Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Discovering Motivation, Cherishing Community

In Santa Maria, the places we ride.
The places we ride, the people we meet, the memories that are forged. What motivates you to complete millions of pedal revolutions and endure plenty of fatigue, all while pressing forward?

As a current third-year student at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, the collegiate cycling scene is no mystery. After receiving exposure in high school, before processing tales in college, collegiate cycling is a place for plenty of laughs, a plethora of smiles, and, surely, a satchel of memories.

With a revived interest in competition, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo student-athletes ventured south at the beginning of March, while competing in a University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) hosted event. Looking ahead, for the next seven weekends, Cal Poly will be represented across California, before landing in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Considering this load, how does motivation emerge?

On March 4, UCSB hosted "A Bicycle Race!" that quickly became a race of attrition for the Collegiate Men's A field. Fortunately, Cal Poly lined up eight men for the event. For the weekend of road and criterium racing, 18 competitors entered 27 events, with one win and eight top-five finishes. Along the Central Coast, the stoke was alive and well.

A posse of Cal Poly cyclists, with racing complete for the day.
During Saturday's road race, with eight men to control the Collegiate Men's A field, high hopes were present. Early, Cal Poly's Tim Mabray entered a break, relieving some pressure. Eventually, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) elevated the pace, while controlling the front for multiple laps throughout a five-lap, 70-mile ordeal.

After frequent flyers and consistent sprints early on, the pace had settled. Unfortunately, while sitting comfortably, I was struck with a front puncture, day done for me. "Carry on, men, air support is headed home," I joked with teammates, bummed about my poor fortune.

Continuing on, with evening hours approaching, final-lap fireworks caused an implosion. At the finish, Christopher Blevins (Cal Poly) and Samuel Boardman (UCLA) finished clear of the splintered pack, jostling for position, before Blevins nudged a victory.

A trio of Cal Poly cyclists.
 With racing complete for the day, a sense of community continued to spread. Slowly, very slowly, competitors left the race venue. However, little sense of urgency existed. With plenty of sprite individuals, all gathered on a Saturday, conversation and jubilation filled the air.

With this crowd, at the end of the day, competition is memorable, laughs and smiles are cherished, pedal revolutions and fatigue are accepted, all for the joy of two wheels. Plus, a post-race In-N-Out Burger tradition never hurt. 

What motivates you? Whatever it may be, while forging memories, carry on.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Don't Call It A Revolution

A nod of the head, a flick of the elbow, and a brief bit of chatter, that's all it took for the casual pace to escalate. With a winter of preparation in the rear-view mirror, collegiate racing was rolling, all with the assistance of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), hosts of a climber's paradise in Pearblossom, California.

A sight from Pearblossom, California, at the UCLA road race.
Recently, Alex Howes, a road cyclist with Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team, dropped knowledge from inside the WorldTour peloton. "Nowadays, with all these marginal gains, it’s a sport full of weight weenies, power dorks, and flesh-and-blood robots," said Howes.

On the contrary, while not elevated to the same level as professional cycling, collegiate road racing is injecting cycling with a sense of lightheartedness. In Southern California, discussions of Belgian speculoos crushing the Americanized, Trader Joe's equivalent, talk of Lachlan Morton, and not taking sport so seriously whistled through the air. For men and women who are simultaneously balancing a course load, practice program, part-time work, and some sort of social life, cycling provides a sense of relief.

Cal Poly Cycling's Sean Bird, in the Men's A UCLA road race.Credit: Paul Schmidt.
This lightheartedness doesn't imply that collegiate road racing isn't "badass," a criteria for improving modern cycling, as mentioned by Howes. Infiltrating the UCLA road race was Menso de Jong, a former member of Jelly Belly Cycling, as well as numerous students that have competed in Belgium, an eye-opening experience for aspiring cyclists. This collegiate posse qualifies as a "hardcore" peloton, an additional bit from Howes.

Plenty of competition, especially from a load of talented cyclists, caused the Collegiate Men's A field to become splintered when the pace was inflated on lap three. With University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) driving the pace, it wasn't long before I was dispatched, settling for 14th position. Meanwhile, Cal Poly Cycling's Colin Patterson proceeded trading punches with the front group, finishing the day in fourth place. Between all collegiate fields, Cal Poly Cycling contributed 12 athletes to the UCLA road race, tallying three top-five finishes. 

While it is easy to oversimplify, collegiate road cyclists seem to represent a relaxed crowd, all while maintaining a balance. With this bunch, as I discovered in the Collegiate Men's A field at UCLA road race, when it comes time to nod the head, flick the elbow, and throw down the gauntlet, collegiate road racing is doing just fine.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Art's Cyclery Photo Content

In San Luis Obispo, California, Art's Cyclery is beginning to host weekly group-ride options. Recently, to advertise a Wednesday event, a poster was released with content from a photoshoot.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Coast Ride: GU Energy Labs Edition (Online)

As seen online, I was fortunate enough to share my Coast Ride thoughts, feeling, and emotions with GU Energy Labs. For a detailed summary, as well as captivating footage, check it out.

Van GU, rolling down the Central Coast!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Coast Ride: GU Energy Labs Edition

"Nah man, I took the Greyhound," he responded, after being questioned about his arrival in San Luis Obispo, California, from Chico, California. For a weekend scheduled with heaps of travel along California's coast, it seemed a fitting Friday afternoon response.

From Saturday, January 14, through Monday, January 16, GU Energy Labs diligently supported The Coast Ride, a three day, 378 mile, and 23,000 vertical foot trek down the coast of California. Rolling from San Francisco and finishing in Santa Barbara, The Coast Ride offered plenty of time for reflection.

As one cyclist mentioned, "Man, it's all good. I'm out here and I get to ride with my friends." Although a simplified, brief comment, it was spoken with relief and pleasure. While many cyclists suffered, others embraced the plentiful moments of freedom. These moments of freedom began with backpack-clad cyclists, the original coast riders. Now, we're more than willing to pick up the slack, while providing course support.

Between early mornings, late nights, extensive travel, and exhausting physical efforts, former strangers possessed plenty of time to acknowledge their counterparts. To complete 378 miles in three days, it is entirely necessary to work well with other individuals. Personally, I see this as a beautiful aspect of cycling. With a common goal in mind, cyclists rotated through pacelines. As the experienced group rolled south, speeds gradually, but noticeably, increased.

All the while, I peered on from the GU Energy Labs van growing more and more excited to be supporting such a dedicated group of cyclists, as well as increasingly jealous, a common side effect for endurance junkies.

To complete a substantial effort is rewarding. After this past weekend, I understand that to support a massive journey is equally rewarding. During the course of three days, formerly random individuals became grateful friends.

The bicycle is a powerful tool. During the weekend of January 14-16, The Coast Ride perfectly tested its might, while allowing adventure, teamwork, and nature's beauty to collide, all reasons why so many call themselves cyclists.