I am now entering month 4 of cycling abroad for 2013 and as every year and I’m sure every Aussie expat can attest it has been a roller coaster. My time here in the USA so far has been primarily focused on criterium races tempered with 2 stage races. The National Criterium Circuit in the USA is a traveling circus that visits some very cool and unique corners of the country. It is always a rush landing somewhere new and discovering what goes on in that city/state. I think I can now identify a good brew shop in nearly every city that the NCC visits, having now visited many of these races for 3 years now. Always a favorite for myself is the Tour of Somerville in New Jersey, this is the oldest professional race in the USA and always attracts a festive atmosphere with great crowds on the American equivalent of ANZAC day- Memorial day. It’s proximity to New York city is always a bonus too! Every year I have managed to scurry away from the team hotel and onto a train into Manhattan to tread the sidewalks. Visiting some legends in Brooklyn and appreciating rare quality brew in America was a real gift also. Having spent a lot of time in NY in the past, a part of my heart will always live here. It is an inspirational place, its magnitude and electricity speak to the people who visit and live here. It is not however the best place to do my job, hence, I was shortly out of there and back in the temporary home of Atlanta.
Time away from home always fosters a sense of reminiscing and in some cases sadness for me. This was definitely true just prior to the Tour of the Gila for myself. I received news from home of the passing of ex team mate and mate Rob Hodgson. Rob was first and foremost a humble, gentle, kind and down to earth bloke! Well respected also for his astonishing power on the bike which made him one of the fastest time trial riders in Australia. It is a tragedy to lose such a soul at such a young age. My deepest condolences to Rob’s family, Ride on Rob!! I wished I could ride a strong ride in the Gila tour in his honor.
The Tour of the Gila was always going to be tough, 5 days above 2000m with plenty of climbing. Aussie teammate Chris netted himself the sprint jersey on day 1, which was real special for us and the team in general. It was a special and magnificent part of the world on the high desert of New Mexico. A real blessing to ride here in this prestigious race.
From the Gila it was back to the rolling rodeo of the NCC for a month or so, our Irish sprinter the young lad Stephen Clancy was beginning to net top 10’s at these tricky, fast and technical races. This is a real testament to our all diabetic squad as managing diabetes is always difficult in a race situation particularly in a short intense race format like a criterium! GO TEAM!
The next stage race for myself was to be the 8 day Tour de Korea. Aangyangseoh Korea!! This was my first race in Asia and a real shock to the system. Korea is an amazing place, reading up on what has gone on here opened my eyes to an amazing/interesting/traumatic history. The race had me motivated and gee’d to perform. I had been training well, putting out good ‘numbers’ in training, feeling good, in good shape and enjoying life. However, sometimes life does not go to plan and lacks explanation. I was dropped on the first day here and did not make time cut with a small group of others. This briefly crushed the self esteem and belief in my capability as a cyclist. I have been racing 13years now. Why do I still get dropped?? While others who are just in the first year win stages?? I work hard, I devote myself to training particularly this season. Some things in life are just not fair. Sometimes the temptation is to throw in the towel, “maybe, I am just genetically not built for this..”. But I think back to what I have been through to get to this level. Twice in my life I was under the false impression I would never ride competitively. Once at diagnosis of diabetes in 1996, also after shattering my femur in a road race in Australia in 2006 I spent 6months in a wheelchair thinking my cycling life was done for. I remind myself that clipping into a bike is an amazing gift and achievement in itself. I might not have the power and speed of the race winners but I sure can be determined to work my heart out, particularly for this team. It is such an honor and inspiration to be part of something that is doing more than win races. Sometimes the best fuel, superior to “wattage intervals” or “recovery massage pants” can be a simple email from someone who has seen and has been inspired by what we are doing. “Keep going man, we think you are doing great” hearing such words means the world to me and I know reminds us all on this team that we are clipping in every day for a reason, we are suffering on the race course for a reason!
I have returned to the USA early from Korea, it did not take me long to find that fire for racing again, the following day from landing I raced a local MTB race, an 8km time trial on a tricky but super fun single track. With a smile on my dial I took the win over 65 other racers here. I was enjoying riding, relaxed in my composure and happy to be there! smiles on faces win races:-)
From here I will be spending July in Europe training and racing from Norway to Belgium to Italy. Until next time, thanks for reading! Thumbs up!
Justin/ Mad Dog