USA in France

USA in France

Friday, May 20, 2016

Cheating with this blog post

So we are 5 stages deep into the Tour of California and I am smoked! There have been a lot of hard (stage 5) has been one of the hardest thus far I think. We rode 135 miles (212 km) from sea level up to Lake Tahoe...climbing over 14,000 feet! Anyhow, I will look to get a full post up after this week finishes up, but in the mean time here is a nice interview from Cyclingnews. Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 2, 2016

An unplanned plan: Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Ardennes week is a busy time. It may seem stretched out to the eye of a spectator, but to a racer who competes in all three classics. It is a long and difficult seven days.
Having not raced Amstel, and just finished Fleche successfully I was ready to relax a little bit before the Tour of Romandie the next week. I was reserve for Liege, but I never thought it would come down to me. After Fleche, I was watching the weather for Liege daily to see the forecast for the weekend; as a spectator and fan, I wanted to know how gnarly and epic the race was going to be! Needless to say I was very excited to watch… Friday morning, we went to recon the last 70 kilometers of Liege. At this point I did not know that I was racing the race yet, but that point would turn out to be quite perfect. The recon of the race brought back a lot of memories as I lived in this area of Belgium while I raced on the BMC Development team, I knew a lot of the roads like the back of my hand. On the Friday before Liege, I learned that I was racing my first monument. .
My feelings were mixed, and before you make assumptions, let me explain why. It was not the weather, but the timing that had my head turning. I was actually excited for the weather! Rain, I am not a fan of, but snow…now that feels like home, a pure Michigan winter training day. I was a bit bummed because I strive, push and sometimes suffer to finish every race that I start, and as my plan to race was announced, it was also understood that I would be stopping in the second feed zone, 180 kilometers into the race, about 70 to go. Although, I did not like this idea, I could understand it. With the Tour of Romandie starting less than 48hrs after Liege ended, it was not wise to push through the entire race even if I could, 256 km is a big day to recover from for anyone. Now it was a matter of finding the correct way to mentally prepare for a race that you already knew you wouldn’t finish…this is not something that I had experienced before and it was actually quite interesting. I decided to enjoy the moment. Thoroughly enjoy my first time toeing the line for my first monument, because if I am ever contesting the win someday, I guarantee there will be less savoring and more suffering. The whole experience of a Liege-caliber race was incredible.
The team presentation is a spectacle to behold the day before the race. People wanting to take pictures with you, autographs and just the overall excitement of cycling fans wanting to meet the people partaking in the epic race the next day. I don’t intend to put us on a pedestal, but the race does and it is quite crazy! The best way I can describe it was like a red carpet at a movie premiere, the presentation is just the precursor to the movie or race that will be happening hours later. As race day came around I was still nervous, but overall, I was happy. This was the culmination of so much hard work. I used to watch Liege on the rollers as a kid, dreaming about doing this crazy thing called bike racing, and now I was actually getting the chance! I had embarrassingly explained to classmates countless times why I shaved my legs…and now I really had a good excuse.
At 8:30 we departed by bus with an entourage of team cars and trucks in tow. It started to sink in even more how big the race is. Once we arrived at the start in the middle of Liege, the weather was barely above freezing yet the fans were still out there, thousands of them, prepared for a long cold day just as we were. After many coffees on the bus, we all debated what to wear before beginning to actually start dressing. I usually like to dress from my own experiences, but I always make sure to glance at Gesink and some of the Veterans of the team… if I am drastically different, I know I should probably put more clothes on or take some off depending on the circumstance. Today Gesink chose to keep a rain jacket in his back water bottle cage instead of a bottle. I followed suit and man was I happy with that decision! After dressing, debating, changing and dressing a bit more I was finally happy with my choices. I checked that I had all of the appropriate additions in my rain bag before heading to the sign in. We signed in quickly before heading back to the bus for the final preparations. I filled my pockets with food, added a second pair of gloves to my back pocket before rolling to the start!
As the gun went off at 10:15 it was official, I had started my first Liege-Bastogne-Liege, well not yet actually, after 6.8 kilometers of neutral, more of a parade around the city before the racing ensues. As we finished off the neutral the race began…straight uphill. It was a quick reminder moment that ‘enjoying’ this liege would not be without a bit of suffering. After the breakaway went the pace settled down and I added my rain jacket to the huge amount of clothes that I already had on…it was cold! At this point I was able to do some of that ‘enjoying’. I talked with friends, mostly about how cold it was and tried to help the team out when possible. Every time that we would climb up above a certain point it would begin to snow, and when that happened I always had the biggest smile on my face and my tongue out like a kid to catch the snowflakes. As I stopped at the second feedzone that was the coolest part of the race I think. It was snowing heavily, big huge flakes and there were some epic pictures taken. As I stepped off the bike it was sad, but I told myself I would be back soon. I got some hot tea, and got in the car with the soigneurs and drove off to the watch the finish. Now that recon number comes in. In a way, I was able to actually do the whole liege as we had started the recon just after I stopped. I took a hot shower and warmed up in the bus while watching Wout Poels win liege from a four-man sprint. Our team didn’t achieve our goals, but I think we were a little bit happy that another Dutchman won. At the end of the day, it was a different kind of mental battle. A day where I focused less on the outcome and more on the passion and beauty of the sport. A day that will go down in history as one of the most epic editions of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and a day that I was happy to be a part of, even for just the first two thirds.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

My first time up the Mur

After watching Amstel Gold on TV, I was motivated and downright excited to toe the line at Fleche Wallonne. This would be my first big one-day race at the World Tour level and I was interested to see how it would compare to the hard week in Catalunya four weeks earlier where I had made my World Tour debut. My legs were starting to feel good after a solid three-week training block and It was time to put them to work!
I flew to Holland from Girona Tuesday morning and got to Maastricht around 1 in the afternoon. We were staying at the Van der Valk in Maastricht, arguably the best hotels that I will stay at all year… and it was immediately clear that we were in the middle of Ardennes week. Team buses and mechanic trucks filled the parking lot with cars placed wherever there was room. Fans lined the hotel entrance and lobby for a chance to get an autograph from the big names, and journalists waited all day for their five minutes of interview between lunch and massage time. Fleche Wallonne is the midweek classic between Amstel Gold and Liege-Bastogne-Liege and is known for its finish ascent up the steep Mur de Huy, otherwise translated to Wall of Huy (Huy is a town in the Wallonie part of Belgium.) The race is up and down all day and positioning is key on the descents and the run in to the climbs. At 200km; the distance, weather, roads and climbs all play a role in whittling down the field for a reduced field ‘sprint’ up the Mur by the end. Valverde has dominated the race in recent years and he was looking at winning a legendary 4th Fleche this year.
Tuesday night, the night before the race, we sat down and had the team meeting. We had two big cards to play in the form of Wilco and Robert and our days would revolve around theirs. Cycling is a very intense team sport and sometimes it goes unnoticed when one rider crosses the line alone, but guaranteed, behind every solo winner was a team. My job for the day, along with Victor and Koen, would be focused on the first part of the race and more specifically to make it into the early breakaway to take pressure off of our team behind. After the meeting we were ready to race, but first the best part of the nice hotel…their awesome buffet! And with 200km on the schedule, the plates were ours to fill!
Race day morning. We all have different rituals or traditions before a race. The types of food we eat, the way we pack our bag and even when we pin our numbers on. With my bag packed for the race I headed down to breakfast. Part of my go to race breakfast was a breakfast sandwich…Dutch Gouda cheese, smoked beef and a fried egg. Simple, nutritious and delicious! At 9 am sharp we were on the bus and headed to the race. The bus is set up with two long couches that are good for socializing as well as 8 personal seats. Different riders have different preferences when traveling to the start. Some listen to music or read, others study the race course or make stem sheets, and some just talk, we all just do what best gets us into the zone and primed to race. As we arrive at the start town the bus starts to get busier. We might have a small meeting before we go to the back to change, but today we go directly to changing as we had our meeting last night. The back of the bus is set up for 9 riders to each have their own place to change along with 4 showers and a toilet. As we change, requests are made for special food, bottles or leg oil to the staff before we step out of the bus to go sign in. After sign in it is time for the final preparations and soon thereafter, for the 2016 Fleche Wallonne to begin!
From the gun the race is officially not started as we have a neutral start…but man are we racing. As the flag drops and the race officially starts 3 kilometers later, you feel the peloton lurch as the first riders bid for the breakaway. A little out of position, I take a couple of risks, jumping curbs and dodging spectators to get to the front. Once there I attempt to ride the ‘wave’ of riders and follow the move that I think has a chance to go. The race is chaos at this point. There is no control and everyone up front wants to be part of the early move. Finally, about 1 hr into the race the breakaway goes and we have Koen in the front…time to settle into my secondary job of watching over the boys until the finale. For the numbers interested people out there, during the first hour of the race I did 30 minutes where I averaged 335 watts with my normalized being 378…and this is just the first of the five hours it would take to complete the race.
As Movistar (Valverde’s team) took over control after the breakaway had a gap, the race settled down and everyone focused on their jobs. About 80 kilometers in I went back to the car to get drinks and take clothing for the guys. After speaking with Frans our team director and filling my jersey with 9 bottles I started to move back to the peloton having instantly gained 10 kilos! You have to put out more power just to move! I delivered the bottles throughout the field before going to sit with Robert and help out when I could. The course wound its way around two big laps, ascending the Mur twice before the finish. The first lap was relatively tame before the race started to heat up. The Mur was incredible, not how steep or tough it was, but the sheer noise as you climb…I honestly had trouble hearing myself thing let alone listening to my director on the radio. As we entered the last part of the final big lap the pace had quickened and then breakaway had been pulled back. I fell out of position as we descended into the bottom of the Mur for the second time and just missed the front group over the top. I raced to the finish with a small group of chasers and finished around 7 minutes behind now 4-time winner, Alejandro Valverde. Robert and Wilco had raced well, both placing top 15. Post race, we had a quick debrief before heading back to the hotel. The race overall had been 5 hours for me averaging over 25 mph and I had a normalized power of 305! A solid day of work in the legs. Back at the hotel we did some damage to the buffet before calling it a night. I am already looking forward to just cruising around looking for coffee tomorrow…

Thursday, March 31, 2016

1,220 kilometers to go

By all accounts and numbers, last week at the Volta Cataluyna was hard. Some riders even went as far as to say it was as hard as the first week of the Tour de France. All I know, as my first world tour race, my baseline for the rest of the world tour schedule is very high!
Volta Cataluyna, set in the Catalan region of Spain, is almost a ‘home’ race for those of us who call Girona home during the season. Racing on many of the roads we train on daily, the race winds its way from coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Calella, traverses a couple mountains along the way and finishes on the streets of Barcelona. With seven road stages, this week long race is tough and takes its toll on even the best of the protour riders. The 2016 edition boasted a startlist worthy of the Tour de France. With nearly every team bringing their ‘A’ team…all of the 5 star GC contenders were on hand to test their legs before the coming grand tours. The combination of a star studded field and a tough course would make for an exciting week.
I would be lying if I say that I didn’t start Catalunya with ambitions of my own, even with many riders telling me how hard it was going to be, but by the end my goals had changed and finishing strong was a success in my book. Each stage was a fight from the neutral through to the finish. Many races have a lull or relaxing period after the breakaway has flown the coop, but in this race the peloton was almost always rowdy and moving fast. This makes positioning more difficult as the peloton is always circulating and you need to always be focused on moving forward, otherwise you will quickly find yourself at the back. Racing with radios in our ears is usually a very good benefit…but it is interesting fun when there is a bottleneck or climb coming and all of the directors tell their riders to go to the front at the same time...
The first two stages were difficult, but both ended in sprints with Bouhanni taking the glory. I suffered with positioning as well as with the intense racing, but I came out with a positive attitude which paid dividends as the race progressed. Stage 3 would be the first mountain stage and I had high hopes. The stage was 172km long with four category 1 climbs. Climbing all day from the start in Girona we finished on top of La Molina at 1725 meters. I worked hard to be in position and raced hard to stay in the front group as long as I could. After surviving the first big GC day, which was won by Dan Martin, the queen stage came in the form of Stage 4. This would most likely lead to the eventual Volta Cataluyna winner.
If you walked around the start as a spectator, you could immediately tell that stage 4 was going to be intense. Most of the peloton was warming up on rollers before the start, awaiting the immediate start up the third categorized climb of 5.4km. After the categorized climb came a 5km tunnel followed by about 60km of slight downhill, so no one knew what to expect. As the neutral flag was dropped to officially start the race, the pace quickened and almost instantly, riders with tired legs started going backwards. I fought, but the peloton was stretched thin and gaps started to open up as riders blew up. At one point, I vividly remember looking down, 1.4 km into the race and then looking up the road as the peloton was in more than 5 groups. All I could think to myself was, “well this is going to be a tough day.” After a big fight up the climb and through the tunnel the race actually ended up mostly coming back together after the breakaway went. I honestly think that guys were just scared for the finish. At kilometer 85 we would start the first of the big climbs of the day. A HC (Hors Category) climb of 24km, followed directly by a category 1 climb of 8km and then followed by the finish climb of 18km another HC. On the first HC everyone was focused on lasting as long as possible to avoid the time cut. As we entered the climb I think everyone was screaming in their head…Sky, took control of the peloton and drilled the first 5 km blowing the group into pieces once again, but only for many guys to fight back, including myself. After getting dropped over the cat 1, I focused on saving as much energy as I could. Surviving the next 3 days of the race were going to be hard.
The next three stages would prove hard, as expected. Stage 5 was blazing. The breakaway did not go until 115 km into the 190km stage. It was attacking nearly the entire time, everyone wanting to put their mark on this epic edition of Catalunya. When the break eventually went, we had averaged 49.7 kph (nearly 31 mph). We finished this stage (190km/ 118 mi) with a 46 kph average (28.5 mph). I suffered as everyone else did, but my legs, as well as my head were coming around. I was able to try my own moves…this was the first stage that I really felt like I could race at this level and it was exhilarating! Stage 6 was another day fought for by a breakaway attempt, where my teammate, Bert-Jan would get caught within the last 100m of the race! The last stage would be a short but definitely not sweet race of 137 km ending with 8 category 3 climbs of Mont Juic in Barcelona center. As we entered the circuit after racing the first 70 km, the noise of the crowd was absolutely deafening. The race flew by in a blur as everyone raced to the finish, a 2 km climb followed by a blazing descent back into town only to go right back up again. As I finally crossed the finish line for the last time I was happy, satisfied, and overall damn tired! Catalunya had not disappointed. Racing with Lotto NL Jumbo, I have really seen the professional side of the sport; a Tour de France worthy support structure. Our staff included directors, mechanics, soigneurs, a chiropractor, a bus driver, a doctor and a chef. The people keeping our bodies, minds and equipment running throughout!
By the numbers: We piloted our Bianchi bikes over 7 stages, 32 ½ hours, 1220 km (758 mi), 1975 TSS, 18,592 meters of climbing (61,000 ft), and 26,000 Kj. 97th place GC. 101 kph (62 mph) fastest speed. A massive week. My first world tour race finished. Over the week I learned a lot. I learned that you are never the only one suffering. Larry Warbasse had the best metaphor for the progression of tired riders during a stage race..."Looking around during the week I was at least content to see that, and you can always tell how fresh people are by how they hit speed bumps during the race. The beginning of the stage race, I bunny hop them easily, in the middle as fatigue begins to set in I start to just lift the front wheel as the back wheel slams into the bump and at the end, I just barrel into the bumps as if they aren’t there. At the end, I was not the only one hitting the speed bumps!" Next up is Volta Limburg. After resting, I am looking forward to taking my form from Catalunya and seeing how I can do on some of the Amstel Gold climbs. Thanks to Dean Warren for some of the pictures and if you want to hear some of my breathless comments post stage 3 and 4 take a listen to his Podcast here. Until next time, Alexey

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A new year...A new me and an old blog!

Hello to all of my stagnant readers. This unused, neglected and downright forgotten page is about to get a facelift. As I have settled into my new home in Girona, Spain I have found more time to get back to writing.
As I write a race report about this past weekend of racing in Belgium, feel free to get caught up on my last few months with some photos of my new home/teammates and an interview I did with Jamie Smith, Author of "Reading the Race" for the Michigan Bicycle Racing Association.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Reading 120 in all of its glory and carnage!

Although I have never been to a school reunion yet, I feel like it would be something like the beginning of the Reading 120 bike race. Seeing all of your friends for the first time in a couple of months, people you like and the people you like...less, it's a fun change from the normal pre-race stress that everybody usually wears at a race of this caliber. As we lined up on the start line I don't think anybody was prepared for the epic carnage that was about to ensue.
As we leapt from the line, 120 miles laid in front of us. We would complete a 75 mile loop of the surrounding area before partaking in 5, 9 mile laps with a steep climb up to the Pagoda before descending back to the finish line. The course was tough, small twisting roads, up and down including nearly 10,000 feet of climbing. As the flag dropped and the race started there was no easing into the was game on. The first hour was really hard, everybody fighting for the front, big splits being created in the field. By the time it all settled down and a breakaway of 17 riders had gone we had averaged over 27mph for the first 2 hours of the race. We had Danny Eaton in the break, so now it was time to attempt to find a safe spot in the peloton and stay there…this would prove more difficult than normal as riders were wiping out every other corner on the slick roads. It was like trying to dodge large debris in the road that you couldn't see until the last minute!
As the peloton finished the 75 mile loop and entered the small circuits, our numbers had greatly diminished. Everyone was nervous as they knew these loops are where the winner would make his move. The big issue with racing in the rain is not only the slick roads and keeping your bike upright, but also the fact that you need to break for 3-5 seconds longer every time as the first few seconds is just wiping water off of your rims. We came into town and things started to really get sketchy. All of a sudden there are cars parked along the road and the road winds through traffic furniture. I am moving up on the outside as we start to descend a little bit to go under a bridge. I am squinting through the rain when I see a course marshal standing with his hand out at us to “stop”… at first I think there is no big deal, he will move but then out of the corner of my eye I see the flashing lights of an ambulance coming onto the road in front of us at about 35 mph.
As soon as this happens everybody grabs their breaks and the rest is history as rider after rider starts to crash. I hold it up as long as possible before landing on top of a pile. I jump up, asses myself and my wrist twice before grabbing my bike, checking on the guy I landed on and racing back to the front. Adrenaline is pumping as the rain bares down, pounding against my face while the grey backdrop of the sky shows no relent in the near future. Just as I am getting back up to the field another crash happens as there are train tracks that are nearly parallel to the course. I am lucky enough to not be taken out and make it over safely as I continue my mission back to the front. We cross under the finish line for the first time and then reach the bottom of the climb the first time. Everyone is tired after chasing back after the carnage that was the last few miles and we throw all of the energy we have into the climb. The climb is 3.5 miles with an average percentage of 5.2 but kicks up above 10% at times. The first time over the climb trims the field down majorly as we reach the top with only about 30 riders.
The descent is rough, slick and technical. This continues to trim down our group as 5 or so riders crash out on the way down to the finish line. I am very cautious on the descent, giving space to everybody as I try not to take too many risks with my wrist. The race continues on as we go up the climb once more losing more riders. I am starting to feel the lack of racing in my legs as we reach the top. Another descent and now we are a group of maybe 20 or so. As we start the climb for the third time I am really hurting. About half way up I lose contact with the group. Now it will be a test of my mind as my body is nearly at its limit. The last two laps are hell; I ride in with Sean Bennett feeling completely smashed, but accomplished. 190 riders started the fay 5 hours previously and I am one of the surviving 42. As I slow to a halt after finishing my dad and good friend from high school are there to greet me…they had also been standing in the torrential down pour for nearly 5 hours. As I climb off the bike all of my body cramps. My hands are so prune-y that I am not sure they will return to their normal state. The race had not just been tough on me.
Danny Summerhill of UHC had won, but he crashed 3 times in the process. Colin Joyce, my teammate today riding for the national team had finished 5th and won the best young rider award. We were the only two USA riders to finish the death march. Once back at the hotel to take a much needed hot shower (before the 5 hour drive back to the World Championships base in Charlottesville) we all told our war stories, exaggerating a bit of course, of what we had seen during the day, people flipping into ditches, ambulances pulling out in front of the field, freshly paved chip n seal roads, and slick train tracks taking their toll. After a race like that, looking back, all you can do is laugh and smile…there are just so many times during the race where it was just so crazy that there is nothing you can do. Everything had come together to create the ‘perfect storm’ for the 5 hours that we raced as the rain started to peter out as we made our way from the hotel. I crashed in the car as the day had taken its toll on me. My head hurt from intensely focusing, worrying about my wrist. My body hurt from being stuck in one position for hours on end, every movement causing a muscle spasm somewhere. Now it was time to relax and look forward to whatever comes next.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The pathway forward

As I came screaming into the mess of riders crashing in front on me only 2 km into the race...I found myself in that moment where everything slows down and you can nearly control the uncontrollable.
Gripping my brakes as hard as I can, attempting to find any sort of traction in my tyres as they slide across the road like sheet of black ice. All of a sudden I feel the bike stop as I go flying over the handlebars on to the asphalt at nearly 40 mph. I quickly get up to assess myself as well as get out of the path of the riders behind me who are continuing to crash, but I immediately sit back down once out of the road, something is wrong. 7 days earlier, I had been sitting in a cute Italian hotel room with air conditioning (unusual in Italy, but much appreciated in the 100 degree heatwave), recovering with gelato and pizza while planning the perfect lead into the end of the year. My entire season changed after crashing at Trofeo Alamar.
I had just finished up Val d'Aosta with BMC a week before, and I was now with the National team for the rest of the year. After Trofeo Alamar, I was planning on doing a training camp in Nice, FR before flying to the Tour de l'ain to polish off my form before L'avenir and then Worlds. The thought had never really crossed my mind that I would not be able to race L'avenir for some reason, my entire year up to this point had been a build to be in top shape when l'avenir came around...I was not mentally prepared for the latter. The first few days after the crash I tried to be as positive as I could to the people around me, I would say that "crashing is just a part of racing" or "ill be back soon, but the reality was that inside I was in complete denial as to what had just happened. I didn't want to believe it. A few days after getting back home, I told myself I needed to find a new attitude about the situation I was in. I had surgery on August 6th, and had a 22 mm screw put in to my 25 mm long scaphoid bone. As I recovered from the surgery I began to find that new outlook. Walking around feeling sorry for myself and the shitty situation I was in would not help anything. I began to rebuild my season from the end.
From the day I crashed in Italy on July 26th, I had 8 weeks until the World Championships. This became my new carrot. I started to work with everyone that I could think of to expedite the healing process. Lucas (my coach), helped me to create a week by week plan to keep my legs in shape. Four days after surgery I was back in the gym with Marc Mueller or Powercycling, being creative to keep me in shape without being able to hold weights. I started to go to hand rehab with Brian Adams and saw immediate results as I worked everyday on my hand. I talked to 3 doctors, getting each person's thoughts as well as their opinion as the best way forward. Worlds was all I could see now. In the end one of the most important pieces to this puzzle was Mike Sayers (National Team Director), he gave me the chance to make worlds a reality by telling me I could qualify at a race in Pennsylvania 10 days before the race. I was back and motivation was high.
My mentality had changed, I started to see that as I began the climb back to form, I needed to use and see this as an opportunity rather than a setback. I made sure to relax and destress, something that is hard to do during the season. I have taken all the chances I have to enjoy the lake and boat, hangout with my brothers as well as friends. I took everything that I saw as drama and stress and tossed it. I focused on being fully recovered and rested as worlds comes around as I know most of the guys who are going to do well there are going to be tired after a long season, as I would have been. If the wrist heals in time, I will be ready. Now, three weeks post surgery I am back riding outside full time. The possibility of racing worlds in America for the first time in nearly 30 years fuels me a lot. It was hard to say at first but, if in the end I do not get to race worlds, yes I will be very disappointed, but I will also be at peace. I will know I have done everything that I can to make the team. I have learned a lot from this experience so far.
I can now see how fragile the sport of cycling is, I can nearly taste the pro ranks but I am still far from actually making the jump and an injury that takes you out for a big portion of the season really gives you a new vantage point and motivation for the following season. You need to seize every opportunity that you can. My father used to tell me to listen for the train of "opportunity" because when it comes it is moving fast so you need to be ready to jump on! I think this quote is very accurate because sometimes you just cannot see what's ahead of you, but if you listen hard enough you just might be ready. Life is about the chances you take, although the message inside of this post is jumbled as I was just writing down my thoughts, I think my main point is to never give up and never stop believing in yourself. I have been lucky enough to have some amazing support around me the last month and I look forward to hopefully being in Richmond, VA for the World Championships in September! Lastly, here is a quick interview I did post crashing. Take a look if you want some more reading, how I got into the sport and where I want to go: Keep your eye out for more posts as I the race draws closer! Thanks for taking the time to read. Hopefully after reading this you can start to listen for the train...because they are always coming!