Things I Would Do Differently

My first bike race was in 1988. I was 15 years old, and have been hopelessly addicted ever since. I was a skinny teenager who wore the same sunglasses as Bernard Hinault. The Velcro straps on my cycling shoes dangled and flapped in the wind, desperate to contain the path of wobbly knees. 

Now, I am considered an old man in the sport. My 23-year-old six day partner Daniel Holloway and I jokingly refer to each other as “dad” and “son,” and there is a little bit of truth in every joke. He is young, brash, talented and learning quickly. His hair is thinner in some parts than others, on purpose: he sports an ’80s throwback Euro mullet. I attempt to impress my wisdom upon him through example and instruction. My hair is also a bit thinner in some places than others, but not really on purpose.

Of course, many times my example has failed and the student has seen the flawed side in the teacher. When this happens, I think silently “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Like so many other promising talents I see in the sport now, Holloway is light years ahead of where I was at his age. He has better equipment, better coaching and better tools, such as power meters, training stress scores and shoes that fit [better than mine did].

The beauty of sport is in continuing to discover new things about cycling, refining and expanding my database of knowledge. I find perpetual satisfaction in fine tuning details and making new discoveries. 

After many years, I still love long training rides, pedaling up the driveway wasted and bonking, celebrating every time I see six hours on my computer or every time I crest a climb with searing legs. I still find joy in the raw connection of mind and body that a long ride can deliver.

For me, racing is not about smashing other people into the dirt, crushing my competitors, or beating my chest in triumph. It is about overcoming the adversity of the road, mountain, weather or hunger, and my own internal obstacles. It is about mastering the sport at the highest possible level. It is a challenge I continue to enjoy to this day.


I offer these thoughts in the context and knowledge that my journey in cycling was perfect and unfolded exactly as it should have, however unspectacular the results of that journey may be relative to the world stage. That is to say, I don’t really wish I could “do things differently” because this mindset is incorrect. Fantasy land historical revisionist history is the product of the modern mind, trapped in a culture that idealizes perfection and output, which is partially an outcome of drowning in content and information, and gives us a constant sense that we are not doing enough, that we are not enough. It’s a mindset that created the Marvel multiverse and that induces anxiety in many younger generations. 

I offer these thoughts simply to inspire younger riders [that is: cycling age, not chronological age] to consider their path in the sport and make choices with authority. 

  1. Hire a coach. I spent so many years trying to figure out the puzzle of training. I oscillated between extremes: Type A capacity for overdoing it versus my internal fear of overtraining. What I needed was someone to call me out on my own shortcomings and push my boundaries. My best seasons were definitely the ones in which I did hire a coach. A good coach is a mirror that reflects what we cannon see in ourselves, and this is the path to true growth. I also held a belief that I had to do it on my own, that hard lessons were the ones I had to teach myself. As one of my best teachers recently reminded me: Bees don’t make honey alone.
  2. Upgrade as slowly as possible. When I was a junior, there was an unspoken race to become a Category 1 as fast as possible. This was a mistake. Take your time and delay each upgrade as long as you can. The best place to learn how to win races is at the top – the top of each category. If you don’t learn how to win in the lower categories, how will you when racing against the pros? Take your time in your path and learn as you go. 
  3. Don’t limit your potential. For the first few years, race as hard as you can. When presented with any “yes/no” question: Should I follow this attack? Should I go hard in this time trial? Should I force the pace on this hill? Should I sprint for this prime? Answer YES. If you follow this rule initially, you will craft forward thinking, aggressive racing habits, and you will learn much more about the limits of your body and your competitors. Don’t worry about hiding your cards and being patient, that comes later.  Don’t worry about crafting a perfect resumé, this is an illusion and if you are good enough to win worlds, it won’t matter what place you get at a local criterium. If you get shelled because you left it all out on the road, that is fine, you are in the learning phase of your sport. For now, when you see opportunity, pull the trigger. This is the second stage of learning, known as Conscious Incompetence in which the fastest path to growth is to simply have as many experiences as possible. This will accelerate your path to the next phase of learning.
  4. Be fitted by the best and check your position. This might seem self serving because I am a bike fitter, but that doesn’t make it not true. So many times riders give up performance or become injured because they are riding a saddle which compromises their pedaling, or their seatpost has slipped, or a cleat has moved during a crash, or their position has changed because they were not careful when they transferred measurements from the previous bike. Go to a specialist, get fitted, mark everything [a silver sharpie is the most useful tool you can own], record everything so you can reference any changes and use the measurements for any new bike build. Memorize your saddle height to the millimeter, and know your other critical dimensions. Managing equipment is part of the craft of cycling, don’t be the rider who doesn’t know their own saddle height or what saddle offset it. 
  5. Be disciplined about your hard days and your easy days. Cliché but true: If you want to get better, your hard training days must be hard. And in order to really improve yourself, your easy days must leave you fresh enough to really suffer on your hard days. Don’t let ego ruin a rest day. Discipline is also about keeping the tiger under the hood on your easy rides. A true professional never lets another rider dictate his training pace. This is known as Intensity Discipline and it is a critical characteristic of any rider who will advance in the sport. 
  6. Cultivate an off the bike movement practice. I spent many years trying to figure out how to bulletproof my body from injury so I could handle a higher training load. For many seasons I suffered lower back pain, knee pain, and sometimes shoulder pain and saddle sores. Some riders seem to be blessed with a bulletproof chassis, but I definitely was not. After 35 years in the sport I can now ride pretty much as long or fast as I want, without pain or discomfort. This journey has been very rewarding and also has allowed me to help many other riders on the same path. If you are riding and only riding, be aware: cycling does not create a functional, healthy body over a long timeline. In fact, it frequently causes movement pattern disruptions from repetitive joint motion in limited ranges and planes that will eventually lead to dysfunctional athletic abilities. If that sounds confusing, the takeaway is: cycling screws you up, and to avoid this you must move your body in different ways that you move when pedaling. It is critical to offset the patterns of cycling in order to avoid this trap and express your highest athletic potential.