Neil Bezdek has a new blog entry up on Bicycling.com today about how being a bike racer affects how you drive a car. In it, he writes:
“Hold on a second,” you might say. “Isn’t racing about pushing the pace?” Actually it’s not. A bike race is never a contest of who can pedal the hardest—that’s called a time trial. It is a competition of who can pedal the least, of who can capitalize on the ebb and flow of the peloton, then hit the throttle at the right moment."
Maybe this sounds like common sense to you. Maybe it sounds like a revelation. But I can tell you that some cyclists go their entire career without grasping clever concepts like this. They're the things I learned from people like Paul Curley, from Mark and Frank McCormack. Things I learned growing up racing bikes with shrewd, sharp New Englanders. They called us "East Coast crit riders" back then. We just called it smart bike racing.
This year is the 3rd season I'll be Neil's team captain on Team Mountain Khakis/SmartStop, and my 5th year guiding this team of young riders from neo-pro to hopefully bigger success down the road. This year, as the team goes from a year of amateur status back to the pro ranks, we re-signed every single rider from last season. All 8 guys are returning, along with 3 new signings. That's a huge statement; an indicator that last year we hired the right guys, and those guys took the steps they needed to be ready to step it up with us this year. For me, and Neil's blog today really hit it home, this is the best graduating class I've ever had as a professor of bike racing. Along with Jon Hamblen's help, Neil, Ben Zawacki, Luke Keough, Jerome Townsend, Travis Livermon, and Thomas Brown all did me the courtesy of accepting me as their teacher, valued my knowledge and experience, listened hard, and implemented what they heard. To see Ben Zawacki turn all his random attacking from before we signed him into 6 wins last year, most of them solo moves made in the last lap, made me laugh out loud with satisfaction regularly. To see former pro mountain biker and tall skinny guy Travis Livermon go from dirt dork to almost winning field sprints in fast, technical circuit races, or taking huge turns at the front in the last 5 laps for his sprinters made me beam. Every guy on last year's team showed some kind of breakthrough like that last season that maybe only we noticed. You might have had to be watching closely to see the progress.
But I noticed. And I'm proud. Thank you, guys, for taking this seriously, and still laughing together along the way.