For Helen

My friend died today.

I knew this was coming – she has been losing a fight with cancer – and I have been waiting for the phone call for several days now. This friend, Helen, is a dear friend of my family and I was expecting (dreading) a call from them back in Virginia to tell me the sad news. Waiting for the phone to ring with bad news is a terrible feeling; yesterday I thought about hiding my phone so I wouldn’t have to face it, but that doesn’t actually stop life from going forward. Or death.

My alarm went off at 6:55am today, slicing through my pitch-black room and sound sleep to wake me up for a 7am work teleconference. I was barely awake as I dialed in and then while waiting for the call to start, Andrew texted: “Hi.”

I responded, whining immediately about being exhausted and on a call. Andrew replied that he was sad, and I asked why.

“You haven’t heard yet?”

I had been awake for three minutes. No. Was Trump elected overnight?

“Helen passed away last night. I kind of feel like you shouldn’t hear that from me, but I guess it’s just as good me as anyone.”

I read that a dozen times, struggling to process. The work call got started, people introduced themselves and talked about a document. I have no idea what document.

Andrew explained that my mother had let him know this morning. As he was explaining this, she texted him to say she planned to call me once a reasonable hour came around on the west coast. Oops. Guess that ship sailed.

Finding out that somebody you love has died is terrible. Finding out by text message in a roundabout way while trapped on a teleconference is almost funny except that it’s also shocking and breathtakingly sad.

The good part (if you can call it that) is that Helen had been in a very bad way for a week now and her passing comes as somewhat of a relief to everybody who has watched her suffer. It’s not for me to say “she’s in a better place now” but at least she isn’t in pain anymore. From what my parents tell me after being by her side every day for a week now, she was ready to go and to stop being sick.

I first met Helen when I was 15. She and her husband lived down the street from my parents, and they were part of the neighborhood social group that started having regular get-togethers. These people had better parties and more fun than I had in my own social life; everybody would eat great food and drink too many good drinks and things would get loud and crazy and I loved it. Helen was always a fixture at these events; a bold, classy, blunt lady who could drink me under the table easily. Over the years, she and her husband became a part of my extended family. It wasn’t a Bayer family event if they weren’t present, and they became my parents’ best friends. The expression says you can’t choose your family, but Helen is proof otherwise.

A few years back, she was nearly at the 40-year official retirement mark for her job and we spent a lot of time talking and joking about what she would do next. I said she should go be a cocktail waitress for fun, because her brash, confident, take-no-shit demeanor would make her the perfect person to dish out drinks and banter. She was more than ready for that official deadline to come around, but when I suggested bailing early to get started on the next step in her life, she was adamant about seeing her work through to the end. Her loyalty and determination were impressive and unwavering.

Then came the cancer diagnosis. She was stoic and fought it hard, made it to her official retirement date, and kept enjoying life while battling the cancer. I was away more and more for racing and missed a lot of opportunities to see her while she was still healthy and strong. Maybe that’s a normal part of life – you grow up and go out into the world and leave behind people back home – but in retrospect I feel selfish and filled with regret. She was around for years and I wasn’t, and now she is gone and I can’t take any of it back.

The last time I saw her in August, I was caught up in personal drama that left me wandering in a depressed haze. She came over to my parents’ house for dinner and I was poor company at best, silent and withdrawn and emotional. It was so good to see her but I was too focused on myself to appreciate the time we had. At the end of the evening, I came back downstairs from where I was hiding in a dark room to hug her goodbye and that was it.

That was literally it.

She spent the last days of her life surrounded by family and friends that adore her. My parents were there every day, and Andrew went over last week to share a message from me to her. She was loved and cared for until the last moment, but that still doesn’t make the ache of her absence any less now. She was a wonderful person and my life and family are richer for having included her and emptier now that she is gone.

If I could tell her one last thing, it would be to thank her for demonstrating how to be strong, loyal, feisty, determined, and the life of any party. If she could tell me one last thing, it would probably be to stop crying already and go pour myself a double of something strong.

She was amazing. We were lucky to know her. There is never enough time in life to spend with the best people and it always seems we figure that out too late.

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That time I was swept away by a tsunami of man and bike

Hello from the off season! Everything is going really well here. Wait, no. That is a lie. Much like every road in the city of Seattle, things are continually up and down. Sometimes life is peachy and I’m living the dream and other times I would very much like to wake up already, damnit. That shift usually occurs several times before noon each day.

I went on a great ride last week. By great I mean “possibly, if not likely, the worst ride of my entire cycling career” but in retrospect it was at least memorable. My training plan called for a three-hour endurance ride and, because my legs were crap and I was exhausted, I decided to plan a chill ride exploring West Seattle for several hours. No pressure, no big efforts, just some quality time on the bike seeing the town.

Then it rained.

It was very windy by the water.

I flatted.

I flatted again.

Stopped at a bike shop to buy more supplies.

Flatted again.

Stopped at another bike shop to buy even more supplies.

Ended up with too short of a valve stem on the tube; struggled to inflate the tire.

The ride was gloomy and gritty and tedious.

My riding partner crashed on slick pavement and took me out.

Then he had to get a car and drive home (while dripping blood) because the ride had run an hour longer than the day’s schedule permitted.

I stubbornly refused to stop (SHOCKER) and spent the final hour of the ride limping home slowly while struggling to breathe through the pain in my back/shoulder.

Then I got home and was still struggling and moping and grimacing and he asked me to take a picture of his wounds and beer.

Then I stabbed him.

Okay, that last part only happened in my head. Clearly crashes happen and it was an accident that could have happened to anybody. I am not an unreasonable person (that is actually a lie). I know he didn’t mean to slide out and bowl a perfect strike with his large bike and flailing limbs and I know he felt terrible about it.

After a week, the pain in my back/shoulder/somewhere inside was actually getting worse instead of better. It hurt to breathe/sneeze/laugh/cough/have a pulse and don’t even get me started on how terrible it was to move. Drying my hair the other day resulted in shrieking obscenities. So I went to see a doctor yesterday and found out that my T7 rib is fractured.

This is where The Guy will say PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. Sorry, I was too busy weeping like a baby over my misfortune to snap a photo of the X-Ray.

The doctor said it will take 4-6 weeks to heal (“On the bright side, you’re already a week into the healing process!” The Guy chirped optimistically while I fantasized about pulling out the broken rib and shanking him with it) and in the interim, I am supposed to let pain be my guide for physical activity.

Okay. I can lift my right arm to get a drink to my lips NO PROBLEM.

But truly, it could have been worse. I could have fractured the rib through my own error (something very likely given my life choices) and then I would not have this great line to drag out all the time for the rest of my life about That Time You Broke My Rib. This is killer leverage.

Living in Seattle has given me ample opportunity to explore the idea that every cloud has a silver lining.

Posted on in Cycling, Family, Life 1 Comment

On Handling Bad Times Like A Pro Or Something

Things have been unraveling since I slammed into the ground during the first North Star Grand Prix crit on June 15.

Lindsay Bayer Bokanev ER VisitWhen the crash happened and I was cleared by the hospital and the stage was neutralized, I went back into the race the following day like nothing had gone wrong. I did that stage and all the others after it, limping along stubbornly and pushing my body so hard. There was no logic in what I was doing but I couldn’t stop and wouldn’t let anybody around me say otherwise. That mindset is my greatest gift and curse as an athlete – I never stop.

But I should have. Then, or in the days after, but I didn’t. I tried to race and then started another cross-country drive out west. I called that drive my “time off” but who the hell is ridiculous enough to think driving 5-6 hours a day for a week is restful? Apparently me. So I made it to Missoula, MT “fresh and ready to train” except that I was still in so much pain and my body wasn’t functioning.

To properly recover, I took a day off. Literally one freaking day, and then I was back on the bike pushing. When my body balked and the pain increased, I got annoyed and pushed harder. Off the bike, I kept up with corework every morning despite my mid-back being in perpetual spasm. There were so many signs that I needed to stop moving but I just couldn’t. I sobbed through intervals that were sub-par at best, ate far too many salads to compensate for what I thought was not enough hard training, and bludgeoned myself mentally around the clock for not getting it together. There was also another visit to the ER to rule out the possibility that the lump in my leg post-crash was a blood clot.

Then once I’d concluded my refreshing rest in Missoula – which was at least made enjoyable by time with my teammate Ivy and her wonderful family – I packed up the car again and drove to Seattle. Signed a lease, set up an apartment from scratch, and started a whole new life with completely new routines in a new place. Three days later, I left to race BC Superweek.

It’s weird how I didn’t feel fresh and ready.
Lindsay Bayer BokanevThen my heart kept acting up with arrhythmia episodes and my back kept aching and the first race was crap and so I decided to stop. But of course I still kept riding because insanity knows no bounds, and then the Gastown Grand Prix came around and I couldn’t bring myself to sit out another race. So I lined up and actually raced the crap out of that event. It was great – I didn’t feel good at all but it didn’t matter one bit. I ended feeling a bit like myself again and ready to focus on the next step – a block of cyclocross racing!

So I took one day off to rest and then started running. Started off gradually with a nice easy FIVE MILES which is somewhere near the upper limit of the farthest I’ve ever run. I ran for consecutive days and then started riding again a day later and are you getting the gist here? I never stopped moving, despite injury, travel, fatigue, burnout, and major life changes.

Lindsay Bayer Heartrate MonitorAlong the way, things in my personal life took a nosedive. There was anxiety and emotional times coupled with stress from work and meeting all sorts of obligations and deadlines. To figure out my heart issues, I had to wear an annoying, uncomfortable three-lead heart monitor at all times and carry a stupid device that looked like a clunky beeper from 1993. I lashed out during rides, dropped out of a local weeknight crit, and struggled to figure out who I was and what I was doing if I wasn’t a successful professional cyclist. What do you do when the biggest thing that defines you and your life goals stops having meaning?

It was more than just my body not cooperating. This season has been tough personally, with the concussion at Gila, the illness during Tour of California, and the crash at North Star. Racing while running a team and holding a full-time office job was harder than I expected (dude, duh). I’ve also seen friends and fellow racers get decimated by this sport and come away badly injured. It’s hard to think “oh, this is TOTALLY worth it” when you’re in the ER for the second time in weeks because you slammed your body into pavement. I started questioning why I kept going and what I wanted out of my life and the sport. What mattered the most? What sacrifices were just not worth it anymore?

Things have started to settle down now. My injuries have faded, riding a bike feels good again, and my personal and professional lives have stabilized into feeling mostly manageable. I stumbled through some of the hardest times I’ve ever faced, doubled my antidepressant, leaned on the best friends and parents a person could have, and then gradually stumbled back towards feeling okay. That’s where I am now. Mostly healthy, mostly okay, mostly focused on what lies ahead.

Lindsay Bayer Bokanev
This sport is so demanding and costly and sometimes now I’m not sure it’s worth the price. But it’s also been the greatest love of my life. I started in June 2007 and haven’t been able to stop since, despite a hundred setbacks. So for now, while I’m still unsteady and uncertain, I’m trying to focus on the love part and just keep moving forward until the rest of the plans and motivation fall into place.

I talk to a lot of other athletes about their experiences in training and competing and it often seems like we all see these setbacks and doubts as a deviation from the road to being a great competitor. But that’s not correct. Part of being a professional at anything is learning to see the crappy times as a real part of the process, not a detour. I’ve never felt more like a professional athlete than now, when I am able to accept that shit happens and I can still keep moving forward and that it is actually all part of the plan.

Lindsay Bayer Jono Coulter Bokanev

Posted on in Cycling, Family, Life, Sadness, Travel 3 Comments

In which I uprooted my life and moved into my car

I’m sitting in a stranger’s living room now, doing my laundry in his washer with my feet up on his ottoman. I’ve never met the guy before but I’m going to sleep in his bed tonight and go through his cabinets to find a pot to boil water in the morning. After breakfast, I’m going to pack up my things, get in my car, and relocate for the weekend to another city I’ve never visited.

This is basically my every day. Tonight it’s Cory’s house, last night it was Chelsie’s, for a week before that it was Ayman’s, before that it was Angie, and Alice, and Gretchen and so on. The year started with me living in a studio in Tucson that I was subletting from a guy I never met named…..David? Michael? Can’t recall. But for three months, I used his dishes and sheets and towels, lounged on his couch, scribbled notes on his decorative chalkboard.

His, mine, hers, anybody’s – it stopped mattering a while ago. When I left home at the end of last December, I didn’t know when I’d be back. Andrew and I had reached a point where we were happier apart than together and I needed to relocate to warmer weather to train. I packed the Chevy, took Tanner along for the ride, and moved west. When the race season started, I left the Tucson apartment and moved around California, staying in various places sometimes with Tanner, sometimes without. Eventually I drove all the way back east for a block of races in Winston-Salem, Philly, and Northern Virginia, but then it was back on the road to Minnesota to race North Star. Now I’m driving to Seattle by way of some time in Montana, will race in Vancouver and Bend in July, and then figure it out from there.

Tanner is still in California, living in Redlands with the most amazing dogsitter on the planet. She spoils him rotten with hikes and runs and adventures and games and I’d feel inadequate by comparison except she’s so much better than me at dog mothering that we’re not even comparable. Apples and oranges.

2016 Redlands Tanner Crit 2
My father asked me the other day if I’m tired of traveling and I realized no, I’m not tired of it anymore because it no longer feels like traveling. Sometimes I miss the concept of “home” but it no longer feels weird or inconvenient to live out of a suitcase. I’m still a creature of habit – breakfast is the same every day, core work happens every morning, I follow the same bedtime routine every night – but it’s possible to have those routines in a perpetually shifting area code. Home becomes a concept defined by certain comforts; my same pajamas, my morning coffee ritual, my family and friends instantly accessible by phone (and spread all over the country themselves anyway).

It helps that I have a car here. People mock my seeming aversion to air travel (and yes, I loathe airports and airplanes and delays and boarding passes and seatback pockets) but it’s so nice to be able to have my “house” available everywhere. All of my cycling stuff and snacks and spare toiletries and winter clothes and cooking supplies are parked outside and make it easier to live comfortably and feel settled anywhere. My car is organized sort of like a Container Store fantasy: there are drawers and bins and even hanging fabric shelves that make storing and finding things easy.

If you put something out of place in my car, I will stab you.

So this is my life now. I travel around, use Airbnb to find places to stay, see places across the country I’ve never visited, and still carry out some semblance of a typical life with training and working. Sometimes that looks almost normal: I wake up, do work, go for a ride, do more work, go to bed in the same place. Other times that looks odd: I wake up, motorpace for 2 hours behind the car while somebody knocks out a chunk of that day’s required drive, work from my laptop in the car, and spend the night in a stranger’s home in a town beside the highway. The basics are always the same. Wake, work, ride. And eat. I do a lot of eating, from my sack of food in the car to roadside grocery store stops to interesting local places.

I went back to Virginia for a little over a week at the end of May and while it was good to be back and wonderful to see my parents, Andrew, and friends, it also didn’t ignite any real desire to stay. When it was time to go, the only thing that felt hard to leave was the people. Home isn’t a specific place anymore.

This lifestyle will probably get tiring at some point. Not knowing where I’m going to sleep in a week and continually getting used to new pillows can be tiring. I’ve eaten hardboiled eggs every day for the past 10 days because it’s more convenient than cooking in new kitchens. I don’t actually like hardboiled eggs.

But for the moment, I am happy. My life feels like perpetual good luck, even during the difficult, stressful, or lonely times. Andrew is my best friend and family rolled into one. I’m dating somebody great. My dogs are happy. My team is awesome. The bruises from last week’s crash are starting to fade. If this is the best my life ever gets, then I am pretty damn lucky.

2016 Road Trip
Ten Things I Have Learned About Living On The Road:

  1. Pack light. If you think you need it, you’re probably wrong.
  2. You can wear the same outfit over and over as long as it smells clean.
  3. Always have silverware on hand. Andrew got me this and it’s the best thing ever.
  4. Yogurt and eggs can spend all day in a car. Spinach is iffy. Fish and pickled onions are a hard no.
  5. Pack everything in the same place all the time so you don’t constantly lose things.
  6. Don’t worry about looking stupid when you’re savoring your surroundings. I hugged a metal sheep yesterday to take a photo. People drove past and probably stared. Who cares? Now I have a photo of me and a metal sheep. That’s worth a lot more than my dignity.
  7. Add “hipster” into your Yelp searches to find the really good coffee, food, beer, and wine places.
  8. Always have a jacket/sweatshirt and sandals accessible.
  9. Never assume you are home alone. It is likely you will regret it.
  10. Hold tight to certain routines each day that help maintain a sense of balance and normalcy. Let go of everything else.
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In like a lion, out like a lamb

The final stage of the North Star Grand Prix – the Stillwater Criterium with its famous 18% grade up Chilkoot Hill – wrapped up just a few hours ago, although my day ended even a little before that. After a rocky start to the stage, I did what I could to help the team and was then pulled unceremoniously by the officials. It didn’t really matter; we’d accomplished what we set out to do in keeping Sophie Mackay in the Sprinter’s Jersey. But it’s still never easy to accept personal defeat.

I had high hopes going into this race last Wednesday. My form has been good, it was my final event before a much needed mid-season break, and I was ready to step up and earn some results. There was a frightening episode with my heart right before the time trial start, but I raced anyway and was thrilled to earn a 5th place result. I’ve never done that well in a national-level time trial and it was exciting to actually be in contention to fight for the yellow jersey.

That night’s criterium started off normally. I was wary of the course – the design seemed unsafe in places, the pavement quality was terrible, and the barriers were the kind with raised legs versus the much safer ones typically used in races – but rode steady and did my best to surf wheels and conserve. Then something happened, what I’m still not entirely sure, but I think I hit a hole in the road. Lost control of the bike, swerved, clipped the extended foot of a barrier, and flipped. Landed hard on my head, back, and shoulder with a leg wedged between the tops of two barriers so tightly that another rider had to move a barrier to free me. The medics came and I was taken to the ER, my race surely over.

Then the x-rays came back clear and I heard the stage had been nullified entirely due to another serious crash. It seemed ridiculous to even consider racing – my back, shoulder, and leg hurt so badly I was nearly immobile – but I couldn’t put the idea out of mind. Being allowed to start the next stage was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Probably should have, frankly, but I’m too stubborn and couldn’t back down.

So I did the road race and then the next crit and then the following road race. Each day was harder than the one before. What had felt like great form coming into the race seemed to have evaporated the moment I hit the asphalt. I wanted to go hard and feel better with each new start but that did not happen. I held onto 5th place in GC until I was bumped down to 6th after Friday’s crit. In my head, I was still determined to keep fighting and hopeful that Saturday’s road race would bring fresh possibilities.

It didn’t. I lost a minute on the final lap of the finishing circuit and with it my GC contention. It was stupid to even rue the lost opportunity; I was lucky to be mostly unscathed after a brutal crash and it was a miracle I was even still in the race. But find me a professional athlete that isn’t hard on themselves and I’ll trade you a unicorn. Of course I was disappointed. I spent the long drive back to the house wondering if, in those last moments of the race, I could have pushed just a little harder to stay with the front group. I don’t think so – my body had cashed out entirely – but hindsight obscures pain and clouds judgment.

Frankly, it wouldn’t have mattered. When the race started today, I went up the hill pretty well the first time and then basically died. Pedaling resulted in nothing more than a mild acceleration, laughable at best and certainly not enough to contest the stage. The field rode away. I wanted to quit but there was one job left to be done. Sophie still had the Sprinter’s Jersey and it was crucial that she complete the race. So we worked together, cranking out trips up the hill until we could officially be done.

It was enough to secure the overall jersey, which as both a teammate and team owner feels like a massive victory. We came here to race and left with success. I couldn’t be more proud of what we did this week together – we only had a small squad to begin with and lost Jessi to a terrible crash – but we still rallied and rode outside of ourselves to make something happen.

But personally, I’m still struggling. Is there room for that? Can you be thrilled for your team and teammate and still be disappointed in yourself? Clearly the answer is yes since I am doing it now. It’s stupid because who slams their body at full speed into pavement and then expects to be able to do everything physical just as well as before? If it were anybody else asking me, I’d tell them to be kind to their body, take time to recover, and don’t think anything of the lost opportunities. But it’s not so easy to tell myself that. I wanted more from this race. I wanted that shot at being a GC rider and fighting hard through the stages. I didn’t want to spend the entire race fighting myself instead.

But okay. That is how it went. It happened and it’s done now and I’m glad I was able to keep going at all. Working for the Sprinter’s Jersey was something I could do with what I had left to give and frankly gave me the motivation needed to even kit up each day.

At the beginning of today’s stage, Lauren Hall of Team Tibco was given the Carla Swart Sportsmanship Jersey based on votes from the whole peloton on the rider that sacrifices the most for her team. I couldn’t think of a more deserving rider, because Lauren is constantly working for her team, giving up her own results and doing work to help other riders succeed. There is so much honor in that style of riding and if I could choose anybody from this peloton as a role model, I would choose Lauren.

With that in mind, it’s easier to put aside my own personal disappointment and feel proud of what the team was able to accomplish together. If it weren’t for my team, I don’t know that I would have kept going at all. The least I could do was keep pedaling to thank them for supporting and encouraging me. Helping them bring home a jersey was a good way to burn my last few matches and a place to put my focus when my own plans had to be tabled.

But tabled, not abandoned. I need some time off to recover and heal, but then there are more races and more big dreams to chase. If I can be 5th once, it can be done again.


This chick is a legend.

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Joe Martin < Me

Today is the first stage of the Joe Martin Stage Race, a 4.84 kilometer uphill time trial. Then we have two road races and a crit over the following three days. Stage racing is great! Supermint is great! Bikes are great!

Last time I was at this race in 2014, I had a massive meltdown.

Things were bad that year. For reasons I’m still trying to understand, I fell apart completely and lost half a season to panic attacks, performance anxiety, and endless crying spells. It took months to climb out of the dark hole and stop hating racing and myself, and sometimes I still worry that shadow is going to come back.

Joe Martin was one of the worst periods in that time. Things were going to pieces before I even made it to Fayetteville and on the night before the first stage, I took the team van, drove to a local bar, and inhaled alcohol and cheesy dip. Then I melted down at the TT start and tried to ride 40+ miles back to the host house with my backpack so I could escape. Then (I am embarrassed to be typing this now) I had a hysterical sobbing fit when I wasn’t happy with my TT result and hid in the team van to cry on the phone to my mother. And finally I quit the race a few meters before the finish line on the second day to be prevented from starting the next two stages.

It was ugly and messy and humiliating and defeating. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and some life changes, it’s also in the past. But being here now feels like running into that ex you totally stalked by calling a million times and showing up at his work all weepy and sloppy and crazy-eyed. [Note: I have not actually done THAT.] I know that was long ago and I’m healthier and happier now, but I still feel fragile being in these same places taking on this same race that defeated me before.

That’s okay. Sometimes it feels good to remember how crappy things were and how that passed and things are okay now. That’s life. I’d rather poke my eye out than say “it’s the journey, not the destination” because that’s completely opposite the point of professional athletics (“it’s the fun of the race, not who got there first!” = do a charity century), but there is something to be said for the process. I got better. I came back here by choice. I want to be racing my bike. My backpack is going to stay in the team van until after the race.

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The Magic of Mint

When Jono and I brought Andrey on to be the HB Supermint creative director, we had a vision in mind: somebody with a unique eye for brilliant photos who was able to tell a compelling story about a new team of professional cyclists coming together to take on a race season. There would be elation! Heartbreak! Suspense! An underdog tale, a phoenix rising from the ashes to conquer the elite racing circuit!

Then as with all things in life, reality intervened. Andrey has done a wonderful job of making us look fantastic, despite repeated efforts on my part to thwart him. Exhibits A and B:

Bokanev-Supermint-02605 Bokanev-Supermint-02812
But the storytelling part has taken a backseat to keeping up with the rapid pace of the season. We went from camp to racing Tucson, Chico, San Dimas, Redlands. Days of racing with associated roster announcements, stage reports, photos, sponsor announcements – all normal parts of running and promoting a cycling team but more demanding than I had anticipated. I’ve promised to write a half dozen reports and blog posts and then can’t even be summoned to pen a 1-2 sentence quote because it’s tiring being a racer, team owner, and corporate employee. Nevermind my overflowing Hulu queue and my obsessive need to vacuum hourly.

I want to be better about this, though, because this Supermint story is amazing and I’m not just saying that the same way a mother says her ugly baby is the cutest thing ever. When I think about how far we’ve come since last November and what this team has amounted to already, it seems surreal. It’s only mid-April and we’ve already been on the podium over a dozen times and won a handful of jerseys. Every time Jono and I muse excitedly about our good fortune, the team goes out and one-ups itself in the next event. I’m pretty sure we’re going to win the Tour de France this year, and that is why I now permanently live in this:

Photo on 4-20-16 at 12.00 PM #5 12.06.28 PM
To most people, it’s a sweatshirt (and one badly in need of laundering). To me, it’s a physical embodiment of everything we have done so far and are striving to do going forward. I am so happy to see how our riders have risen to the occasion of each race, pushing out massive efforts on behalf of the team and far exceeding anything they’ve done previously. It feels like we’ve tapped into some magic formula that is getting everybody to unleash their inner rock star.

On a personal level, I’m pretty happy with how things have been going with my riding. I don’t know if it’s the accumulated effort of multiple seasons in my legs, the experience that comes from being a few years into racing at this level, or the excitement of racing for my own team, but this year has started off strong. I feel more confident in races and things that used to scare me – technical courses, sketchy downhills – are now places where I believe I’ll have an edge. There is still not a mountaintop finish on this planet that I love, but I’ve reached a point where I can respect the kind of rider I am versus begrudge everything I’m not.

The final day of Redlands on the challenging, hilly Sunset stage was one of the best moments of my career thus far: I went into the day not sure if I’d even be able to finish and instead worked a break off the front for nearly half the race and set my teammate up to get on the podium. Nobody was more surprised than me to see it shake out that way; I’d all but requested a mimosa waiting for when the inevitable mid-race “drop and get pulled” occurred. Instead, I raced my bike all day and finally got to finish the Sunset stage in downtown Redlands for the first time in my career. It was exhilarating and a reminder that there is no room for “I can’t” anymore.

Bokanev Lindsay Bayer Sunset Redlands
I suppose that is the story of this team so far. A lot of things we thought could not be done have been done already and are continually being done. Create a team. Build the infrastructure. Find a great mix of riders. Kick off the season. Race together well. Win stuff. It’s hard to take the time to document the underlying story when everybody is caught up with actually living it, but it’s there and it’s as compelling of a narrative as I could have ever hoped.

Bokanev Lechuga RedlandsBokanev Supermint

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And We Were All Happy Campers

When I think of childbirth, I imagine it’s a massive undertaking of pain and exhaustion, followed by the moment when you first look at the baby and feel a massive rush of joy and love. And probably some panic as well because WHAT HAVE I DONE, I OWN A HUMAN.

This was also how I felt at the Hagens Berman | Supermint Pro Cycling Team camp this past week.

After so much preparation and planning all fall and winter, we gathered the riders and staff at a house in Southern California to officially kick off our season. Seeing the whole team roll out together in matching kits on matching equipment followed by a matching car made me nearly fall off my bike with happiness and pride. We did this. Jono and I made this from scratch. Then I realized I’d forgotten to put the bananas and bars in the team car and now that mattered a lot more because I was no longer just responsible for me.

It’s a weird feeling. Not a bad one, but odd. In many ways, I’m still green on the road. I defer to more experienced riders about when to chase and how to execute a plan and what to do when the plan falls apart. But now I’m surrounded by people that need to know things like which helmet to wear for the day’s ride and which races they’re going to attend and did I talk to that sponsor about that one thing. There were moments where the shoes felt far too big to fill and others where it all seemed thoroughly manageable.

It helps to have an amazing staff keeping everything flowing seamlessly. I could weep and hug them all. The times where I got to be “just” a rider enjoying camp were thanks to their hard work.

I feel like everybody goes to team camp and has mostly the same experience: I am so excited to be here! All of my things are new and shiny! This is the best team ever! Social media explodes with adorable team selfies and everybody is suuuuuuuuper excited about the season ahead. And then reality and time intervene and the season is tough and the team runs out of money and you don’t get picked for that one race and so on. I’m hyper attuned to predicting what could go wrong this year and figuring out how to prevent it but honestly have to conclude that I’m stumped now: this team is wonderful. There are no duds. I may have had a slight meltdown when the riders declared a pee stop less than an hour into the first ride, but then spent the rest of the day eating my words as they all blew me away with their tenacity, skill, and cohesiveness. Jono and I met in the garage after that first ride to whisper excitedly about how promising it all seemed.

There will probably be times this season that are hard. Cycling is a tough sport that demands so much of everybody, and there are bound to be difficult moments when everybody is tired and stuffed in a team van together for the fiftieth time. (WHO LEFT THE OLD SANDWICH UNDER THE SEAT?!? WTF OMG GUYS.) But if this camp is an indication of what lies ahead, this team is absolutely mint. Each of the women brings a unique personality and skillset – Allison hates the sound of spoons scraping plastic containers and does more intervals than everybody combined! Liza wears legwarmers when it’s hot enough that I’d prefer to be riding naked! Shoshauna raises pigs! – but when you put us together on bikes or around a dinner table, it clicks perfectly.

The girls start racing today at Chico Stage Race while I’m back in Tucson missing them all. My stomach thinks I’m racing today because I’m that nervous; when it’s not just your teammates but your team, it all matters that much more. My personal performance is no longer my only concern; now I care so deeply about the team and each of the riders that sometimes it feels like my own baby rolling around on two wheels. But like any mother, there comes a point where you have to launch your kid into the world, trust that they have everything they need to succeed in life, and then sit back and be proud of where they go.

Hagens Berman Supermint Bokanev 11 Hagens Berman Supermint Bokanev 10 Hagens Berman Supermint Bokanev 9 Hagens Berman Supermint Bokanev 8Lindsay Bayer SupermintHagens Berman Supermint Bokanev 6 Hagens Berman Supermint Bokanev 4 Hagens Berman Supermint Bokanev 3 Hagens Berman Supermint Bokanev 2 Hagens Berman Supermint Bokanev 1Hagens Berman Supermint Bokanev 7

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The Amazing Technicolor Dreamkit

Today was my first ride in the official Hagens Berman | Supermint Pro Cycling Team kit.

Team camp isn’t for another week, but my teammate and I are racing Valley of the Sun this weekend, so Vie13 made certain we had our kits in time for the event. The box arrived at my apartment today, I opened it quickly while doing fifteen other things, tried on the items and sent Jono some photos, and then went back to the fifteen things.

[I did take a moment to initial everything “LB”, an annual rite of passage for small children heading to summer camp and every professional cyclist.]

When it came time to do the day’s ride, I grabbed one of the new kits, suited up, and headed out. I started rolling through the parking lot towards the road and then suddenly, out of nowhere, there was this overwhelming feeling of pride and joy.

For months, Jono and I have been building this thing; a women’s cycling team, a complicated conglomeration of riders, staff, sponsors, equipment, clothing, paperwork, logistics, ideas, and feelings. It’s been months of hard work and constant thinking and planning. I’ve gotten excited, gotten my hopes dashed, felt terrified, felt relieved – each a dozen times over. There have been moments where it all seemed too overwhelming and then moments like today, when I look down and literally see the results of every ounce of hard work. Our team, our brand, our design, our sponsors.

No matter what podiums lie ahead this season, the very existence of this kit has made it all worthwhile.
Lindsay Bayer Supermint Kit

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Oh Holy Night

Back in early November, I got my nose pierced. I’d thought about doing it for a while but suddenly found the motivation to try it. My body had never adapted well to piercings, but research indicated that might be a slight allergy to certain metals and a titanium stud could circumvent problems. I found a reputable piercer and got it done one afternoon with minimal fanfare.

When I called my mother and mentioned it, there was a long pause followed by, “Please tell me you are kidding.” I knew she wouldn’t be thrilled but her level of horror surpassed my wildest expectations; I’ve told her about multiple tattoos and several divorces and gotten warmer responses from those announcements. Her barely-concealed disgust as she said, “I thought we felt the same way about facial piercings and besides, aren’t those out of style?” nearly made me weep. THANKS, MOM. (She is reading this now. If I wasn’t already written out of the will, she’s sharpening her pencil.)

We agreed to disagree on the matter and my nose piercing lived happily ever after for two months. The healing process was relatively painless and most people didn’t even notice the tiny stud (or did but were too polite to ask or point out that I might have something stuck to my face). There came a point, however, where I started to realize training and a fresh nose piercing were not working out. The site was regularly red from the irritation of sweat and snot rockets and life as a passenger on my face. While I liked the look of the tiny fake diamond, I did not like the red halo that perpetually surrounded it. I could baby the area and reduce the redness, but that started to feel like an unnecessary inconvenience: life is complicated enough so why spend time each day addressing my nose?

The final straw came here in Tucson, when I started getting sunburned around the site because I was wary of getting sunscreen in the somewhat unhealed piercing. It had to go.

The stud was a press-fit piercing, which meant the straight pin of the actual jewelry was slightly bent to create resistance inside the backing that sat in my nose. Removing it required holding the backing in place and then pulling on the stud until it popped free. Easy!


I started with tweezers and my fingers but couldn’t get a good enough grip on either side. Then I added miniature scissors, using them to hold the backing while adding a fun element of WILL I STAB MY INNER NOSE?? The more I yanked and readjusted and yanked, the more red and swollen my nose became while the stud refused to budge. There came a point – several, in fact – where I thought I should really just go see a piercer to get professional help, but instead stubbornly kept trying.

By that time, I was sweating and shaking and dizzy, because something about fidgeting with piercings makes me want to pass out or vomit.

[Jesus, as I type this there is NOTHING rational about this entire story and I want to retroactively slap myself. But alas, the tale continues.]

I decided to give one more attempt, this time with two fingers gripping the backing and two fingers pulling on the stud. Do you know how hard it is to fit two fingers in one nostril? (I hope the answer is no.) Then there was a something – pain? a popping? the ripping of the universe? – and I glanced at my nose to see the stud was no longer visible. For a queasy, spinning, hopeful moment, I searched the bathroom floor for the fallen jewelry, but it was not there.

That’s when the internal shrieking started. I realized the backing was still in place and the actual stud was lodged inside my nostril. Are you uncomfortable reading this? TRY LIVING IT.

I wanted to die. I wanted to climb into the toilet and flush myself to death, I wanted to vomit and weep and wail, such was my shock and horror. Instead I hyperventilated and tried to imagine a world ten minutes earlier in which I was smarter and more patient and still had a nose piercing located appropriately.

There are no instructions in life for what to do when you get yourself in such a pickle; I didn’t know whether I should go to the hospital or a piercing studio or just leap off the roof of my apartment building. It was after 9pm and I didn’t know what would even be open, so I started calling around to tattoo places asking if they did piercings and explaining what had happened. There is nothing so poetic as trying to accurately describe what you mean when you say your nose piercing is IN your nostril, like literally imbedded, yes, you are an idiot, please please please help.

While I did a fair bit of crying before making it to the kind piercer that ultimately bailed me out, I managed to keep it together (and only lightly kick him once reflexively from the pain) while in the parlor. Five minutes after walking in the door, I walked out with my nose stud in a tiny baggie.

Ironically, my nose has never been as red as it is today.


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