Driving from NYC to Ithaca (or more accurately Trumansburg, NY if you want to go stalk Dan Timmerman) I found myself having thoughts like “Huh I guess a Minivan would be pretty practical.” I never envisioned growing into a person like this but here we are and things don’t always turn out like you thought they would.
For instance I didn’t think of myself starting my season getting pulled twice. I’ve been pulled from six races in my career. Four of those have been National Championships, one was when I caught Timmerman who was having terrible back problems. Another day was where I was having terrible back problems and we rode the rest of the race together talking about terrible back problems, and one was just a really very bad day where I could not for the life of me pedal my bike. So in general I don’t get pulled from races. I was pedaling pretty good in Rochester according to my power meter despite the absurd heat. I even managed to ride a run up that has eluded me the previous few years. Things just didn’t quite go my way. I still felt pretty good about my rides both days as I managed to dig pretty deep both days and still managed to walk away hungry for more in the coming weeks.
Naturally, the first race of the season was not without some kind of controversy. I guess the UCI decided that feeding in the pit was “too crazy” and decided to ban it. This doesn’t make any sense to begin with if you’ve ever seen a feed zone at a road race, a crit, or a cross country race. But sure, fine, no feeding in the pit, we’ll all just put bottles on our bikes. Then this new rule somehow got interpreted as no bottles of any kind in the pit and resulted in certain female riders getting fined for having bottles on their pit bikes. An hour later we (the mens race) were told that we would only receive a warning for having a bottle on our pit bikes and that the commissar's had designated a zone for team staff to be able to pour water on the riders as they climbed the hill to help cool people off. This was something they came up with after watching the decimation that resulted in the women’s race in such conditions. So, as usual the women had to bear the worst of it.
The next day the commissar realized that this was bike racing and not some weird hunger games competition and set up a “hydration zone” in a separate point of the course to allow riders to take feeds. Before you get all huffy about something that’s clearly a feed zone being called a “hydration zone” just remember that the UCI had just passed a rule banning feed zones. So, the commissaries and race organizers couldn’t call it that. The hydration zone saved many peoples races on Sunday (I grabbed a drink every single lap) and it was a big middle finger to the idiots in Switzerland who decided to overlook the need for people to be able to drink water and shoulder their bikes correctly.
There is one thing I really love about the race in Rochester though and that is it’s proximity to Dan Timmerman’s house (or cabin if you want to get technical). Spending the Friday before Rochester with Dan is always something I look forward to. I consider him to be both a mentor and a best friend and getting to spend time with him and his wife Sam is always a treat. First thing we did was track down some wandering chickens that had to come in for the evening. Dinner followed. There was a vegetable course from the garden and some local potatoes and sausage. Everyone opted to mix the two in some bowls and dig in. Then we drove a quick seven miles towards one of the Finger Lakes to bar on a hill — grabbed some beers and watched the sun set. I stick to the dark beers, stouts and porters. Timmerman favors the IPA’s. The thing you realize as you watch the sun touch the horizon and disappear behind it, is just how fast it’s actually moving through the sky. You just can’t tell without a reference point. Kind of like riding a bike real fast. You have no idea how fast is fast until you race someone else.
Part of why I really enjoy Dan’s company is he has virtually none of the normal bike racer neurosis. He controls all the things he can but he doesn’t let life getting in the way of bike racing stress him out. It is something I’ve tried to learn from him over the years and something which I think has ultimately made me faster and happier. For instance, Dan really likes camping. Normal bike racer wisdom is that a bed should optimize one’s sleep for the best performance. Ie; get a dingy hotel room. Last year when Dan drove down to Louisville by himself he spent Friday night sleeping in his car just because that’s what he felt like doing. Then he rode to a top ten against the best guys in the country the next day.
I don’t want to get too deep into Timmermans background right this second. But, if you dig around you’ll find the story on the internet somewhere. The dude has been racing bikes forever. He rode pro on the road for a few seasons. Then went to the top of the cross scene before disappearing for a few years. When he reappeared back on the RSCX team three years ago he struggled and was eventually diagnosed with Iliac artery dead leg thing (technical term) which required surgery over the winter of 2014. Since then his results improved steadily culminating with a 5th place at Nationals last season.
Over the winter Richie and Dan decided to part ways. Dan wanted to give something else a shot and Richie and the rest of us have been nothing but supportive of him. He might not be on the team anymore but he’s still part of our family at the races.
Ok, back to the sunset and beers and Dan’s cabin in the woods…
Eventually, it was time to settle down for the night. Dan had recently finished an addition to the the cabin and for the first time in four years of coming to visit him there was space for me to sleep inside. But, as a city boy I don’t really get a lot of opportunities to sleep outside so I opted for the three sided shed and my sleeping bag. The bike racer in me thought that was dumb but I was so much happier waking up the next morning and looking out over the beautiful woods.