Golden was a pretty small town when I was growing up, now it’s kinda morphed into suburban sprawl. I had a good family, I mean I have a good family, good parents, all the love and support in the world. I have a younger brother (three years); we fought a lot when we were young but now we’re good friends. That’s why I live in Boulder—I’m pretty close to my family and Boulder is close to Golden.
When I was a kid we used to ride our bikes around town a lot, looking for change, loitering in front of the 7-11. We were motivated by high-fructose corn syrup and so most of our money would go into the buying of Slurpees. Every year I went deer hunting with my dad and grandpa and little brother, mostly it was just an excuse to get everyone together, get up early, shoot the bull about stuff you’re not supposed to talk about, and dig cars out of the snow. I don’t think we ever shot anything for the first five years.
Spandex, Before Spandex
I’ve been going to bike races since I can remember, bike races were our version of a family vacation: Telluride and Durango, all over Wyoming. My dad (a good Cat 2, a decent Cat 1) was on team sponsored by Burger King. This other team was sponsored by Subway and it was all, "Burger King vs. Subway," but the Burger King team were the legends, their motto was “go from the gun.” I’ve been racing since I went to the races. I started out at the kid races, then when I was 10 I got a license to race real, actual races with like, multiple laps.
I knew about spandex before I actually knew about spandex. I grew up with bikes hanging over and crowding my crib. The nursery was also the bike room.
I played soccer, tee-ball and baseball. I wasn’t good at baseball though, I played left field which was okay but at bat I didn’t really have the passion I needed.
I didn’t know if I was talented then, but I wanted it more than pretty much anyone around me. When you're 13 years old and racing guys that are 6’2", 160 pounds, big dudes, adult dudes, guys who’ve been shaving their legs for years, you have to really want it. I remember being nervous about racing and a bit stressed, but I never really cared about who showed up, it wasn’t about who you were racing but the race itself. I knew that I wanted to be a professional cyclist but at 13 it didn’t seem like a reasonable outcome. I was pretty good student, not straight-As, but there were a lot of things in school that interested me quite a bit, things that I wanted to pursue. I wanted to get into journalism and writing; I like physics too but I hated math so I knew that wasn’t really feasible. I was interested in the sciences but then I hit Calculus 2 and I knew I wasn’t going to make it.
All through middle school and high school I was racing a lot, aside from school that was my biggest time drain. I’d train after school, sometimes before school, and on the weekends I was always racing. By seventeen I was pretty established on the local scene and I started to think I could become a professional.
Jonathan Vaughters and Colby Pierce started this local team, 5280-Subaru which became TIAA-CREF which became Slipstream Sports which became Garmin. Originally it was them just driving kids around in a van but it was obvious, straightaway, that their program was the program to be with. You could tell they had the drive to turn it into something, and it was also clear that those were the guys you wanted to be mentored by.1 I sent JV an email with my résumé asking if they would consider me for their team.
A year later at the 2006 National Championships in Seven Springs, PA, I got third2. I attacked and tried to do it solo with 20k to go, but I got brought back with 2k to go. It was heartbreaking for me. I screwed it up tactically but when I attacked, Vaughters just happened to be standing right there on the road. I got a contract on the spot.
Becoming a professional, it's one of those things that you want to believe, like going into it, you want to believe it can happen, but even if it’s realistic, it still seems unrealistic. It’s like telling people you want to be an astronaut.
- Manual #15: SURROUND YOURSELF WITH AMBITION [↩]
- There are a number of very familiar names scattered across this page: http://www.usacycling.org/results/?year=2006&id=1459&info_id=7660 [↩]