'Yes, No, Fun, Bad.'
In 2007, while I was still racing on Slipstream, I went to do the last month of my season in Europe. I stayed in Girona and while there did a Meet-And-Greet with La Pomme. Dan Martin was there and while he principally served as my translator/handler, he also told me all of the things that were going to go wrong with my life in the following year. He warned me that when you don’t speak the language you can’t have a touchy-feely conversation, you can’t discuss ifs and buts or the nuances of situations. It’s more binary, more exact, more black and white. You’re limited to ‘Yes, No, Fun, Bad’. You don’t get to have conversations about your first world needs or problems.
It was the worst season of my life, I think I got second in one race. While with La Pomme, I went to the Tour just to see it—I was in France after all. I figured since the professional racing thing wasn't working out, I might as well go see the Tour before I retire. At one of the after parties I caught up with JV. He told me he was starting a dev team, he told me he wanted me to be a part of it.
The Answer was Yes.
My first year back was amazing. I arrived home with no money, maybe $70.00 to my name, I sold some bikes, got some money, moved in with a couple of girls and a guy who sold soybeans. Eventually the soybean guy and one of the others moved out and a couple more moved in. Two of them worked at a doggy day care and were always bringing home packs of dogs and throwing parties every few nights. I learned to sleep with ear plugs. In theory this was the hardest time of my life, I was living with three party-throwing housemates and a pack of wild dogs, not to mention my European racing career was ostensibly over. It didn't matter though. I was so happy to be home and speaking English and eating apples off of trees, and nobody was telling me what to do or when to do it. That’s when I started doing everything right. Everything started working, I had this crazy flow going, it was like heaven, it was wonderful, I trained super hard, I was happy, I was motivated. In my mind, I had screwed up the European thing so hard that 2009 was my last shot. I needed to make some serious assessments: is this what I want to do, do I want to be a professional cyclist, am I committed to this? The answer was, "Yes."1
That year I won the Queen Stage of The Tour of Utah—I was in the breakaway and it looked good, it looked like we were going to make it happen, and somewhere through Tanner Flats I saw this guy handing-up hot dogs. I rode pretty fast straight over to him, grabbed one, bit half of it off and attacked with a mouthful of hot dog. I won. Then I went to U23 Nationals, and won the Road Race and the Crit. It was like three big wins in a row. Boom boom boom.
I took 2010 too seriously. I tried to do everything right but I overcooked my system: emotionally, physically, spiritually.
In 2011 I finished fourth eight or so times. It was good, I was in the hunt all the time, and every time I was in the hunt I was absolutely convinced I was going to win it. I would throw these Hail Marys right from the gun, and we demolished some races throughout the year.
In 2012 I was in the break at Amstel Gold for something like 210 kilometers. The Ardennes as a whole were a highlight, it was a successful time. I had a good spring, which ramped into the season well, and I got progressively better—good form all the way through Nationals. I was even good at Tour de Suisse and had an outside-long-shot of riding the Tour. But I was young, I’d never done a Grand Tour before and I’d been racing since February. What I really wanted was the Olympics. I was a reserve and guys were crashing in the Tour all over the place, so I thought I was in, only then I wrecked and broke my collarbone. In my mind I already booked a ticket to London, I was going to the Olympics, I was going win, I was going to come home and put on a big show at Utah and Colorado, I was going to sign a four year deal, but that didn’t work out. Instead I went to Colorado and did okay.