When the Road Gets Tough, Keep the Pedals Moving

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“I didn’t think it would be easy, I just never thought it would be this hard,” I kept thinking, as I watched the group of twenty jersey-clad riders recede to a multi-colored dot on the horizon. Clearly I was out of my league. I didn’t really know what to expect when I joined Tieni Duro, a nationally-ranked competitive junior cycling team. I had ridden most of my life (I had just returned from climbing 11,000 ft. mountain passes in Montana with my parents), but I wasn’t quite prepared for the Sunday morning I first rode with the team. Still, next Sunday I showed up to ride again. Every weekend, the guys dusted me, with no words of encouragement as I struggled painfully through the hours. As much as it hurt, I knew that if I gave up, I’d never forgive myself. I stuck with it Sunday after Sunday, until the team went from a dot on the horizon to riders all around me, working just as hard as I was. My teammates began to talk to me as we rode along, and we’d practice team drills, learn sprinting techniques, and review tactics for the upcoming racing season. I had to learn a whole new language of racing; my bike clothes were my ‘kit’, being left behind was ‘being dropped’, and a post-ride pigout was ‘recovery’. The first race of the season came, but I placed last. I was really bothered by it, but Lance Armstrong’s famous quip about quitting kept playing in my head, “Pain is temporary, but quitting lasts forever.” I stepped up my training with new determination to win a race my first year. My hard work payed off: I was the 2008 California-Nevada State Criterium Champion.
Cycling isn’t just about racing though; it has taught me about being focused and self-confident. Through cycling, I have realized that I can achieve things I never thought possible. I no longer fear challenges, because I know that if I work hard, there are no limits: I won’t give up. I used to dread races because I was afraid of failure. After two years of training, I arrive at races ready to lead and push through difficulty. This year I raced the Davis Criterium, part of the Amgen Tour of California. It was cold and raining heavily. The winds made riding very difficult, so I fell behind the main group. Despite the wind and the rain, I refused to give up, as I might have a year ago. Instead, I organized a group of riders who had been dropped to help break the wind and rejoin the lead group. I don’t ride because I want to win, I ride because I love what I do. I ride to improve my skills and support my team, so I can help when I’m needed. Only one person crosses the finish line first, and I know it won’t always be me. Every race, we all work together as a team to bring the strongest person to the finish first.
I am a different person now than when I first started training to race. Recently, I went on a very hilly solo evening ride in the Berkeley Hills. Several years ago, on that same ride, I could scarcely look up from the road right in front of me, praying that the hill would end soon. But now, there was so much more than pavement in front of me. I watched the evening shadows slowly lengthen; I felt the cold wind in my face; I smelled trees wet from the fog. As I rode through those hills that evening, I was absolutely sure of who I am. I am forever a cyclist.





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