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By Andrew Juskaitis, VeloNews technical editor
Who would have known that Christmas would come early this year? Well, for the nerdy technical staff of VeloNews, anyway. Flashback to this past Friday. It’s the annual Christmas party for the management and staff of Inside Communications (the publisher of VeloNews), and everyone is all tidied up and pretending to be on our best behavior.
As I’m loitering around the buffet line, secretly trying to hone in on the calamari, I overhear our very own John Wilcockson mentioning something about “Tyler’s bike” to our editor, Kip Mikler. My attention switches from the succulent deep-fried squid to the words coming out of Wilcockson’s mouth. Dumbfounded at what I’m hearing, I interrupt his conversation with a stunned, “Did you say Tyler’s bike? As in Tyler Hamilton’s 2004 BMC team bike? Like, you actually have it?”
John turned toward me and in his familiar low-key manner answered my rude interruption: “Yes, Andrew. Tyler’s bike is in the back of my car.” John Wilcockson had one of the rarest bikes in the world stashed away in the back of his humble Toyata like a bag of groceries.
It seemed John had been wrapping up an interview with Tyler here in Boulder for an upcoming issue of VeloNews when Tyler suggested that he could take his BMC to the office for some photos. Though it was fresh out of the UPS box and lacked one or two components, John grabbed the fabled steed and rushed it to the Christmas party.
Word spread around our little holiday evening engagement like wildfire, and before long a bunch of us were following John to his car for a glimpse of Tyler’s bike. There, in the back of his hatchback, in the freezing night, lay the freshly built BMC.
In a rare turn of events, Kip approved the shifting around of a few pages in the first VeloNews of 2004 – which was in the process of shipping to the printer – to make room for this exclusive first look at Tyler’s BMC. So check out issue No. 1 bright and early next year for the complete file on the bike.
A not-so-silly-season story about NORBA upgrades
It’s the “silly season” for major-name contract negotiations, but I’m personally more affected by a closer-to-home story I’d like to share. I just spoke with one of my old high school friends who informed me he had just signed with the 2004 Trek West Coast Factory Team. While Blair’s signing certainly won’t attract much media attention, it got me thinking about NORBA and how its system of introducing riders to racing and upgrading them in a fair and practical manner actually works.
Blair started racing just three seasons ago after asking me, “How hard can cross-country racing really be?” I foolishly told him that “it was way too hard to really enjoy until he got in significantly better shape.” I topped off my dare by telling him he should stick to surfing instead of going head-to-head with competitors half his weight (at the time, he was about 40 pounds overweight.) In his stubborn manner, he took me up on the “dare,” bought a bike and started racing.
He progressed smoothly through the beginner ranks, eventually competing in enough races for an upgrade to sport. Once in the sport class, his determination grew, and in an attempt to thoroughly humiliate me, he joined CTS, beginning an intensive training program.
Next thing I knew, he was winning sport races and upgrading to the expert level after amassing five top-five placings. Once in expert, his fitness far outdistanced mine as he began training some 18 hours a week. With enough expert-class results, Blair received permission to upgrade to semi-pro, where he now resides.
What’s my point ? The NORBA system works. No, it’s not as rigid or demanding as the USCF system, but for that reason, it’s more attractive to the amateur-class racer. True, it can lead to sandbagging (you know who you are), but for the motivated amateur racer, it’s the perfect low-stress environment for taking the sport as far as you desire – all the way to the pro ranks if you’re good enough and have the drive.
It’s unlikely you’ll see Blair’s name on a VeloNews cover any time soon, but in my mind he’s the unheralded poster child of the good that NORBA does for the average racer. Congrats to Blair and every other rider out there for giving it their best shots.
Have a great holiday!