crush it in the morning. Class could wait.
I bonked on just about every ride I did. I’d set out with no food, no warm clothes, no idea where any of the roads went, and with the single goal of going as hard as I could for the given time frame, which was usually between two and three hours (roughly the amount of time I’d been rowing on the erg machine each day in my garage). I would end each ride with an all out one-mile sprint to my garage door every ride I did in order to make sure my average speed stayed above 20mph for the ride’s entirety.
In those two weeks of training before my first race I found my way onto a few bike forums to ask how fast the average speed of a cat 5 bike race was. Learning that it was in the very low 20’s, I knew I could and WOULD easily win. The Cherry Pie road race was only 24 miles. Easy. I’d never ridden with a group before so drafting wasn’t even in my vocabulary. I knew nothing about tactics and had no clue how bike races worked. I assumed we all just went off as hard as we could and the strongest won, just like running and rowing.
Although I wasn’t a complete bike virgin (I’d grown up mountain biking with my dad and also rode to school through high school), I really didn’t know anything about anything. I thought I did but I didn’t, and probably still don’t. I sewed pockets onto a T-shirt for my bike jersey if that says anything.
But, as the pinched nerve in my back became slightly less inflamed by the end of my time away from rowing and my right quad became less numb, the call of crew came back to me. Maybe I shouldn’t give it up? I’d been told by a coach the previous summer that I could be rowing for the national team as a lightweight within a few years if I kept improving at a steady rate. I was still very new to rowing, having only started it my freshman year, but I’d caught on quick and was already putting out some decent erg times for a small guy.
Being extremely cocky and naive, I decided that if I won my first bike race I’d become a professional bike racer. If not, I’d stick with rowing and just use the bike for cross training. I won the race. The following pictures are in random order. I don’t need to show you any from this year since the last blog post had a bunch from 2013. Enjoy.
2011. Night one of Tulsa Tough. It was an ice rink out there. I crashed hard.
2011. Chris Parish gives birth on the Mogollon at the Tour of the Gila. I think he was 9th that day, which helped earn him a pro contract the following year.
2010. Sam Johnson and I, utterly pooped after just finishing the Tour of Utah.
2010. We won the team competition at Mt. Hood. Sam also finished 5th overall. We were pretty stoked since this was when Mt. Hood was still a big race. Correction, this is when Mt. Hood was still a race…
2011. Lang Reynolds and his girlfriend Rhae Shaw resting up during the Madera Stage Race in northern California.
2010. Director Joe Holmes gives Sam Johnson an iron elbow power feed, probably uphill at 50mph during the Tour of Utah.
2011. My mom, Carolyn, and I in the coolest tiny little cabin house in Pinos Altos, New Mexico during Tour of the Gila. My mom played soigneur that week, driving the van and doing feeds in the feed zones.
2011. Phil Elsasser, Spencer Smitheman, me, Ian Crane, and Dan Bechtold after tour of Walla Walla. I had spent almost the entire race off the front in a three, then two, then solo breakaway. I got bridged to by Chris and Dan (they were alone) and drilled it for them before dropping myself with 15K to go. They went on to win the stage and take 2nd and 3rd overall. It was some of the best team work we had that year.
2011. One of my mom’s hand-sewn meuset bags at Tour of the Gila.
2011. Chris’ hand. He wound up 20th on GC at Gila, which meant for a night of celebratory drinking up at our host house in Pinos Altos. He and I went on a midnight adventure through the woods behind our house and got caught up in some barbed wire.
2010. Sam with Soren’s kids at Joe Martin. Soren Peterson, a former Danish pro, rode with us that year.
2010. Sam after crashing four times during the Stage One circuit race on Mt. Tabor at Mt. Hood Classic.
2010. 4th of July fireworks. I spent three weeks training in Bend before Cascade Classic, living with a Craigslist host family.
2010. The complete stranger Craigslist host family quickly became friends due to vast quantities of food provided. As always, it was an interesting experience. I slept in my altitude tent all three weeks, so I’m sure it was interesting for them as well.
2010. Green Mountain Stage Race with Lang Reynolds and Spencer Smitheman. To this day we’re still unsure why it looks like Spencer is performing filatia. (Or are we).
Alan, Alen, Tricia, a fat-looking Lang, Winger, and Alen’s girlfriend at the time eating dinner at Green Mountain.
2010. Pleasing a cow at Green Mountain. I wound up 9th on GC so celebration was in order.
2011. Joe driving the shit out of Spencer’s car at Cascade Classic.
2011. Four weeks after breaking my collarbone at Tulsa Tough, I took my best result to date at Tour of White Rock road race with 2nd place.
2010. Michael Sencenbaugh.
2011. Dan Bechtold at Madera Stage Race. I think he ended up 2nd on GC and I’d taken 2nd on the stage from the breakaway at mile zero. I did the traditional self-counter when the original break was caught with 20 miles to go. Unfortunately that next move that I drove had the one guy ahead of Dan on GC.
2011. Spencer smashing some homemade cherry cheesecake. Lang had come over minutes before, seeing if we’d finished making it. We hid it and ate the entire thing after he left. Mt. Hood Classic.
2010. Spencer in downtown Philly the week before Univest.
2011. Ian Crane, Chris Parish, and Cody Campbell at Univest.
2009. Me (Team Oregon) and Nick Skenzik (Hutches) at the Swan Island Crit. I narrowly beat Evan Elken of Land Rover for the win, having spent the entire time off the front in various breakaways.
2011. Spencer at Tulsa Tough.
2010. Michael and I went down to Santa Ynez for an amazing winter of hard training. This was during the ride when we each had the bonk of a lifetime. He ended up cracking at hour 4. I ended up cracking at hour 5, having dropped him and left him for dead long before. We both ended up riding home, lost, for hours in the freezing cold dark, so incredibly bonked that I was looking for beehives along the side of the road for honey. We were seriously FUCKED UP. We were bonked way out in the country and there weren’t cars, lights, or any signs of civilization for 25 miles. I was riding zig zags in the middle of the road for well over an hour, trying to follow the double yellow line. I had no idea what Michael’s condition was and frankly I was in no position to care. It was survival mode. We miraculously met at the same gas station, hours later and years drained from our lives. I’d already gulped down two hot chocolates and eaten multiple candy bars by the time he got there but my fingers and toes were still numb. The first thing Michael bought was ice cream. It was maybe 10 degrees above freezing that night.
2010/2011. Michael and I had access to this excellent horse trough ice bath for that whole winter.
2009. Me and Chad Gerlach in the two-man breakaway of the day at Nature Valley during the Cannon Falls road race. I dropped myself within an hour of riding with him.
2010. I accidentally stole a car at Green Mountain. The story is too long to explain in a caption. Go here for the full blog post. It’s worth a read.
2011. Madera Stage Race crit. I went absolutely berserk that day. Ended up 3rd.
2011. Making fun of Chris Parish’s horrible crash earlier and brain injury earlier that month while I was in the hospital for a broken collar bone at Tulsa Tough. Too soon? Yes. Way too soon.
2011. Madera Stage Race crit. For some reason I have a ton of photos from Madera stage race even though it was a tiny little shit race that I only made FIVE dollars at.
2012. Cascade Classic with Spencer, Logan Owen, and Steve Fisher after Stage One’s McKenzie Pass road race.
2009. I signed my first autograph at Cascade Classic. I received much shit for posting this on facebook.
2010. Univest at the Mayor’s Mansion. God damn was Ian fat back in the day! Now he’s really, really fast and will be riding for Jamis in 2014, which should give fat kids everywhere some hope.
2010/2011. Michael and I spent 20-30 hours a week training that winter and 40-60 hours a week cooking vegetables and juicing carrots and oranges in the kitchen. It’s a full time job being a full time bike racing professional wanna be.
2010. Lang and Spencer chowing down on the first of our many Philly Cheese steaks the week in between Univest and Green Mountain.
2011. Winger up in BC during our “rest day” at Tour of White Rock. I opted out of the crit since my collarbone was still freshly broken and instead we road through some spectacular rain forest before the road race the next day.
2011. Riding in the rain amongst the ferns in BC.
2009. Chris Daifuku’s van in Tucson. Check back for part 2.