Livin' the Dream

Livin' the Dream

About Me

I am a sophomore at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, majoring in journalism. My passion is cycling. I am a category 4 bike racer and my absolute dream would be to turn pro one day. My more realistic goal is to become a journalist for the sport of cycling and eventually move on to become a broadcaster for the sport.

Monday, July 8, 2013

A New Friend

I never learned more in a week about riding and bike racing that when I spent a week riding with the infamous Wayne Stetina at Ride the Rockies (RTR), a charity ride to support the Davis Phinney Foundation. Wayne is a former pro, a 3-time Olympian, and still finds time to train with his nephew, Peter, who rides for Garmin-Sharp, when he's not at his day job as director of R&D at Shimano. He's 59 years old, but you wouldn't know it from the way he rides.

After the first day at RTR, riding alone because I hadn't yet found someone at my pacing, Connie Carpenter (a legend in her own right, olympic winner, and wife of Davis Phinney who came along to sag for us for a couple of days) introduced me to the recently retired George Hincapie. I planned to ride with George's group the next day, getting to the meeting place early because I did not want to miss the group. When I got there, I met Wayne and his friend Paulo. Wayne didn't like how Pablo looked on the bike so he preceded to give him a  total refit right there in the parking lot. This became a reoccurring theme, as Wayne would give a least one bike fit a day to someone. It did not matter if we were at an aid station or out on the road, he would just give the fit on the side of the road. Noticing my bike fit, after the day's brutally hard and hot ride with George, Wayne worked to totally refit me. He spent an hour working with the mechanics and to make sure I had the right fit,  a "racers" position. I have to say I feel a lot more comfortable and faster on the bike now. Since George was going home that day, I asked Wayne if I could ride with him the next day and he said "sure." Little did I know it would be the hardest week on the bike for me EVER.

Day 3 of RTR was the longest day yet with 85 brutal miles on tap. We started the day off pretty mellow  and stopped at the first aid station to say hi to my DPF sag support Lauren and Jena. After that Wayne proceeded to take a 50 mile pull over rolling terrain. Let me tell you, he wasn't going slow. As the week wore on, I noticed that I hurt more drafting off of Wayne, then when I was pulling on the front. We stopped at the third aid station to refill our bottles and catch our breath (well, at least I had to catch my breath). We rolled out of the aid station to a quick descent and then began a long gradual climb, with rollers near the top. We rode side by side up the gradual part averaging about 33 kph (20 mph). We caught up to Ron Keifel and his sister on one of the rollers, but then Wayne and I stopped to give another rider one of Wayne's special roadside fits. When we caught back up to Ron, he and Wayne began taking hard pulls. At one point Ron was drilling it on the front, going 42 kph on a slight uphill!! When I talked to Ron after the ride he said that had that been a race he would have been pushing the same gear, but 20 rpm faster. After that fast pull Ron backed off to wait for his sister and Wayne and I continued to push forward, or should I say Wayne pushed forward as I was on the limit just sitting on his wheel. As we neared the top of the climb Wayne went into overdrive and and flat out dropped me. Wayne and I dive bombed the final descent into town. It was an exhilarating end to a brutal, but very fun day.

Wayne is a terrific mentor
Day 4 of RTR was the BIG day with the Wolf Creek Pass climb and 92 miles total on tap for the day. This was the longest day of the week, or so I thought. Our start town and on to the bottom of Wolf Creek Pass was a rolling 16 miles. I guess Wayne does not know what warm-up means because he chose to go full gas from the beginning. We got to the first aid station with an average speed of 19 mph. My legs already felt like they wanted to fall off and we hadn't even started the 8 mile climb with an average gradient of 6%. We didn't stop, blowing through the first aid station, and began the climb. Wayne kept a steady hard pace on the climb. He was doing the same effort Floyd Landis was doing when he got dropped in yellow at the Tour back in '06. Towards the top of the climb Wayne began to pay for his effort at the beginning of the ride and I was able to drop him with about 3/4 of a mile to go. I mean, I DROPPED WAYNE STETINA!! At the top of the climb we regrouped and refilled our bottles. The descent was awesome. Wayne and I dive bombed it, hitting speeds north of 50 mph. The next 60 miles of the ride was a gradual downhill and we thought we could average a high speed the rest of the way, but mother nature had other things in mind. What we didn't expect was a brutal crosswind for the 15 miles. I was going full gas just to average 20 miles when I was pulling. Wayne was pulling at 22 mph and I don't even think he was on the limit. Lauren (different Lauren), a pro mountain biker, had joined our group during that time and she said that when I was pulling, Wayne was sitting up and stretching. When Wayne was pulling, I was gritting my teeth and focusing on everything not to get dropped. I have to say our grouped looked pretty pro coming into town with a perfect echelon. At the end of the day I looked at my Ride Time. It was 4:45--sub-five hours for a day with over 4,000 feet of climbing and a terrible crosswind. I passed out pretty early that night knowing that the next day was going to be another hard day, because with Wayne there is no "easy" day.

Day 5 of RTR was 85 miles, but the first 60 were flat followed by a small climb into the last 12 miles of fast downhill and a hard-pound flat to the finish of the day. Wayne surprised me by wanting to go relatively easy. We still finished the day in sub four hours, though we had a nice tailwind for most of the day.

Day 6 of RTR was suppose to be an "easy" (it's Colorado, no terrain is easy) 67 miles with a fun route through the royal gorge, but due to the forrest fires we got rerouted and had to go up a long rolling pass that didn't peak out until mile 60. Our mileage for the day ended up being a hot and brutal 93 miles. Wayne and I started the day full gas and it was full gas to the top. I was actually trading pulls with him. The week was wearing on both of us, but I felt pretty happy to be able to contribute to the pace making. I was hopping I didn't pay for it later though. After the top we began a long harrowing switch-backed descent. There were road marshalls at every switch-back yelling at Wayne and I because, like always, we went down the descent the only way bike racers know how, FAST! We were hitting the switch-backs and cornering at 35 mph. Had I not been with Wayne I probably would not had gone that fast, but there was no way I was going to let him drop me. The run into town was wide open and hot as hell. Again, we rolled into the finish with a Ride Time of sub-five hours, 4:35 to be exact. You can learn so much about bike handling just from riding behind someone. On the big descent I was able to watch Wayne in front of me so I new where to lean and by how much. Just doing that one descent behind Wayne helped me to feel a lot more comfortable and confident descending at speed.

Day 7 of RTR was "only" 46 miles with gradual rolling uphill until the final descent into Colorado Springs for the big finish. Like always Wayne took a massive 40+ mile pull. Yep you guessed it, Wayne pulled the whole way. By this time I was running on fumes never having gone this hard for a full week or riding this many miles, 545 to be exact, in a week before. After Wayne and I crossed the finish we chatted for a few moments and then said our good-byes.

This week was the hardest week of my life, but I loved every minute of it. Out on the road it was Wayne in front and me tucked behind right on his wheel. I wouldn't want it any other way. Wayne showed me how to ride steadier and more efficiently. I rekindled a joy for bike riding. I may never go pro, but I can try. If I don't, so what, I will always have my bike. And with it comes freedom and happiness.

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