Months ago, I was typing out these columns while pedaling on a trainer, dreaming of where this year would go. I say “dreaming” because everything I envisioned was good; strong rides, podiums, team wins, a season calibrated to make the most of a hard winter of training and renewed determination to take on an aggressive race schedule. I’d lost weight, dropped a bad ex-boyfriend, shed the huge baggage of paying for a condo that I hadn’t occupied in years.
Lindsay Bayer / Images: Justin Weeks
Nobody fantasizes about having a shitty year. Nobody makes dream boards about failure and injuries and setbacks. I was marinating in an imaginary stew of success.
The year is not going quite as expected. I’m back on the trainer and it’s late May; my plans for the season hadn’t accounted for reverting back to my CycleOps as the only way of working out thanks to an untimely crash. Who wants to smash towards race-level fitness on their balcony riding stationary in 100-degree heat? Not me. But that’s okay because I can’t even go that hard, not yet, not until my body recovers from injury and surgery. And it’s not even my first surgery of the season; that was back in March when I got my heart arrhythmia fixed and gave Dave Towle something to announce to race crowds for the rest of the year.
These setbacks are temporary, to be sure, but it’s hard to keep shifting goals and expectations. I want to learn how to suffer through more watts than ever before, not learn how to suffer through just getting the pedals to turn over. I wanted to win a jersey in California, not a hospital gown.
The sophomore year of running a professional team hasn’t been easy, either. Last year Jono and I were on top of the world; the team was shiny and new, the riders were excited, the cycling community was thrilled to see a fresh kit join the ranks. This year has been more challenging. In growing and taking on more experienced riders while aiming at bigger goals, we’ve faced hurdles I hadn’t expected. Maybe I should have planned better or been more prepared or less naive. I don’t know. Sometimes I want to give up. Managing people is hard, especially when everybody’s passion, personal struggles, and physical suffering all collide at top speed. Running a team doesn’t pay anything, so when things are tough and people are unhappy, where is the reward? The way I see it, the things you do in life should either lead to money or joy. When you come up empty-handed, that seems like a good time for a new plan.
These are the things I have learned so far this season: (1) When you are both a rider and team owner, the only place you should put your emotions is in a box under your bed. (2) You cannot command respect; it is earned. (3) Cycling is too intense and stressful to leave tensions unaddressed. (4) It is easier if everybody is direct and honest, even if the reality isn’t rosy. (5) Set boundaries and rules from the beginning and stick to them. Once you’ve lost control, it is very hard to wrestle it back. (6) You can’t rush recovery but you sure can delay it. (7) Hope is not a plan.
Oh, and: (8) There is no place in Silver City that does not have roaches.
But living a complete life means facing ups and downs, handling unexpected challenges, and learning from them. (And roaches. They appear to be unavoidable.) People don’t grow from never facing adversity. I love training rides that crush me because reaching a limit and then smashing through it is where the real gains happen.
There are a few months left in the American race calendar. Our team has broken in a few places but is mending and becoming stronger. My bones have broken in a few places but are mending as well. Sometimes it feels like my motivation has broken, but then I get up, ride the trainer at dawn, plan for the team to take on the next race, and then, hey, look at that, we’re moving forward.