Bigger picture and the small steps

Its safe to say cycling is one of the most adventurous, profound human activities from the recreational cyclist to the elite athlete as too bicycles the greatest man made invention on earth. Am I right.. The culture will real you in, with health promoting, stress reducing effects that stimulate the brain and bring a community together. Also a great trigger (some would agree) to promote a natural guided meditation and focus. The deep controlled breathing, completely exposed outdoors, and seeing the sun rise and sunset, subdue to the elements, all for a good ol reason to get outside. A great form of expression none the less. The bicycle can take you many places to free your mind.

Racing bikes however and specific training can accelerate your fitness to new heights! Tho riding yourself into the ground with every workout, day in and day out wont result much except lower adaptations and simply make your life that much harder.  Symptoms include higher cortisol levels, less energy, perceived added life stress, lack of cognition, basically your nervous system on crutches. Ah the life of a bike racer.

This can be quite the reality check at times, some highs and many lows. Athletes will excel thru the ranks, some faster than others exposing their strengths and also weaknesses. In search of good legs on specific days with key workouts and what events will suit any given rider throughout the season. Everyone has a unique lens in which we identify "success".

I personally used to really beat myself up too much at times, after races. Not getting the result.. a mechanical, a flat, a set back, "Im just getting old". A plethora of valid excuses come to mind and can heavily weigh in on your emotional responses per a given experience. So how can we make it fun again when there is so much sacrifice, dedication, dialing in required to compete with the best? "Get A Coach!" Hold yourself reliable. After all being an elite athlete is more than results, and lots of tough work, day in and day out. It is a reason to stay fit, create new challenges, and can add value to your health and well being. To be put simply if your not having fun then why do it at all. Plus when your fitness can be measured and progress is tracked its nice to get out on the field and put it to the test in competition.


Take my first p1/2 podium for example Madera Stage Race 2016. I was on team Coretechs Elite, the 3rd best team overall in Norcal NCNCA bracket. It begins with stage 1 an up hill TT to start things off. Stage 2 is another TT tho this one being more traditional and pancake flat, Then stage 3. The crit, my weakest link. I had no good legs for the race leading up to this point and was certainly not a GC contender per-say by minutes. It had been raining on and off and the course was wet and skies grey. Maybe to my advantage. For some reason there was a ton of flats and the course had obviously not been swept or cared for. So after tons of flats all my teamates with mechanicals or flats it was just me left for the remaining laps. There were two guys up the road and 2 laps left. I saw an opportunity to jump and so I attacked. I ended up full sprint mode leading into the last lap and still away. Teammates on the side lines yelling GO GO.. I hit it with everything I had, managed to keep my composure and stay up right and into the last turn I had almost caught the two guys in the break and we went 1,2, and me 3rd. My first ever podium in the p1/2s.

Before the start of Madera Stage race stage 3 crit. Photo: Sarah Bonner

Before the start of Madera Stage race stage 3 crit. Photo: Sarah Bonner

The next morning was the road race, known for the bad to poor pavement. Now still I was not the GC guy for the race and was doing work for the top guy in hopes for a podium. I had started the day getting early and getting the bike set up and to my surprise that flat that I avoided for the crit struck the next day. Stage 4 was a cold start but the sun came out to greet us and I was feeling good. Teammate Rob Schell was the protected rider today and as we rolled out he gave me a guy to watch for moves and stick too. So without hesitation moved up and to the front and within no time glued to my marked guy, Jon Penaloza aka JUICE. Juice looks at me and says wana go!? And we hit it hard. Now there was already two guys up the road one being Tyler Pearce aka Vegan Cyclist, always looking for a breakaway and opportunity. And also in the chase with us was Jonathon Baker, strongest guy in the field by far. We end up catching them and had a steady breakaway going and good representation. Also there is 2 echelon stork guys, Owen Gillott being the sprinter and protected guy was playing games and not pulling thru and his teammate was attacking our group. Not the best breakaway cooperation but what can I say neither was I. With Rob in mind and not looking to make this succeed I took baby pulls and just rolled at the groups pace. None the less both Echelon boys flatting and out of the race now. Somehow our work really put a dent in the main field and we ended up keeping the group away till the last lap thru all the rough pavements and potholes its almost luck to still be standing. We approach 5k to go and Jonathon hits it after numerous attacks and I finally cant respond and totally blow up, Juice is able to hang in there, and Im in no mans land off the front, cracked, away the whole race, and at this point just looking to the finish. I dig deep and push thru the cramps but the pain kicks in, legs hurting in a bad way. Keeping an eye on whats happening in the rear view, and just begging my body and mind to keep going. Low and behold Baker had attacked juice up the road for the win, Peneloza in 2nd and I rolled in 3rd. My second p1/2 podium back to back. Its crazy in stage racing how even tho you aren't the protected rider, or in good GC contention how the race really isnt over till its over. And with out GC in mind even after stage 3, going into the road race I ended up just 10 seconds off 3rd overall for a solid unexpected 4th.


Darin Morgan

A blog about traveling, training, and racing bicycles as an elite cat1 pursuing more than the podium