Familiar Voices in a Far Away Land

Herded. Prodded. Protected. Managed.That is a good way to describe what it is like to be on a professional team, or in this case, a national team. At the high levels of sport, you have more people in control of your life. I am not saying this is a bad thing at all, it is just a point of interest for me.

As an amateur, you are responsible for everything in relation to your preparation for a race and inevitably, the race itself.

You find your housing (most likely a hotel or an extremely early morning departure)

You pump up your tires (I finally learned how)

You ride the only pair of wheels you have, which are often clinchers, and heavy. At least you know what you are getting.

You do the research of the course (which I rarely found myself doing), You select the gearing assuming you have looked at the course (I only rode an 11-23 last year, hah)

You race the bike race how you feel

You finish the race, search for some recovery, look for your family/friends, and then usually stay on your feet the rest of the afternoon as you try to fulfill all of your other obligations.

You try to load your bike up, and fix any issues you had with it during the day.

You go out to dinner with your family and friends and relive the race, all the pain and all the laughter.

There is something refreshingly complex about being an amateur cyclist. You have so much to do, and so much to balance, but you can do it whenever you want and with whomever you want. Those days are gone, and now it is on to professional bike racing. One year, going from a “do-it yourselfer” amateur, or I guess I was more of a find someone nice to “do-it themselves for me”, to a professional cyclist and racing with the National Team. Ha.

As a professional cyclist, you have an entourage and a team. Management and ownership occurs. You no longer have your own control to socialize and to interact as you normally would. But with this controlled state, comes great freedom of worry. You have a team owner (which in essence owns you), mechanics, soigneurs (Italian for “servant”), team directors, and logistic organizers (that can also double as a body guard).

You have housing, you don’t have to worry about it all. You just show up and you will be taken care of. On that National Team, our bags are even waiting for us in our rooms.

The course is dictated to you. Before the race, and in the race radio during the race.

Your gearing is selected for you.

Your tires are pumped to the appropriate psi for the type of asphalt/terrain you will cover throughout the race.

You warm up on training wheels, and then race on race wheels. Race wheels are fast, and the weight/aerodynamic enigma is solved for you. You will have the best wheels for the day. No questions asked.

You attack when you are told, you race the way they tell you. You race selflessly, you race hard, and you race where and when you are directed. You don’t pick out the outcome, you just race according to the plan. If you are about to cramp, it doesn’t matter. You attack again. You do your job even if it means bonking and getting dropped. You do your job, and your job is not always you winning the race. For the greater purpose of the team, and you fill your role.

You finish the race. A chair in the shade is waiting for you. A recovery bottle in one of the drink holders, your change of clothes beside the chair, a cool towel, a face wipe. Your bike is whisked away by the mechanic to be cleaned and worked on for optimum performance later.

You are fed, then you get your “rub” from your soigneur.

Your feet are up the rest of the day, your bag is waiting for you at your next destination, and you think about racing your bike the next day.

This all seems seamless. No worries, nothing to stress you out. However, for those of your family and friends that came to watch you race or do the pre-meditated pain session, they have about 2 minutes following the race to see you, and then the channeling occurs. You are told to sit, fit up, drink this, go here, eat this, get rubbed, sleep and repeat. It can get lonely, but you are so busy, and your worries are removed.

For those of you who have come to support me, especially my family and friends, thank you for being there. If means so much to me to see the support, and hear the support on the course. I know I can’t properly thank you after a hard race when I am barely seeing straight, but I appreciate you being there. My legs may be shaking, and my attention span weak, but it is that support, those smiles and hugs, that encourages me and keeps me going when I am here in Europe. There aren’t any friendly faces here. No family, and no friends. I can remember seeing Mike, my family, and my adopted family (Rick and Carol) at Cascade and Nationals. I can visualize them being here, cheering for me, and watching my first big European stage race. In those French voices that I hear as I am riding along, I hear your voices. My friends and supporters back in Marin and back home. Allez, sounds like Ali, doesn’t it?

Thank you for being there for me there, and thank you for being with me here.



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