As I’m sitting back at home after finishing the 2009 Pro 1/2 State Championships, I can’t help but reflect on the amazing season that I’ve had this year. It all started out with going out on Saturday mornings on the adventurous Kirkwood group rides, and from there I could only imagine the amazing journey this year has become.
After spending the winter season doing a few local cyclocross races on my new team, Hot Tubes, and getting some long base miles assigned to me by my new coach, David Wenger, I kicked off the ’09 season with the Alsation Country Omnium. This was my first real test in the P 1/2 circuit and I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, but I feel that was due to the fact that I had a bad case of food poisoning the weekend before. For about the next month I continued to race all across Texas and I was able to take my first win of the year, the Fayetteville Stage Race Time Trial.
During the first two weeks of April, I started my European campaign with the Junior National Team. Those two weeks were a huge learning experience for me where I competed in two local kermesses (each races had over 150 riders) and a UCI 2.14 stage race, Ster van Zuid Limberg. We won the opening prologue with current Time Trial National Champion, Adam Leibovitz. The rest of the team spent the next three road stages on the front and we able to keep the yellow jersey until the last day.
Upon returning home for a couple of days, I left for Georgia for the first trip of the year with Hot Tubes. We spent the next week getting to know each other in many ways such as epic four hour rides, bowling, late night poker games, movies, and white water rafting. I’m sure I speak for the rest of my teammates when I say that by the end of the week we were all extremely excited about spending the majority of the year together traveling and racing all around the year. When the training camp ended, the entire team besides went back to Toby’s house in Massachusetts where they would leave for Europe the following week. I had to go back home to take some Texas wide tests that I couldn’t miss. After taking my tests, I flew over to Europe alone to meet up the rest of the team. The day after I arrived in Belgium we competed in a Kermesse where we were able to dominate the race by sweeping the podium. This gave the team some added confidence going into the UCI 2.1 Trophee Centre Morbihan in France the following week. We went into the race as defending champions and everyone’s eyes watching us. I was able to make it into the winning break on the first stage, but flatted out with about 20 kilometers to go and wasn’t able to make it back into the group. We spent the next two stages trying to catch back up, but weren’t able to make up any ground with our top finisher in 14th.
After flying back to the US and spending a few weeks in school I found out that I had been selected for the June trip with the Junior National Team to compete in the UCI 2.1 Pays de Vaud stage race in Switzerland and the Nations Cup Trofeo Karlsberg in Germany the following week. This gave extra motivation and I spent the next couple of weeks training my butt off. The weekend before the trip was the Junior World Championships Qualifier in Tennessee. With the winner having an automatic spot to go to the Junior World Championships in Moscow, Russia we went into the race to win. We didn’t disappoint with me taking the Time Trial and Nate winning the Road Race. The next day, Nate, Gavin, and I packed up our bikes and jumped on a plane to Switzerland with the National Team. We had an amazing race at Pays de Vaud where we swept the podium, Nate over Adam and then me. I then won the stage three time trial before the team defended the yellow on the last stage to get Nate the overall win. The team had another amazing race at Trofeo Karlsberg where I was able to take fourth overall and Nate was able to grab fifth.
I spent the next couple of weeks chilling back home in Houston before flying out to Massachusetts to stay at Toby’s house for the next couple of weeks with the team. For the next couple of weeks we continued our domination on the US Junior Circuit by winning the overall, points jersey, and every single stage of the Longsjo Fitchburg Classic. After dominating at Fitchburg, we decided to do a weekend crit in Attleboro, Massachusetts. After spending the majority of the year together we had become extremely in tune with each other and were able to get four of us off by ourselves to lap the field. We then set tempo the race to help keep the race together and were able to deliver Nate over the line first for a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th place finish.
The team then piled into the Hot Tubes van and drove about 12 hours down to Kentucky for the 1st edition of the UCI 2.1 Tour of the Red River Gorge. We immediately left our stamp of authority on the race by placing everyone in the top 20 for the one mile prologue before dominating the first road stage later that day by going 1, 2, 3 and taking over every jersey except for the KOM. The next day is when I realized that I was going to the World Championships to win the time trial by winning the 24 kilometer time trial by over 30 seconds. On stage four, the team was able to get into a position of three of us in a four man break, but somehow botched up the sprint and had to settle for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th on the day. Our crit king, Gavin Mannion, kept up his domination on the crit series by winning the final stage, a twilight crit in downtown Franklin, KY. For the overall, we once again swept top four places along with the points jersey and the young riders jersey.
I then returned home to finish up my year long preparation for the World Championships. Due to our complete dominance in almost every single race we had competed in during the year, five out of the six Hot Tubes members were selected to be on the World Championships team. In the last week of July I left for Belgium where I would be staying for the next two weeks before flying over to Moscow. During our stay in Belgium, we competed in another UCI 2.1 stage race, Liege-La Gleize, where Boz was able to grab second overall, Nate won the KOM jersey, and I won the young rider jersey. The next week we set out for everyone’s biggest race of the season, the World Championships. With all the support of my family, friends, and fans I was able to win the silver medal in the time trial, and was only 2.2 seconds off the winners time over the 26 kilometer course. The road race didn’t go as planned and our top finisher was only in 17th.
After finishing the World Championships, we set back to Belgium for another two weeks to compete in a one day race and then another UCI 2.1 stage race in Germany before heading home. Nate was able to grab a podium place in the one day race in 3rd and we were also able to stack the majority of the top ten with riders. The stage race in Germany kicked off with Rathe winning the first stage out of a four man break to grab the first yellow jersey. We spent the next two days defending the jersey but lost it going into the last stage. We did our best to try and take it back, but everyone was extremely tired after a long successful season and weren’t able to do it.
Everyone then returned back to the homes to get ready to start thinking about the off season. This was put on hold when Toby had the whole team fly up to Vermont for the Green Mountain Stage Race. The race started with a 10 kilometer time trial that was won by Gavin before a 40 mile circuit race the next day. Nate and I were able to get clear of the field on the last lap and went 1-2 with about 40 seconds on the next group of four which put me into the yellow jersey for the first time in my career. The next stage was an epic 72 mile road race ending on App Gap, a four kilometer mountain with incredibly steep pitches all the way up. The team worked great together to bring back a 12 minute gap on a solo rider before the climb, but I just didn’t have the legs to seal the deal and cramped up extremely bad on App Gap and lost serious amounts of time. Nate was able to climb with the leaders to take the yellow jersey for the second year in a row. I won the crit the next day to take the points jersey home.
As somewhat as a gift to the team for an amazing year, Toby decided to take the team to beautiful Bermuda for the Bermuda Gran Prix. The results weren’t the greatest that we had had over the year with Gavin taking a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place to get 3rd overall, but the trip was one of the best that I’ve been on. We had an amazing time spending what would be our last journey together as members of the 2009 Hot Tubes.
When the rest of the team went back home and decided to call it quits for the season, I decided to keep on going and race the 84 mile Chappel Hill Road Race. I ended up taking my best P 1/2 road race finish of the year in 4th place. I spent the next two weeks taking it easy and four days before the State Championships road race I called up my coach, David Wenger, and asked to do the race. After some quick modifying of my training schedule I was set to give the 99 mile race a try. The race didn’t go nearly as well as I hoped when I cramped up really bad with about five kilometers to go and rolled in off the back of the pack.
Despite not doing as well as I had hoped in the State Championships I have still had an unforgettable year. I have made some lifelong friends and was able to open up doors that I thought were locked forever. I have been given amazing opportunities that I only dreamed of, and learned not only about cycling but about myself. I cannot wait until the start of the next season, so that I can start it all over again. I can’t thank everyone enough for supporting me over the past seven years ever since I was a miniature junior who didn’t know the difference between a track bike and a road bike. Most importantly, I have got to thank God for this incredible gift that he has given me and the opportunities that he has made possible.