Where exactly am I? The last few weeks have been a dizzying blend of travel, training and racing. Shortly after my Yellowstone adventure with the family I hopped a plane to Denver and then drove to Colorado Springs for the start of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. I’ve taken that road trip many times before but it’s been awhile and suddenly memories start bouncing off the cranium walls like my head is a pinball machine. As a Junior Racer I would travel these roads with my mom all the time. I was a know-it-all kid back then, invited to live and train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Mom was my chauffeur then so there was plenty of time to absorb the scenery.
I’ll never forget my first trip to the OTC for a junior race. Mom made arrangements for us to spend the first night at a discount motel on the edge of town. After the long drive from Salt Lake City we pulled into the motel late at night surprised to find several cop cars in the parking lot, red lights a-blazing. Mom and I looked at each other quite speechless by the unexpected greeting. Moments later, we spot a stretcher being carried from one of the rooms, a human body fully covered by a white sheet. I remember her saying something to the affect, ‘Maybe we’ll find another place to stay,’ as the car slowly rolled backward out of the parking lot.
We ended up that night in Manitou Springs and took a small cottage room near the road. I was in 11th or 12th grade. I was just rolling with the opportunity to be there. It seemed to me that the athlete’s focus at the time was the Olympics and I succumbed to that dream as well. Olympic flags hung everywhere, including in my head. But this was a real education, and one that I wasn’t going to get back home. Once I moved into the OTC it ended up being my college experience, minus the partying. Through the haze of socializing at school they say you learn something about yourself, college as a mode of discovery. Well the same can be said of the OTC. It’s certainly a different path, but one of self-discovery nonetheless.
On this trip I settled in at our hotel in Colorado Springs and met up with my teammate and roommate Tom Peterson. We decided to ride the Prologue Course and then some. I had to chuckle when we rode past my hotel room that Mom and I stayed in so many years ago on my first visit to the area. We headed toward Cheyenne Canyon, spinning and chatting. Quite unexpectedly we spotted a bear on the side of the road and I started to crack up. Peterson wanted to know what was so funny and I explained our recent camping in Yellowstone and our drive through Bear World…’I didn’t need to do any of that. I could have just come here and taken a ride with you.’
Our training ride was interrupted by a nasty bee sting that Peterson received near his eye. So we decided to stop to tend to it and have some lunch as well. I wanted to find a vegan joint but his eye was swelling up quickly and we spotted an Ethiopian restaurant instead. When we walked in the owner thought Peterson took a spill and offered to call a doctor. We altered the staff to the fact that it was a bee sting and a bag of ice would be appreciated. They promised one right away but it never came. The food did and it was good but the service was so lacking, and the staff eventually so apologetic that they said the lunch was on them.
For the Prologue I thought my body was good although my warm-up felt off. I just couldn’t get the body into the zone it needed to be and as a result I couldn’t generate the power. Christian blitzed the course and afterward at the team meeting it was decided that CVV would be the road captain. Always looking to be helpful, I immediately jumped up and announced that I would be the alternate. If Christian wasn’t available and a call had to be made on the road I would be the guy. With a bit of a smile I suggested that they think of me as the #2 guy.
Well the next day out was Stage 1, Salida to Crested Butte. It was 100 miles with 8,000+ feet of climbing and Christian did his job taking 5th on the day just 7 seconds behind Levi. I on the other hand couldn’t breathe, literally. My acclimatization was not there and I struggled the entire way. My chest felt like the fat lady was sitting on it and I came in last among the 8 man Garmin team. After my self-prescribed #2 designation the previous day the team was more amused than understanding and immediately began referring to me as ‘Ocho’.
Well that’s the way the week was for me, simply out of sorts. Feeling privileged to be there, amazing fans, super crowds, enjoying a flood of memories from my youth, suffering like a dog, and all the while the guys calling out to me wearing a shitty smirk and inevitably finding a way to fit ‘Ocho’ into every sentence. And I have to tell you that on the final day of that week my body was toast, burnt toast, as I was suffering with heat stroke. We were on the finishing circuits in Denver and I need a bottle badly. But there was no water to be found as the service vehicles had been pulled off the course. Ever resourceful, I spotted a fully stocked spectating group and veered into their set-up helping myself to the only ribbon I’d be getting that week: an ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon. Ahhhh…and then I jumped back onto the course momentarily revived.
At the podium ceremonies our team gathered back stage about to celebrate the Best Overall Team designation. I was immobile, hands and feet fully submerged in a cooler of ice water absorbing all the recovery possible as I desperately tried to lower my body temperature. There was a fair amount of medical advise from the team as well: ‘Ocho, don’t try to bathe in that cooler.’ ‘Hey what’s that water like 8 degrees?’ ‘Don’t even think about bringing that cooler on stage.’ ‘Ocho, did you really pull off course for a PBR?’ Well I made it on stage and have to apologize if my champagne celebration seemed a touch less enthusiastic than normal. I was hurting.
We regrouped that evening at Jonathan Vaughter’s house. We consoled and congratulated CVV on his 2nd place overall finish while chowing down on Mexican food, courtesy of a gourmet food truck that wheeled up to JV’s backyard. I raised a chuckle out of the group once again when I showed up to JV’s house with my laundry. We would be traveling onto Kansas City the following day and I planned on looking fresh for the Garmin crew when we rolled into their HQ. JV’s lady friend was kind enough to help me through the complications of his washing machinery while I devoured a burrito or two. Not known to truly appreciate the limits of most situations I hit JV’s clothes closet hard. Are all of his shirts really pressed? Bottom line is I looked good coming out of there, scratch that, I looked great. And when I promised to pay him for what seemed like a new shirt he told me to just wash it before I returned it. OK, but I’m not doing any ironing.
On Monday we flew to see the Garmin folks. It was quite the homecoming. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been there. In fact my last trip to Garmin HQ was post my overall victory at the Tour of Missouri in 2009. Well these are true fans of what we do, super supportive and gracious as can be with the team. We did an autograph session with the staff and when the guys filed into the auditorium afterward for a Q & A session I was routed elsewhere. It seems some enterprising senior management folks decided I should visit their sound studio and do some voice recording for their new NUVI GPS unit. Well alright then.
Now I’m no voice actor but after this experience I’m sending my tapes to Pixar. I really enjoyed myself and can’t wait to hear “left turn here” and “turn right in 500 feet” in my own voice. I was reading off of a script but I was also encouraged to be creative. Come on…that’s like asking a kid with a sweet tooth to grab some chocolate. I was fueling myself on some questionable coffee and really could have gone creative courtesy of another cold PBR. I think then we’d really have some drivers chuckling along their way. All in all it was a lot of fun and I certainly hope they can use what they recorded.
The voice recording, the festivities, the charity ride with the staff and locals aside, the highlight of my visit at Garmin HQ was truly the people. The mid-west has its charms and these folks were happy to host the team and showed us a great time. There were a lot of folks I got to chat with but one young boy in particular was quite special. It’s unusual for cycling fans to be this young, but little Jack is among a new generation of cycling enthusiasts. I appreciated his raw zeal, his innocent smile and the untainted way he could enjoy the sport, the athletes and just life in general. You can read about him here:
On Tuesday morning I fired up the Happy Cow App and found a bakery a half hour walk from the hotel. I journeyed out in the early morning hours and navigated my way to the Mud Pie Vegan Bakery and Coffeehouse. Wow, what a treat that was. Very cool spot, great pastries and excellent staff. If you’re in the area consider a Mud Pie stop. You won’t be disappointed.
Well I’m back in LA but only for a brief stop. I’ve recharged the batteries and I’m off again, bike in hand, to the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec. Two races in fact, in Quebec City and Montreal. My teammate may be a marked man and Gilbert is planning to race, but I’m looking to kill it for Ryder and help him achieve some glory on his home soil. Come on out and check out the races as I’m sure they’ll be spectacular. You can learn more about these two events at:
I’ve been passing out some of my older Garmin gear to some of the guys around town that I know. Some of them are truly fit and fast riders who appreciate having the used jerseys. The unintended consequences of this charity have been DZ sightings all over the place. I’m supposedly training like a madman: I saw him this morning on the coast. I saw him this afternoon in the mountains. I saw him at Starbucks, Peets, The Coffee Bean. It seems my stunt doubles have been invited for more coffee and dinners than any of us can possibly attend. I guess it’s all good until those guys start signing autographs and calling themselves ‘Ocho’.