Should I go or should I stay...


A decision every athlete has to make, the phone call no one wants to get. In July of 2015 I was encountered with a decision that I will reflect on for a lifetime. I just upgraded to cat 2 status, and was headed toward the river ride (a race ride in Sacramento CA). I was chatting with Jason Grefrath before hand when he mentioned "hey you should go for the cat 1 this year, why stop now". I had every intention to go for it and after thinking about it a bit that's just what happened. So my focus was directed toward Cascade Cycling Classic in the cat 2 category. Its in beautiful Bend OR and is easily one of the biggest late season stage races in America.



As an athlete we all make decisions that will affect our future, sacrifice family time, work/career, social life, training, recovery. It all comes down to play tho on race day. All the time spent, energy output, geared toward that next event. But what drives you? a past failure.. a common goal.. that next event? In cycling and bike racing if you cant stand failure, then you are in the wrong place ladies and gents. So I started out with a descent TT in mind and some good road race training. Not sure what to expect or how my form was going to be, none the less knowing it would give me a good shot at some points/results.

I was riding for MDW {Michael David Winery} at the time. A team based out of Stockton/Lodi area. Most the team members are masters riders and some cat 3 and 4s. So id be doing the race solo, not ideal, but why not right... I needed to find a ride out there, and get the race logistics figured out. Where to stay? caz host housing was gobbled up and mainly geared for the pro race. After some desperate planning, I decided to head up with the Amain cycling team in their RV and we would all split gas to keep our costs at a minimum. It was a solid set up and a great experience basically living out of the camper and in the woods the whole time, and with a great group of riders/dudes.

This was my second year taking racing "serious" and to get a result here would be the biggest achievement yet. I had been doing some last min races to get the legs prepped and ready for what was to come. A stage race at altitude with tons of climbing thru the amazing cascade mountains. Yes please!!

With all my bags packed, legs pretty good, taper in full effect, and about to journey off. Out of the blue, I get a call from my little sister Elizabeth crying and telling me "did you hear about dad? He is in the hospital right now with a case of diverticulitis". Diverticulitis is a disease of inflammation in one or more small pouches in the digestive tract. Now my dad at this point did not tell me anything was going on leading up to this and says he is fine and all is well, (like always) and not to worry! Ummmm, My dad has always been in descent health so this was a shocker to the whole family. So at that point I call dad! With my bags packed, literally about to leave the house and head up north, I almost call the whole thing off. He says no don't do that! "I am just fine son, go to the race" he insists, "this is an important time for you, you can do this!". Its one of the hardest calls to make when you are away form home. As an athlete we are all at one point or another going to have to make calls when family gets sick or something happens when at competition or no where near home. I take one big gulp and say "ok dad this one is for you" And im off...

Stage 1 Crooked River TT

I went into this with a forward focus and obvious determination. To make my time here count and with something to show. With some solid tt training and a good warm up, I headed to staging. I had borrowed a bike an aero helmet for this effort, and had minimal training on the tt bike itself. So missing out on seeing dad and thinking of him first and foremost, my head was totally in the game.

I managed a 4th place that day and was mostly satisfied with my effort which in turn put me in a good GC contention for the stages ahead. I managed 355 watts, at 34 min, with a 28.8 mph speed. Nothing comes to mind, more than racing now, for dad...  Im going to dedicate this race to him! I held onto that mind set for the entire race and used it as fuel which in turn gave me those extra watts when it really counts.

cascade race for dad

Stage 2 Cascade Lakes Road Race

Basically a gorgeous 100 mile road race with stunning views and a healthy 5000 ft elevation gain to make this one of my favorite road races to date. The race really not to fast or hard we even got neutralized by some riders from the cat 3 race, in a break. I was getting anxious for a move and just rolled off the front. After getting passed by a slower category and a few attacks we finally start racing for good now, almost half way thru the race. Its crazy how much everyone wants to just sit in, in a race, like we all came out here to race and have a good time, lets make the race interesting.. Whatever. My main focus and attention to detail is second to none so nothing can throw me off. After all I want this win more than the next guy.

We do a 2 lap section thru the forest, which has a hairy left hand turn and on the 2nd lap there is loose gravel and half the field goes super wide this time.  Im barely managing to stay up right as a rider is pulled like a magnet toward my front wheel. His spokes from his wheel plucked the skewer cap from my front wheel clean off and I almost go down. Now on any other day the chances of going down here are pretty good. Right now tho nothing was going to throw me off. In stage racing the GC rider has to watch his moves and be extra careful because any wrong encounter can cause one/a team the whole race.

Not even a flinch from me, im ready for anything. Front wheel has a bit of a wobble at this point, and bike is still rolling.. we're good to go. Coming into the finish are a set of climbs to the summit and a left hand turn, sprint finish. Rolling beside Anthony Ferretti, we take a turn onto the last climb the pace is so high up front and just about loose contact with the climbers. I dig real deep as did Anthony and we held on to the top end pace and legs screaming for mercy. This effort would almost be the race winning move. As we approach the top of Mt. Bachelor its a sweeping left hand turn and 500m sprint finish. I jump late and just miss top 10. Anthony on the other hand kills it and nails a 2nd place. After almost getting dropped we hung on and turn it around and he gets on the podium and I move up in GC to 3rd. Solid day!



Stage 3 Downtown Crit

In stage races the crit is usually in a downtown area with tons of spectators, and its later in the day. I headed out for a spin up Mt bachelor to see the views from the day prior and enjoy the scenery, rather than at race pace. Onto the crit. My first call up in a big-time stage race was today. I was stoked, and also a bit nervous, not for a result but to just stay up right. Like any other crit,  and no aspirations for a result, and crazy anxious to hold onto GC the whistle blew. My whole goal here was to save something in the tank for the next day. I did just that.. avoided any danger and finished with the main field. Wheeew.. Mission accomplished. blah blah blah sprint finish!


Stage 4 Awbrey Butte Road Race (circuit race)

A tough day at hand, we had nothing but late day starts, and time before and after to recover and prep for the next day. With a late crit finish and the circuit race with something silly like a 730 am start that was freezing, and overcast, everyone is cranky and ready it to be done. None the less holding on to my 3rd place GC there is not any room for error today. This race is one of the hardest if you ask me, its 5 laps of rolling mountainous back roads with another 5000 ft elevation with a mere 65 miles. A tough endeavor for most and slim chances of survival for the weak. I am lazor focused and glued to my GC guys. The rider in 4th place was attacking every lap, every hill, everywhere. I only followed a few of his moves and just watch him destroy himself in desperation for a gap. On the finish of after 5 laps we turn off to a short but super steep climb to the finish which we never get to see til the end of the last lap. Last lap comes and all the GC guys move to the front for efforts only someone with winning in mind would have left. Now pro- Cory Lockwood was also out there and on the 1st day he destroyed everyone on the tt by minutes. A huge lead he would hold onto for the whole race. He has been training for REM (race across america) and was the strongest man in the filed by far. It was great riding with you man. Crazy how you moved thru the ranks. Impressive!

As we approach the left hand to the finishing climb the 4th place rider goes for another attack yet again, but Im not letting up. I end up passing him and landing a 9th place on the stage. As the race is over Im not sure what to expect. Im pretty sure I held onto the lead, and wait patiently over the next hour for the final results. They call my name ou to the podium, and I secured 3rd place. Im literally in tears walking to the podium knowing I made my efforts count, and something to show for it. This would be my first points as a cat 2 and a few months later I gathered the rest of my cat 2 points and get the cat 1. I was only a cat 2 for a matter of months. What a feeling it is to finally achieve your goals and to keep pushing higher heights is a huge feeling of joy and feeling of success.

This success was from being away from home when dad was sick, making the short time we have here count and with something to hold onto and show for it that no body can take away.

Darin Morgan

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