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:
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:
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.
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.