After years of riding day after day, you’d think it would get old, and as we all know, it can. After living somewhere for a while, everything becomes second nature. You know all the roads; you know how long all the climbs are (if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere that has climbs); you know where the best stops are and where the most vicious dogs lay in wait. You can put together the perfectly timed loop, change it mid ride, and still guess within a couple minutes of when you’ll be home. It’s comforting to have that much familiarity with a place. You’re not worried about getting lost or finding yourself stuck on the road from hell. You know, the one with never ending traffic, glass, potholes, stop signs, etc. It certainly saves you a lot of heartache and singed nerves but while the familiarity is good to a degree, it’s always nice to keep things fresh.
The other day I had one of those cliché wannabe pro moments where I realized I’m still so motivated. I thought to myself, “How is this not old yet?” Then it came to me, it’s all different. Full-time bike racers tend to move around bit: you go where the work is and it’s not always where you’re from or where you are. Then there’s race travel, so stagnation in the riding department usually isn’t an issue, but this fall, I find myself in a particularly fresh and clean state. Not just on the bike, but with everything in general.
I recently moved and the roads are still and adventure to me. Most rides are accompanied by at least some degree of exploration, which doesn’t always turn out great but time flies when you can’t wait to see what’s around the next curve. The process has been made even more enjoyable by the accompaniment of crisp fall weather and an endless swath of colors. Yeah, fall in New England is fairly magical, even if it won’t stop raining and there’s already a chance of snow in the forecast. There’s something heartfelt and tough about the whole thing. It’s gorgeous, but it’s cold and raining. So you see beauty, but feel tough. It’s the perfect bike racer environment.
Then there’s the epitome of fresh in the cycling world: a new whip. You can’t live in Jeremy Powers’ house and not have something to play in the dirt with. While my cross season will be even shorter than usual, there’s no way I could go a whole year without tripping on some barriers. I think the best way to put it is: the only thing worse than racing cross is not racing cross. Plus, it would be blasphemous to live in New England, write this column, and not go to a cross race. Any time I can smear on some Mad Alchemy and ride as hard as I possibly can, I’ll take it. Thus enters the fresh ride. New bikes are exciting to look at, exciting to ride and most importantly, exciting to race. It’s like a new friend. You still have a lot to talk about and every meeting is a learning experience, but at the end of the day you just want to party.
Then there’s the more business side of the equation, but that’s all getting a face lift too. This is the first off season with the new coach and the routine is definitely a little different, on and off the bike. All of which has been leading to the ultimate motivator for a cyclist, progress. The days are shorter but it’s a lot easier to ride in the cold dark rain when you know it’s making you faster. It’s also exciting to see the results of some different training techniques. You always think it’s going to be the “silver bullet” so you give it due devotion. “Yeah, this is gonna make me crazy fast.” You don’t know, but no matter how hard you try, you can’t help but dream.
The team is also going through some changes. A few guys from BikeReg.com/Cannondale are off to the pro ranks, and with their departure come new faces and the promise of a whole new set of unforgettable moments that are sure to come next year. Who will be the next breakthrough? Who will we want to beat with a sock full of pennies? One can only wonder. The only thing I can be sure of is that it will be memorable. Sponsors are also changing up a bit and the prospect of fresh equipment is tantalizing to say the least. Fresh kicks, fresh threads, fresh ride, I can’t wait! It’s like being a born again bike racer. The schedule is also up for discussion. Some different races, new goals and a better understanding of races from last year all help keep the fires burning. I honestly didn’t know what to expect last year, but this year I do, and I’m going to be ready. Yeah, it’s just another year racing bikes, but almost every single thing is different… except the desire.