When Richmond was announced as the location for the 2015 Road World Championships, I slapped a RICHMOND 2015 sticker on the wall in front of the trainer as a motivator. It seemed like a long shot, but the thought of competing at Worlds in my home state – I could drive there in less time than it would take to watch a movie – was incomprehensibly awesome. Unfortunately, my dreams were grander than my results in the following years and it looked like I’d be drinking on the sidelines in Richmond.
Then the idea of racing the team time trial (TTT) at Worlds came up last fall and my response was something along the lines of HERE TAKE MY ORGANS AND FIRSTBORN KID IN EXCHANGE. It seemed like an actual possibility and I spent many long rides last winter thinking that just maybe I was preparing to compete at Worlds.
Things didn’t go according to plan this year, though, and more and more it seemed like that dream wasn’t going to come true. My teammates and director wanted to go, but we lacked the necessary budget and as the weeks went by and Worlds drew nearer, it seemed unlikely that we’d be able to attend. It wasn’t until three weeks before the race that we received confirmation that yes, we were going.
So, okay. That was cool – HOORAY FOR WORLDS – but by that point, we didn’t have six riders available to race, we didn’t have TT bikes set up, and we’d never trained for or raced a TTT together. As much as I wanted to be part of Worlds, I didn’t want to just go for the sake of going, unless there would be free tee-shirts.
It was hard to get motivated in the face of what felt like overwhelming obstacles and I briefly considered calling in sick, but couldn’t bail on Jono (our team director), the sponsors supporting our adventure, or the other four riders. Instead, I packed the car and drove to Richmond the Wednesday before the Sunday race filled with a mix of excitement and skepticism. Maybe it would be incredible. Maybe we would crash out spectacularly. The only way to find out would be to go.
Team bonding over coffee after a training session.
We practiced as a team on Thursday and Friday. There were moments of fear and frustration as we learned to ride together but also times where excitement prevailed and it felt like we might just pull it all off. On the Saturday before the race, we did a full dress rehearsal of the event, complete with an official start and police escort on a closed course. There were crowds lining the course cheering as we went by, and suddenly my last doubt disappeared. We were competing at Worlds. WORLDS!
The local newspaper featured our team during the dress rehearsal.
The night before the race, I drove to the finish line and wandered around the empty VIP tents soaking up the atmosphere. In the choice between resting my legs for an extra 30 minutes or basking in the insanity of being an athlete at Worlds, there was no contest.
Trespassing in the VIP tents with the famous Jamie Smith.
Enjoying the finish line before the chaotic moment of actually crossing it.
And then it was race day. Worlds. The last race of my season. A morning like any other and also uniquely overwhelming. We got to the start and warmed up on trainers surrounded by spectators and photographers, which only added to the excitement and intensity of the day. By the time we rolled to the start house, I was so nervous I couldn’t pee enough times but there was barely a moment to think before it was time to go on stage. The announcers called our names and the starters got us settled on the bikes as cameras filmed our final preparations. Then it was time to roll.
It was so incredibly cool to be with my teammates in this moment. I may have taken that opportunity to recite the chant from Cool Runnings.
The race itself was a blur punctuated with moments I will never forget. Screaming crowds. The sound of our disc wheels. Flying at 50kph down a smooth, flat road. Looking at my teammates around me and thinking, “Holy shit, we are doing this.” I’ve never felt more like part of a team.
Sure, there were things we could have done better. From a technical perspective, we needed more practice to iron out kinks that would have saved time and energy. It would have been nice to have a sixth rider like almost every other team. But when we crossed the finish line upright, still friends, and with our dignity intact, it felt like a victory. We had raced the World Championships and given it our best.
It didn’t matter that we were last; there was so much to celebrate anyway. Jono had worked incredibly hard to help us be the best team we could and to give us the opportunity to race Worlds together. We rode our hearts out and did everything possible to make the best of what we had been given. It was wonderful and unforgettable and I’m so grateful for the experience and memories.
Our trip to Worlds would not have been possible without Dr. Larry Moray of The Happy Tooth.
Driving to the start (in a skinsuit, so I get there faster).
A team sponsored by BMW rolls in style.
We’d spent four days staring at each other’s butts, so why not end with a rearview photo?
This amazing experience would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Jono and the team staff.