As I write this from the Boston/Logan airport on my way to Bermuda, my final race of the season, I have had time to think about all the great memories of places and people I have been fortunate to experience this year. My season began early with a trip in January to Chico with two of my Oregon buddies. Then I had no idea what the season would become or where it would take me.
In total I’ve spent less than a month at home since February, but have made friends and family elsewhere. My first two families showed me true southern hospitality. Both the Browns and Gabardi’s opened their homes and let me become part of their family, which made me feel at home in the south, a far different place than out west. After over a month with my confederate friends I crossed the Mason Dixon Line, as our team drove north to Boston. Now some people say stereotypes don’t exist however, the stereotypes are generally true and in New England people are just like I had heard. I was coming from the south where everyone was so friendly and relaxed to a place up north where the stress levels run high and people are more closed off. Everything around New England seemed so sophisticated and proper; everywhere I went was a promenade Ivey league school, far different from the south.
I didn’t spend much time in Boston because it was then time to fly across the ocean to my second country of Belgium to do what I love, and race my bike. After a week in Belgium at eh U23 National Team house five other national team members and I drove (we actually slept and chatted while the mechanic and director did the driving) across Europe to the Czech Republic for the famous Course de la Paix. It was the longest and most demanding race I had done to that point, but it helped me to build a foundation for the rest of my season. After a week in the beautiful Czech country side we made our way back to Belgium, followed by a trip to Germany the following weekend. This race in Germany proved to be my first strong race of the year, I took 9th in the opening time trial and then 4th on the final road stage. After a strong showing in Germany we went back to Belgium for our final race of the trip in the Flemish Ardennes. After what was a semi successful trip I returned to Boston for a week before heading to Nashville for the Junior Worlds Qualifiers. This would turn out to be my first true race with team Hot Tubes and since then I have never wised to be on any other team. Not only did we win in both the time trial and the road race, we had a great time doing it.
After almost five months away from home I returned at the beginning of June. Returning home was good mental refreshment and came at the perfect time. While I was home I took a little rest period and enjoyed fishing with my brother in his new boat. In mid June my father brother and I traveled to Nevada City for one of my favorite races ever. Little did I know that Lance Armstrong and his Astana teammates would be with him. After a good junior race in the morning I re-pinned my number and raced with the pros. Lance and his companions lapped me early on but I was able to attach onto the back once they caught me. For the next thirty-five I used the roar of the fans to keep me in contact with Armstrong. It didn’t mean much to me at the time but looking back it was one of my most memorable races of the year, and will probably be one for the grandkids.
With a refreshed head on my shoulders I flew back to Boston for the Fitchburg classic, a race that Hot Tubes has won for the past ten years. Being the teams home state race the expectations were high, but with the strength and cohesiveness of our team it didn’t cause any trouble. We won every stage as well as the overall, and with each stage win our team grew closer and closer. We began to know each other so well that in a pro crit the following weekend four of us lapped the field and then lead out Nathan for 5th in the field sprint. With the confidence and team work we had found it was time for our hardest domestic race of the season, the Tour of the Red River Gorge.
Arriving ready to race and with everyone healthy we went to battle. We all placed within the top twenty in the opening prologue which was so short that the most anyone lost was seven seconds. Stage one would be our first true test, however we aced it going 1,2,3 on the stage and wondering what happened to all the other contenders. The next few days proved no different as we move into 1-4 on the final classification and won every category except the K.O.M.
After my and the team’s performance at the Gorge, 5 out of our 6 man team was selected to the worlds team (4 for the US and 1 (Stuee) from Canada). Back to Boston it was and week with Gavin and his family before I would fly out to Moscow for the worlds. Because worlds were in Moscow I needed a Russian visa, which turned out to be a pain in the ass. I rushed to get all the papers sent away to Huston where the Russian consulate is located. I missed the initial flight with the team and stayed at Gavin’s house for another two days, while he and the other riders were preparing in Belgium. Gavin’s family allowed me place to call home, where I relaxed and trained in my final prep for worlds. Three hours before I left for my flight to Europe my passport containing my Russian visa finally came.
I was finally on a plane heading to Belgium and then the world championships, my year long goal. But before worlds we would be doing a stage race in the Belgian Ardennes, Liege la Gleize. I arrived in Belgium on Thursday afternoon and the race began Friday afternoon, so I didn’t have much time to adapt to the six hour time change. Despite the late arrival this race turned out to be one of my best results of the year. After our strong showing in the team time trial are entire team was looking good. The race being so close to worlds, a lot of riders were using it as a final prep, the teams included were the French national team, Swiss national team and riders from both the Belgian and Dutch world championship teams. After a cold, wet and hard final stage I found myself finishing 2nd on the general classification.
With a strong showing in Liege our team was ready for Moscow. The time trial was the first event and was a great way to start it off as Lawson took the silver medal only 2 seconds off the win. The road race was two days after and we were all looking forward to the hard and technical course. However once the race came things went downhill fast. Gavin was to be one of the two protected riders and was struggling with the polluted Moscow air and pulled out after several laps. That put all the pressure on Jacob’s shoulders to get us the good result. We were looking for. Jacob gave it his best effort but missed the winning move, however still finished 17th. Our time in Moscow was not the most enjoyable, most of our time was spent in the 27 story hotel and eating the awful cafeteria food that was provided. Many of us had stomach problem because of the food and were so excited to return to Belgium and good home cooked food.
Once back in Belgium it felt as if a weight had been lifted from all of our shoulders, not from pressure put on us to perform, but just being able to relax in a place we knew and could get comfortable. After a week in Belgium we had recovered from our Russian experience and were ready to race again. We went to the north of Belgium to compete in a one day classic and went 3rd, 7th, and 9th. It was a great performance from the whole team and showed that we were in a better state of mind than we were in Russia.
The following weekend it was for most of us our final race with the Junior National team as we will not be juniors next season. The race was Regio tour in Freiburg, Germany. It started off very promising with Jacob winning stage one. He kept the Jersey for two more days before losing it in a tough stage three. That same stage I did not finish because of some chronic knee pain. So my junior career ended there on the side of the road in Germany, not the best way to go out, but as a junior I have been very successful and accomplished almost every goal I have set out to do.
After Germany I returned to Bend, which seemed like a foreign place I’d been gone for so long. It was a refreshing visit home but it didn’t last for long as I then had to move down to Chico, Ca for college. I did do one last race with the team in Bermuda which was the perfect icing on the cake to the most fun and successful season I’ve had.
I’m finishing this blog from my couch in Chico and the season it truly over. I’ve already taken one week off and have two more until 2010 begins. Next year will bring big things as I make the step up to U23/pro.
Thank you to everyone who has helped me this season, I’ve had a lot of support which is much appreciated. Thank you all so much. And I’ll talk with you all in 2010.