Archive for December, 2013

I am an Elite Athlete

I am an elite athlete.

I am not an elite athlete because I win races or perform better than others.

I am an elite athlete because I enjoy the sport for what it is. I enjoy the people in the sport. I enjoy sharing the sport with others and helping them improve. In fact, I am elite because I hope everyone I encounter can be better than me at our shared sport.

I am elite because I do not want to beat others in competition. My only competitor is myself and every other athlete in my sport is an opportunity to improve the sport and everyone’s ability to enjoy it.

I am elite and you should be, too.

Gruppo Sportivo 2014 Inaugural Ride

GS-GFNY 2014 Team Placard-Square-650px

Last Sunday was the first Gruppo Sportivo GFNY (GS-GFNY) 2014 training ride and it was terrific. The mission of GS-GFNY is to prepare riders for the Campagnolo GFNY ride in May; prepare them mentally and physically. Riding through the winter in the metro NY area on road bikes, well, I’m not sure if this is more of a mental or physical challenge. I will say, though, that it starts with the mental challenge of getting out of a warm, cozy bed in the morning knowing that the outside temps are likely below freezing and it is often overcast, foggy or downright wet and rainy. Snow and ice play a factor as well, but in the interest of safety, GS-GFNY will survey the route and cancel when the conditions are too difficult to navigate.

Once out of bed, the challenge has just begun: you’ve got to shake the cobwebs, get your body fueled and begin layering on the cold-weather gear that is so critical to riding this time of year. Our kit sponsor, Biemme, has put together some incredibly effective, comfortable and great looking gear. I typically find myself with a merino wool base layer, the long sleeve GFNY jersey and then the GFNY winter jacket. Add the GFNY gilet for a little more warmth in your core and there’s no temperature too cold. It also turns you into a Russian nesting doll of GFNY branded gear; but a warm and toasty one for sure. And despite being warm, somehow this magical material can breath so you don’t end up a clammy mess underneath the gear. Getting clammy isn’t only uncomfortable, it can be dangerous and make you more susceptible to the cold weather (quite the opposite of its purpose.)

1149272_735877426441671_658137344_o (1)The day before the ride I headed over to Strictly Bicycles to get my new bike – the GFNY Protos by De Rosa. The photo is of my final fitting at the shop with Nelson and Gato working their magic. I have a lot to say about this bike, but I’ll save that for another post after I’ve been on the bike a little longer. But I will say now: this is one sexy lady and I am truly blessed to be riding her. The bike may be provided by our sponsor, but it isn’t free and teammate Heidi really covered this point well on her blog.

So, how about that Inaugural Ride?!?

Oh, right, I said this was about the inaugural ride, didn’t I? Sorry about that – there’s so much else to cover as well!

In typical fashion, the season kicked off with a overcast, cold morning. While it was below freezing, the wind wasn’t a significant factor and snow wasn’t expected, at least not until after we’d finish our ride. When we got started, Vito lead our “C” group out with Heidi riding midpack and I was riding sweeper at the end of a 39-person pack. Moments after the start a rider dropped her chain, so I helped her get it back in place and then rode with her for the next 10-miles or so as there was little chance we’d catch the pack at our pace. She kept telling me to ride ahead, feeling guilty that she was “holding me back” but that isn’t the spirit of GS-GFNY. In fact, this is precisely why I wanted to join this team! Last year the GS-GFNY team did so much to train, encourage and motivate me – I wanted the chance to do the same for others.

It was a bit of a disjointed ride day, but quite fulfilling nonetheless. We caught up to the pack at the top of State line Hill – where the lead usually stops to regroup. From there, the group stayed pretty well together until we turned around in Nyack and rode back to the base of State Line Hill where the group generally breaks up a bit on the climbs. Feeling the need to test the new bike I attacked the first half of State Line Hill before retreating to the sweeper position again so as not to lose any riders. I didn’t set any speed records, but my heart rate on the climb was a full 10bpm lower than I’d ever recorded – something I attribute fully to the awesomeness of my new ride.

At the top of State Line we did our last regrouping effort and headed out for the return leg. Heidi took the lead group and we quickly broke into two groups on the next climb with me leading the second group and Vito riding sweeper. However, due to some confusion on my part about possible lost riders, I sent my small crew ahead (they knew the final directions) and looped back. I found the riders I was looking for with Vito and I joined that group for the final sprint. However, with five miles left, I hit a hole in the road and heard the lovely hiss of a tire going flat. Being at the back of the group I had to scream, “FLAT!” and hope they didn’t drop me. Three riders heard me and one stopped to assist, the other two agreeing that one is all that is needed and more shouldn’t stop and get cold for nothing. (I totally agree with this decision and appreciate the team thinking.) Shiva was helpful holding my bike up while I took off the rear wheel and took out the tube.

Now, here’s the flip side of a terrific new bike – not doing a good job preparing for the differences in components. Sure, I had a spare tube, but I needed an 80mm stem and I had no such tube since my stock from my old bike were standard tubes. Shiva has the same type of tubes, but was riding with Rick who was carrying the tubes, so we were out of luck. Thankfully, Strictly Bicycles was happy to send their SAG wagon out to fetch me. And, frankly, the warm ride back in the car was welcomed in a “my ride is done” sort of way. Of course, after back at the shop with a new tube (and replacements) I still had to ride back over the GW Bridge so the cold came right back to me until I made it home for a hot shower.

All in all, a great start to the training season even if it wasn’t a perfect ride. Heck, the GFNY won’t likely be a “perfect” ride, so getting used to adversity is part of the training, right?

For another POV: Vito’s ride recap.