Adam Myerson is one of those people I’ve known for quite a while but have no recollection of how we met. It was probably at a cyclocross race, but it doesn’t really matter. Over the years, Adam has given me a lot of advice. I like to think of him as my bike-racing moral compass. Sometimes I’ll just email him a bunch of questions. He always gets back to me with well-thought-out responses. I should probably pay him for all the advice. Adam has a coaching company, Cycle-Smart, and he organizes the race we travelled to this weekend: the Cycle-Smart International.
All this Adam the past few days reminded me of a time during my 2010 season. It was my first season racing elites. U.S. nationals were still in December back then. (Seriously, can we go back to this? I miss having an off-season between cyclocross and road!) I was trying to figure out how the hell I was going to get myself across the country, from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Bend, Ore. At this point in my racing life, I was borrowing a car from my mom every weekend, or trying to hitch a ride with friends, or taking the bus (yeah, the bus). Getting to Oregon was going to be a hassle.
So I asked Adam for advice. More specifically, I asked him if there was a bus from Portland to Bend, or if he knew of someone making the drive I could catch a ride with. His response was simple, and in some ways it has pushed me to where I am today and influenced my approach to racing. He said, “Dude, rent a car. Put it on your credit card. If you’re going to go out there, you should do it right.”
That wise counsel served as a wake-up call. If I was going to do this bike-racing thing, I needed to stop half-assing it.
I think Adam has had this effect on many he has interacted with over the years of his career. This gratitude for his contributions could be felt at his race. I know I was grateful, in between gasping for breath and squeezing every last bit of grip from my tires, as we rocketed around the course on Saturday and Sunday.
The Cycle-Smart International, or CSI, is scorching fast. It’s also one of those courses that upon first inspection seem simple. But that’s only true at warm-up speed. At race speed, it’s a track that demands total commitment.
Both days I was too timid at the start. Normally, I don’t take a super-aggressive line for the sake of avoiding trouble, but this was not a good course for such an approach. I made some good passes in the technical rooty sections, but since much of the race is extremely fast, it makes it tough to race from behind. I was also slowed by a few foot-down scenarios in the brand-new trail section, which cost me a spot in the chase group. So Saturday was disappointing.
On Sunday I was going better. The course was faster and suited my driving abilities more. For the first three laps, the lead group was enormous, swelling to about 25 guys at one point (I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a cyclocross race). Separations did eventually happen, and I ended up racing in a group that was contesting 14th place. On the last lap, I was leading the group down a steep descent—which was a run-up the day before—and my bars slipped. I tried not to let it bother me and go for the sprint anyway, but with shifters rotated downward it just wasn’t going to happen. Seems like the story of my season so far.
The takeaway? Riding through hard times of a race, and battling through a season in which things aren’t coming together, is a natural and necessary part of racing. But I believe that when approached the right way, these are times that can make me a better racer.
By the way, on Friday, Mike Creed published an excellent podcast that featured Adam. You should listen to it.
Finally, here’s a grab bag of questions and answers, culled from my Tumblr.
Anonymous asked: Do I really need a top-level groupset for road and CX? Will it make a difference between winning and losing?
Hell no. Plenty of guys are racing (and winning) on Force or Ultegra. Also, a well-maintained bike is worth a lot more than a bike with top-level parts.
Anonymous asked: Just total curiosity: What are the [doping] controls like in the CX races you compete in? Ever been selected for a test before?
I have not, but today at CSI here in New England, USADA tested the podium. It’s also not the first time I’ve seen them at the races. They tested at Gloucester, and I think at Providence.
Anonymous asked: How much is it going to cost me to get the jersey off your back after one of your CX races?
I generally race CX in a skinsuit. If I took that off, I would be naked. So really you’re asking how much it would cost to get me naked after a race. That costs a lot.
Anonymous asked: I know you have a long history as a (former) bike messenger. What do you do for a living now?
Food delivery, part-time. Racing bikes is glamorous, isn’t it?