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The winter and spring drudged on and on, one cold rainy ride after another, broken only by dirty races in cold rainy places. After four- to six-hour rides, I dragged myself back to my apartment in Lucca, Italy. I’d read and watch the rain fall while waiting for dinner, a chance to socialize with another hungry cyclist.
I’d walk through town, past people kissing under umbrellas and then try to steer the conversation away from girls and family far away. It was the coldest, wettest winter/spring in Tuscany in 70 years. I’m fortunate to share the apartment with Max Durtschi, an intelligent guy capable of stimulating conversation. Good company, good food, and the structure of my training kept me alive. I placed in the top 20 at every time trial, but never in the top 10, creating an insatiable drive to keep pushing.
The summer, on the other hand, is passing like a whirlwind. Returning to the USA for the Tour of California was reviving. I trained with fresh intensity and spent every afternoon adventuring and relaxing with friends and family. It was an immediate physical and mental boost for Tour of California.
Unfortunately, I crashed in training two days before the race and flew home. The team adjusted my schedule so that I could take a week off, reset, and ease back into the second half of the season. Yet, a few days later, the team notified me that they needed me to race the Critérium du Dauphiné. An easy week tapering into Cali, followed by a week off, followed by a few easy base rides meant a lack of form and a lot of suffering in what is one of the hardest races of the season. But my mind was fresh.
I got through the Dauphiné despite catching strep throat for the last two stages. Antibiotics did their job, and two days later I started the Tour of Luxembourg. It was encouraging that I had my strongest day on the last of the 13 race days in 15 days supporting Bob Jungles to victory.
During that time, Lucca had transformed into a paradise of wild flowers and fruit growing roadside, people swimming in the river, tourists sauntering around town, live music, and sunshine. Max and I joined Evelyn Stevens and Neil Henderson to preview the 2013 worlds course in Florence. Don’t miss that race. It’s going to be epic. Then I raced the Tour of Austria. I felt great, raced hard, and finally cracked the top 10 in a time trial. I flew straight from Vienna to Fort Worth, Texas, for a sponsor event, then enjoyed another three weeks in Virginia.
In Virginia I had the opportunity to visit with juniors at the Charlottesville Bike Camp. Send your kids next year. I got to speak to the Boys and Girls Club Cycling Team and their supporters, and I got to cheer for the juniors racing the Virginia State Championships which my brother, Jake, won.
My message to the juniors and their supporters, and riders of all levels felt simple and generic. Cycling taught me to live a balanced and healthy lifestyle. It taught me about discipline, perseverance, and humility. Through it, I have experienced the rewards of hard work and delayed gratification. It has exposed me to different cultures, interesting people, and led to fulfilling relationships. Plus, it has led to a greater understanding of myself as I explore my surroundings and my personal limits daily.
I got to share stories from my career beginning with my first mountain bike ride. It was for a friend’s 12th birthday party. His dad had to pull me out of the bushes every other corner. Looking back at my methodical progression from that first ride, to group rides, to local races, to international competition, to the professionals, to the UCI WorldTour, I am most excited to tell these aspiring racers that we do the exact same thing. The sport, lessons, character building, and ethics are the same. It only gets faster, longer, and harder.