The First Six Months
‘This is why you do it, and this is why you’re here.’
This is the mantra I repeat to myself, three times over, on the start line every time I race. When the adrenalin and the tension reach fever pitch, I grab hold of my nerves, close my eyes and rest them on my forearms.
‘This is why you do it. And this is why you’re here.’
Three times, every time.
I say it to remind myself that, despite the fear, I love this.
The fear doesn’t come from being afraid of crashing. That’s happened too many times already. It comes with the job.
No, the fear comes from knowing the pain I am about to put myself though, from knowing that no matter how good my last result was, it means nothing now.
You take your wheel to the edge of the precipice and you look over the lip. Every time. When the hammer drops you have a choice, to let the wheel in front of you go…
If you let it go you have become broken. If, when the final push comes and the chance is there to break them and you let that pass, you have lost. It doesn’t matter where the finish line is or where you’ll be placed when you cross it, because you aren’t going to be first.
If you’ve already lost in your mind, you’re lost for good.
Every time we clip in, every time we set that crank arm rotating, we make ourselves heard. Tiny black dots in the universe. In that yawning chasm of space, creating something.
From dust, of dust, to dust. But rage inbetween.
The bike is an expression of what you are, of what you can be. It seeps like light into the fabric of your existence.
The road the canvas.
The bike the brush.
The will the ink.
Indelible, irreversible, indivisible.
It hurts, because you want it to be that way.
You make that choice.
When 2014 began it found me with a deep sense of trepidation and with none of the chutzpah contained in the words above.
I was beginning my 5th year as a professional cyclist and my first ever without a team. Browned off with the politics of the squads I’d been on over the years, I decided to go it alone and see what happened.
This meant I’d be entering road and MTB races and going solo, not such a big deal in XC events but on the road, where having the support of a team is often critical, the prospect was daunting.
On the up side, being an independent rider meant that if anything went wrong I’d only have myself to blame. It also meant that I’d have to find sponsors willing to take a chance on a 42-year old with a heavy bike habit.
The plan was simple: get cash from brands I liked to fund me going to race, and hopefully win, all over the world, from Mongolia to the Philippines, Germany to Australia.
Lezyne had sponsored my old team back in 2013 and I loved their stuff and knew the Lezyne founder Micki Kozuschek and a lot of the guys behind the scenes, so it was a natural move to approach them.
Straight away they agreed, and within a couple of weeks I had more Lezyne goodies around my bike room than I knew what to do with.
As a journalist (that’s my main job) I’m known for being outspoken on all matters related to doping, something that makes sponsoring me a proposition too far for some brands. But not for Lezyne. Without any questions asked and without hesitation, they said yes.
What I’ve noticed about Lezyne is that when you work for them or with them, you’re part of the family. Sounds like a cliché right? But there you have it.
The guys behind the sharp products are good people, and the majority have a passion for all things ‘bike’. And I think that makes all the difference.
Their drive to find out how to make their stuff better is stronger than I’ve ever seen, and my observations on their products get sent company-wide, discussed and acted upon.
Anyway, back to the racing.
First race of the year was in England, a road race on a criterium course where I raced (and won) my last race as a junior back in 1990, before I quit the sport for 19 years.
It wasn’t quite the fairytale but I was happy enough with third place, and the week after I did manage a win, on the same course.
There’s nothing like getting a win under your belt early, it settles the nerves and keeps the publicity guys happy from the get go.
Next up was a trip to Belgium for training and to see the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and yes my microcaddy did stay attached and shipshape over those crazy cobbles!
Then it was back to Taiwan, where I live, for more training and then onto the Philippines, where I raced the inaugural Tour de Tayabas, in Quezon Province.
The three day road race featured short, punchy stages that suited me, and I managed to win the first stage, the Sprints Classification, and the overall general classification.
Adding all that up equates to 4 wins and one third in just three races this year, not a bad start to 2014 and the perfect antidote to my early season trepidation.
Next up is a one-day UCI MTB XC race in Austria in July, then the 7 stage Craft TransAlp MTB race after that that will take me over the German and Italian Alps.
From there it’s back to Taiwan and then onto some one day races in China, before I head deep into Central Asia for the Mongolia Bike Challenge. After that, I’ll be in Australia for the Crocodile Trophy, then back on the road in Indonesia and Malaysia, then, I hope, to South Africa to race The Munga.
For the uninitiated, that is a 1000km, ride til you drop, $1 million US first prize MTB race.
Yup, you read right. It’s $10,000 US to enter a two-man team, and the winners take home a cool million. Second place gets a paltry $500,000 – not even worth getting out of bed for!
So, wish me luck, and check back here from time to time and on the Lezyne Facebook page for updates on my crazy year of racing!
And if every the motivation starts to drop or the fear factor gets ratcheted up a little too high, remember:
This is why you do it, and this is why you’re here…
Thanks for reading, ciao!
It’s your call. You set no limits because there are no limits, not to what you can achieve, not to what you can feel, not to what this machine can give you.
It’s never ‘just a ride.’
It is, always, everything.