Happy 4th of July by Ted King
By Liquigas-Cannondale’s Ted King
What’s more American than the 4th of July? Frosty cold beers, grilling burgers, watching a baseball game, and then playing some ball with your buddies in a backyard field.
Ooooor more specifically, how does the 4th of July stand in my memory? Waking up early to steaming hot coffee, microwaving oatmeal, watching the Tour de France, and following that all up by racing the Fitchburg Longsjo stage race. As a cyclist the red, white, and blue is more fittingly yellow, polka dot, and green (ahem, the various leader’s jerseys in cycling).
The 4th of July is nearly here and that latter scenario is how I recall the most patriotic of American holidays. In both 2003 and 2004, as teammates on an elite amateur team at the time, my brother and I stayed with our good friend Matt, and all three of us tackled our stalwart New England NRC bike race, known simply as Fitchburg.
Now nearly a decade later, early July signals almost the same thing: coffee, oatmeal, and the Tour de France. The biggest difference this time around is that there is no Fitchburg for me… aaaand I found myself in the heat of things for a starting spot on my Liquigas-Cannondale Tour de France team roster. Clearly a long time dream of mine. My spring racing campaign couldn’t have gone much better, loyally doing my job to help chalk up wins in every month but one from January through June. (Speaking of which, I’m proud to have been part of more wins than anyone on the entire team so far in 2012 (and I believe every one of these races can be found on my Strava profile. “Aaaand go!”)).
Training and racing were all going extremely well, and towards the final days there were still twelve riders in the hunt for the final nine starting spots. We are a team of 29 riders and with an emphasis on team. So sure, it is competitive to make the final group of nine, but there is no infighting, nor anything malicious to make the cut. The decision is ultimately up to the sports directors to curate a team ideal for the full three-weeks of racing.
At the eleventh hour I received the news that I wouldn’t be joining the team in Fran… err, Belgium rather, to begin this year’s Tour. Sure it’s heartbreaking, but professional cycling is a sport of ups and downs and therefore stewing on this is not going to do me any good.
I did, however, need to clear my head, and going on a small cycling vacation was in store. It’s something of a convenience that cycling is both my job as well as a personal favorite way to unwind. First I went up to the Dolomites and hung out with my great friend and teammate, Timmy Duggan amid sky-scraping mountains. From those brisk mountain passes above 2400 meters I traveled to the scorching summer heat of the central Italian region of Chianti. And yes, in both places I begin the day with the coffee and oatmeal, but with the time difference I can score a proper day of riding before it’s time to turn the Tour on the television.
Strava is a handy and entertaining addition to my training in Europe, even when I’m now on this week of, umm shall we say “more relaxed” bike riding, in order to clear my head. For me, engaging in Strava is a throwback to the simple days of training with my buddies where I can search out the fast times on hard sections or tough local climbs and just hammer because suffering is fun. Strava is just now making a big splash throughout Europe; where I am this week in Chianti is home to inGamba Tours, which is a sweet cycling (and eating) tour group that plays host to “pros in residence”. I can compare my times with my colleagues Laurens Ten Dam or Roger Hammond as well as some speedy, well-fed amateurs who have found these phenomenal stomping grounds. Just late last week while up in the Dolomites, massive grand fondos with a mind-boggling 10,000 or more registrants zoom across the roads with times up the seemingly endless climbs that make fast professionals roll their eyes. Yup, speedy.
July 4th is now right around the corner. I’m once again in a very good place, physically, mentally, and physiologically. I might celebrate our nation’s independence with a nice bowl of oatmeal, put in another smashing ride… and hopefully a burger and frosty beer with some buddies while watching the Tour that afternoon.