Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Good, the Bad (Luck), and the Ugly (Dreams) of Junior Racing

Why do we do this? The time, the investment, the focus...

Let’s face it, cycling is a hard sport. Cyclists spend a great amount of time saying “ouch” and ignoring it. Heaven forbid, why would one encourage kids to do the same?

Well, that’s what we’re doing. Thanks to our friends at Two Wheel TransitTrek, Bontrager,  Hammer Nutrition, and The Sufferfest Cycling Videos, the Arrivee Cycling/2G1D Active Junior Development team came to creation with the focus on bringing bike racing to any junior wanting to experience the outdoors, competition, and love of time spent on two wheels.

This first year of the team has been great. From a spring break camp focused on developing initial riding skills, to area races including events around the Northwest, the Baddlands Twilight Series, and regular training rides, it all came down to the biggest event of the season, the Northwest Classic Junior Stage Race in Elma, WA, this past weekend (August 2-3).

This stage race, held in the shadow of what was an originally planned nuclear power facility (which never actually operated), hosts an incredible field of some of the top junior cyclists in the country (several national champions were involved) in a weekend stage race format of a time trial and criterium on the first day, and a 53 mile road race on the second.

This race was an amazing opportunity for our riders. As first year racers, the focus of the weekend was to learn what it is like to compete in the national scene.

We arrived on Saturday with high hopes, new jerseys and shorts, and crisply shaven legs (Coach Pat made them do it!!).

The time trial was an eye opener. The winning ride averaged 26.5 MPH for the 12 mile course. Of the two riders competing, Josiah finished mid field, and Jackson began his weekend of tough luck with a flat tire.

On to the criterium...

The Saturday criterium was fast. As a competitive cyclist for over 25 years, I can truly say that the group of 15-16 year olds competing in the criterium were moving faster than  any top regional events I have participated. 

Josiah fought hard, to say the least. Jackson, well...

Coming into turn three, 30 MPH, with a full focus on moving up, Jackson found himself brushing up his Trek Madone against the far curb.

Let’s just say that the curb won.

Cycling isn’t easy. Jackson was able to get patched up, limp back to the car, and prepare for Sunday’s event with a heavy dose of road rash to show off. His mom, however, was not overly happy to see her only child look like he had gone through an oversized cheese grater.

Sunday brought the final stage. The road race covering the areas surrounding Elma. Hills were on the menu, as were hot conditions and fast racing.

SIDE NOTE - Upon arriving at the morning’s event, Josiah revealed that his night’s sleep was apparently interrupted by what one could only classify as a cyclist’s nightmare. Testimonial from his family indicate that upon announcing “TEN MORE LAPS TO GO?!?!” Josiah stood up in his sleep, crossed the room to his awaiting bike, and tipped it over, only to pause for a few moments, apologize to the bike, and return to bed.

Why do I have a strong feeling that Jens Voight has this same dream every night during the Tour?

Back to the race.

The event was epic. According to Josiah, it was, “the hardest thing I have ever done.” His efforts were truly commendable, and his love for the sport brought to a new level. 

Jackson, looking like an advertisement for active bandages, fought like a true champion to finish the event, bringing pride to his weekend of tough luck. 

As I said earlier, cycling is tough. Did the Arrivee/2G1D Team win the event? No. Did we have fun? Yes. Will we return? Heck yes.

As the coach of the squad, and a lifelong cyclist, This was one of the first truly dedicated events to Juniors, and I must say that the organizers deserve great respect. If you compete in the sport, you likely notice that kids are a rarity to the start line. Perhaps it is time commitments, other activities drawing their attention, or the allure of video games. We can all attempt to place blame on the reason for why kids aren’t getting out there.

All I can say is this... Cycling and kids go together like peanut butter and jelly. Get your kids on a bike, ride with them, let them win every once in a while, and BOTH of your lives will change.

Coach Pat (standing pigeon toed watching his SON start the TT)

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