I wrote this to my fellow employees last night, and wanted to share it with you. I, like every one of you, are simply trying to process this incomprehensible loss of our friend and comrad, Amy Dombroski. Perhaps in some small way this will help you.
"Five years ago, I sat in the tall grass at Elks Lodge here in Boulder...known to us bike nerds as "The worlds shittiest cyclocross course." Crappy, flat and littered with dog poop, we loved it. Now, it's been demolished by flood and the Parks Dept who are digging it up to make it look like any other park. We've graduated 7 National Champions and 2 world champions in that park. It means something. At least to us.
So, I sat in the grass five years ago with a 21 year old gal who I admired and could see was stepping to the next level in her bike racing career. "Career" in that these things never really last long as the sport typically chews up young souls and spits them out. It rarely works out.
We talked a ton in that field that night, and a lot more over the years. She'd just finished a clinic that night Brandon Dwight and I had given and she had questions galore. Hungry for knowledge. Extra credit.
Year after year she progressed. This 4'11 micro midget with a never-say-die spirit. What did she need to know? Who did she need to talk to for sponsorship? What was the path to make this her career? It was exactly what she wanted.
Great friends, great family and great mentoring propelled her. Got her on the rails.
She leaned in to exactly what she wanted. Went for it.
In the cooking world, you go to Paris or Milan to get shit on by the great chefs to try and make it.
You go to Hollywood to bury yourself to make it on the silver screen.
If you bleed software engineering, you are a moth to Silicon Valley's flame.
And if you are a bike racer, you go to Belgium.
Amy Dombroski went to Belgium. To face the best. And she got respect. And a contract. She'd 'made it'. She'd executed on her dream in 5 years. She was in the system now. A pro cyclocross racer at the top most level on earth. This was her job. 5 years of making ends meet to simply: get a job.
She leaned in to where it was toughest because it's where the best were. That was Amy D. Frankly, it's not even where the most money could have been made. Simply, it was where the best were. She wanted to take them on. Belgium: where she new she had to be challenged. She told me this in that field. That she knew they were fast, but she could hang. She asked me about what it was like racing overseas and I told her: "It's hard as fuck. But I had to go and race against these myths, even if at my age they were master old myths."
My friend Amy passed away today. Tragic, and I thank you for your well wishes. It means a lot. But, it's not the point of this email.
It's about you. And taking on a bit of 'Amy Dombroski' in your spirit and in your lives.
Ask yourselves: Are you challenged? Is this your Belgium? Is this where you can face the stuff that makes you better? Makes you more incentivized to learn more...do more...dig deeper? You all are amazing. Look at the progress, but your lives should be enriched. And part of that is what you do to earn your livings and more specifically be absolutely...
And while we know it's hard to carry stoke every day, your foundation at work is the belief in what you're doing and with those you're doing it with. What we're doing to change the publishing industry and to enrich the lives of the employees that we call LinkSmarties. We have something very very special. It's time for us to reflect and close collective eyes and meditate on that fact. Just for a moment.
Lean in. Hard. Make this place that memory in your bright futures where you can say looking back: "I held nothing back." "I went as hard as I could." "My teammates bled from their eye balls too." "We...fucking...crushed...it."
And you are.
I truly love you all. As silent as I may seem to you some days as I too am learning brand new things. Challenged by what it's like to make a smooth environment for you...for us...to succeed. My Belgium.
The season got going in ernest this past weekend with the first test race at Valmont Bike Park...hope to the 2014 US National Cyclocross Championships this season. Over 600 racers on the day and stacked fields in nearly every catergory.
This weekend was the first real test...actually the first real ride on the new Ridley X-Nights. I haven't had the opportunity to hot-lap on the bikes to really test them. The weight of the bikes is surreal, but my fit was not yet dialed. I'd use the race to learn really what I needed (primarily lower bar height and hood position along with a cm seat change to get my weight a bit back/centered).
The 35 Open field lined up and the pace from the gun was vicious. I just was not prepared for the effort and combined with the fit issues, I just needed to roll, drive the bike and train. I ended up a sort of anonymous top 20 but I'll take it for now. I new exactly what I needed in bike and body and regardless had such a phenomenal time on what could be a sensational course for Nationals. There will be more event-location testing to come.
Leading up to Valmont, I tweaked with Aiden's Ridley as well. The benefit of having a parent who races is the inevitable 'hand me downs'. Now my wife realizes why I have been "hoarding" all these years. My crystal ball was correct and now my sons get to use all the equipment I trusted over the years and kept in good shape...just for them. The Clement MXP rubber I have the boys on is remarkable
I'm a week late posting this...for obvious reasons. The destruction here in Boulder due to the floods and landslides has been surreal and bike racing has taken a very far back seat while we as a community have been helping our neighbors. I've been in basements and back yards the last few days helping literally dig my friends out. We will recover and move on. But it has been a true mental block for many of us to think about biking.
Last week, however, was just awesome. It was a true 'kick start' to the season for both my Boulder Cycle Sport Ambassadors as well as my Boulder Junior Cycling grommets.
Kick It Time Trial - Fort Collins
The weekend started up in Fort Collins with a time trial. It was one, big, technical 'drivers' course. Full gas to stage for starting positions on Sunday on essentially the same course, albeit a bit shorter.
My BJC'ers crushed! Watching my sons rip it was also amazing to see. They're both in the 10-12 division, Aiden winning and Seamus taking 7th at 9 years old! Very proud of all the kids.
My race was smooth and fast, enabling me to take 4th overall and a first row start up on Sunday.
Cross of the North - Fort Collins
This year, the Colorado 35-Open class is in an weird spot: We start the season racing at 8AM in essentially our own group for 50min...but end the season racing at 3:30 PM for 60min mixed with the Open guys. Getting up early...no problem, but the inconsistency feels weird. We'll see how it all evolves. I got up at 5 and headed up to Fort Collins, got in a decent warm up and before I know it we were on the line and going full gas.
I honestly had zero clue where I'd be fitness-wise in this first race of the season. I'd had mental goals of being OK with 10th-ish, but no real idea how I'd do under that intensity. The Crack and my 1 Wednesday Worlds ride before more or less showed me that my bike driving was good, and my fitness was OK...but mostly I was HEALTHY starting a season for once. No protruding bones, road rash or other ridicu-scars.
The course was fairly blown out. Dry and dusty but really required finesse and constant power. Stuff I'm decent at. I was back on my only operable bike, my 2012 Ridley X-Fire with cantis.
My first cross took place in some anonymous church property, somewhere in the middle of New Jersey in 1996. My mountain biking bud, Chris Evans, told me about this sport, saying that'd be cool if I showed up on my mountainbike and do 'this obstacle course type of race.' Back in the old NORBA days when we mountainbike-raced, you had to do 'all 3' disciplines: XC, downhill and trials. I really thought Chris was talking to me about some sort of trials course. I could do those fairly well and, so, curious, I showed up with my bike at this 'cross' race. Chris shows up and out of his car he pulls out this sort of road bike....a Ritchey Swiss Cross. It had these tiny knobbies, beautiful lines and feather weight. We pinned on numbers, waited amongst a field of 10 mopes for the whistle and when it came...chaos. It hurt, I came in nearly last, had no idea how to perform the gazelle-like maneuvers when my eyeballs were bleeding...but I was helplessly hooked.
And so, like the years past, we prepare for the season. I come in to this one, healthy, motivated and in awe of what our sport has become. I've raced the old man worlds, I've been overseas and now, I see the youth pour in, in droves. Hungry to make road style bikes go fast in the dirt.
This year I am honored to work with some of my best friends on teaching the beautiful sport. Pete Webber, Michael Robson, Johs Huseby, Emily Zinn, Dave Weber and Margell Abel. All pouring back what was poured in to us as coaches for the Boulder Junior Cycling program...
This year also marks the 3rd anniversary of the Boulder Cycle Sport 'Ambassadors' team. Brandon Dwight, Pete, Kristin Weber and Chris Case will all be evangelizing 'cross to anyone and everyone who will hear us. Especially in Boulder with the coming of the National Championships to our crazy passionate city this January.
It's September, and as I type, I can still hear the whir of Air Conditioning units outside. Before we know it the leaves will change and the cold weather gear will get brought out. But for now, the kids....and the adults...are spending our time on long, tiring yet beautiful rides. The time for intervals and inhumane intensity will happen soon enough...
On to the 2013/14 cyclocross season. Best of luck everybody. Keep it smooth.
But the 10 weeks shouldn't be "it". It's not enough to sustain all around health and stability to carry me through the 'violent' efforts of cross and the tolls it takes on the body. But time is a precious asset. I need to occupy the time I'd spent doing Yoga now for training in the early mornings. So how can I balance it? Intro Yoga Glo for Cyclists!
I'm posting a lot about my boys lately. Yes pride is driving a ton of this...but mostly amazement. On many levels. My boys are flying (almost) free now. Not completely solo yet (small rides by themselves on local/close trails...letting the reigns go a bit wider) but they are riding with their grommet friends and coaches in places I share with my best buds. Nederland, Winter Park and more. Magical.
Long dirt road rides with dad showing off all the local spots....
Short spins to just have that deep one on one you can't get with other brothers or parents nearby. Just soft pedaling, calm voices and laughs and authentic smiles that telegraph 'I'm alone with my daddy.'
I continually pull mind and self from all of this wonderment. I spend the time to ensure my sons aren't doing all of this, eyes rolling, to appease their old man. That 'this is dad's thing'. And it refreshes me when I see them kit up on their own. Bike gear...lacrosse gear...whatever gear. They're exploring, seeing, playing, growing.
But I'd be a liar if I said it's not a rush to rail singletrack and high altitude with my boys. It's here.
Time. As I am getting older I now see how precious this resource is. When it's all boiled down, it's what matters most. We are born, we die....and everything in between is a time continuum. It's the quality of how that time is spent in between those life markers that is most important.
But there's more to it.
I'm a pretty intense character as I've been told....and come to find. I like to win...in sport, in business, in life. Living this way created a vortex of self-obsessiveness. Obsessed with carving out 'my time'. The balance thing was in large part my mind struggling to ensure 'my' needs were met..while another bench of the teeter had my family on it (e.g. Work, Racing, Family) in its own compartment so to speak. And while I think I managed to ensure love, respect and quality all these years with that compartmentalized balancing act, it is time.
The time is now for pouring myself into these great kids. My needs are now focused on providing them a platform to feel their own successes. The only thing they want is...time. Time with mom and dad. Time to explore and feel safe and confident in themselves and their abilities. They do much of this on their own...but is intensified when a parent is with them to show them the way.
I will continue to pin on numbers and do what I can to go fast. But the joy I am having seeing these juniors learn, grow and thrive is in itself a new rush. All tempered with removing 'self' and any vicarious channeling of ego, but rather being their biggest fans and cheerleaders.
The time is right now. And it is so much fun.
Our good friend in Bahston, Chip Baker, master of Hup United and all things New Englad 'cross has a new gig at Honey Bikes and our man is stoked. I love hearing when people find that perfect/job/life fit and it's clear Chip's done that.
Honey has a new bike coming that I think you guys will drool over. A blend of old (custom steel tubing) and new (disc ready) to take you to your victories this season. Have a peek below...
Pretty sweet, huh? Have a look at their press release....
The family that bikes together...well, has FUN together! It's that time in our kids lives when we want to start looping them in to our passion...riding in the woods on fat tires. Problem is, the state of (really) small mountain bikes is a difficult one. It's not a very big market and rightfully the manufacturers mitigate their risk by not producing a ton of options. Buying off the shelf bikes for kids who are 'tweeners' (too big and advanced for off the shelf bikes and too small for 'adult' sized bikes) is really difficult but we were determined to get it done right for them. I want to ensure my kids could really 'feel' and control the bikes...so that meant careful choosing of frame and parts alike. WIth the help of Boulder Cycle Sport and some of my great friends and long-time industry honches, we were able to source and build up the following for the youngsters:
- Kinesis 'label-less' frames - 14" for 26" wheels
- Carver ridged carbon fiber front forks
- WTB wheels (tubeless)
- Shimano SLX group set
- 60mm stems & flat bars
- Old seat posts lying around
- Kenda rubber
- ESI grips ('suspension'...yes, these boys will learn tire pressure before suspension use)
- Cane Creek headset
Bikes came in about 17lbs and I can still move into lighter territory, but that will be the fun part. Some porn...
Extremely proud of my sons as they spoke for themselves and gave Denver Post auther Steve Lipsher their honest, organic opinions on the state of cycling, Lance and what it all means to them and "their" world of cycling.
Click the image below to read the full article...