Two weeks ago OUCH Pro Cycling folded. The team in one farewell "poof" disappeared into the aether. The events leading up to the final end was more confusing than a dissertation on quantum physics. Like the Heisenberg Principle, the closer I got to figuring out what exactly happened, the more bizarre and obscure the answer actually became. It goes without saying, this is not the best way to begin the first year of my career as a professional cyclist.
There is also a bit of a difficult catch. OUCH Pro Cycling was the only UCI pro track team in the USA with a World Cup Team Pursuit program. Riding for the National Team is not an option since it is reserved specifically for developing u23 riders. If I could, I'd race for a domestic road team. This autumn two road teams offered me contracts. But, I had to turn down the road contracts in order to sign my contract with OUCH. Now, with the NRC season officially starting, I'm plumb outta luck as every team I've contacted has full rosters.
So let's re-cap: I'm Teamless, Jobless, and Homeless (I've been staying at a friend's gorgeous cabin in the mountains outside of L.A., so I should shut up and stop complaining). Needless to say, I've had a lot of time to think during long 5-hour rides spent under the beaming-hot sun tingling the thin, high-mountain air on my skin. For a few days I was royally bummed. Negativity swarmed around me like summer mosquitos in the Alaskan tundra. Every time I tried to swat those negative thoughts away, a hundred more little buggers came buzzing and biting back.
Experience has taught me to always have a back-up plan. Plus, self-pity is an annoying waste of time. To stop my hissy fits I gave myself perspective. From 2010 to the 2011 season 40 Continental teams went out of business. My team folding is not an anomoly. Me losing my job sucks, but I'm hardly a unique little snowflake. Sure, the process of getting to the Olympics and of racing my bike for a living is going to be much harder now that my team decayed faster than the half-life of an Ununoctium atom. But didn't I once say: nothing like a little hardship to make you stronger. Last I checked I wasn't dead.
One night, when my legs were twitching after a particular grueling 6-hour ride up two mountain passes, I crawled in bed to fall asleep and began to dream a very odd dream. In my dream I saw myself racing in the USA as a professional track cyclist. I traveled from velodrome to velodrome through the summer (The USA has 24 velodromes. Didya know that?) racing my track bike for a living. Then, after a hard summer of racing I geared up in the autumn for the winter World Cup season, getting those points critical for the Olympics...
There are riders who call themselves, "Pro-Tour riders." There are riders who call themselves, "Domestic Pros." There are riders who call themselves, "Pro six-day racers." But, have you ever heard of riders calling themselves, "Pro USA track racers?" Not often, because they are few and far between. My dream is to see more teams (big ups to Black Dog Cycling, South Bay Wheelman, Cyclo Loft, DFT racing, and Verducci breakaway for investing in USA track teams!), sponsorship structures, and race infrastructures develop enough to support a Pro USA Track racing circuit. The spectators will come.
Fixie culture is taking over metropolises faster than a hipster can chug a can of Pabst. Cycling popularity is exploding due to the obvious personal health, economic, social, and environmental benefits it offers. Most major cities have a velodrome perched right next door. Velodromes can be used as a hub to base a whole plethora of cycling related events, educational classes, and community minded cycling projects. And, of course, the whole kicker to this equation is: Track cycling is spectator friendly and exciting as all hell to watch.
So, I'm heading back to Seattle, to my home. The first step in my back-up plan is to build a sense of stability. There, I'm going to work my ass off, train my ass off, race my ass off, and shack up in the little cottage next to Volunteer park where I will be found ardently working on all the these dreams I've already told you about. Come find me at CycleU ; it's the best training center around, and is mighty fun to hang out at. I'll be rocking their kit this summer in the good ol' Northwest!
Luckily, I'm not the only one who feels the paradigm shift occurring. I must thank the tireless promotors of USA track races (off the top of my head: AVC, FGC, FSA grand prix, Dicklane Omnium). Then there is Jeff Hopkins, a retired Australian pro-racer infamous for his red-haired mullet, who is the backbone of the American Track Racing Association. The ATRA race series is the future of USA track racing. Along with competing in these events, I will be doing everything I can to help promote these races with the goal of one day having a Pro USA Track racing circuit. Felt Bicycles has also done wonders supporting USA track cycling, including sponsoring me with a gorgeous TK1 to spin my spindly legs on this season.
Remember what I said? GRIT! Time for me to get busy. Because all this really comes down to is: I love racing my track bike.