And now, a quiz.
Question 1: What’s cooler than being cool?
Answer: Ice Cold.
Question 2: What’s cooler than riding bikes in Vermont in June?
Answer: Absolutely nothing.
In an action packed weekend, I returned to Middlebury, VT for my ten year college reunion. Immediately from the first invitation that popped into my inbox, I was excited to see friends, just a touch giddy to get back to campus, and pumped to see Vermont in late spring. But more than anything, I signed up without hesitation as soon as I knew that my race schedule actually allowed me to be in the United States at precisely the correct date. No race conflicts, so sponsor obligations, simply time in the 802.
So after leading a trio of spin classes in Manhattan on Thursday and Friday, which needless to say were all a rousing success since they were my first, second, and third ever spin classes (ayup, I am now a spin class pro), I hit the road and headed to the great green north.
Besides building jumps with my brother and neighborhood friends in elementary school and a single mountain bike race in high school, I didn’t get into cycling until college. To repeat a story you may or may not know at this point in my evolution, my older brother Robbie, three years my senior racing for Colorado College, came east for the collegiate national championships hosted by the University of Vermont. I was a freshman at the time and didn’t care much for bike racing, but supporting family is a must so my parents and grandmother came to the road race, which took place just fifteen minutes down the road from where I was in school. Better yet, at least from a convenience standpoint, the feedzone was atop Middlebury Gap, which is now home to the first KOM of the day at the most nostalgic race on my calendar, the Green Mountain Stage Race. This provided a perfect test of my entirely nonexistent feedzone skills.
As the story goes — which I’m the one telling so I can vouch for it — I went to the feedzone with my fam’ and was part of “Team Robbie King”. As a total rookie to the goings-on of this portion of the race, I found myself jogging along next to my bro as I tried to pass along a water bottle and Snickers, excitedly asking “Do you need anything else? Want another bottle? How are you feeling? Robbie, you look great!” at which point, he snatched the bottle out of my hand and tersely emitted “Just give me the f#$&*@g bottle!”
Pshh, been there, done that. At this point in the day, I’ve now seen ten seconds of a bike race and frankly I don’t need to see any more. Roberto looked good and strong, I did my job, meanwhile there were fun things to do on back campus like scope babes. This is Vermont, after all, so as soon as a nice spring day finally arrives to campus, you’d think you’re in South Beach in July.
So back to campus I went, only to learn later in the day that Robbie went on to kick butt and win the race atop the ferociously steep Appalachian Gap. It was a few days later that it dawned on me, Ooooooh, I share some of those genes. Bike racing is actually kind of cool. Hmm… maybe I should get into this sport.. And so I did.
Vermont is therefore forever intertwined in my history in the sport. This is where I found and fell in love with cycling. This is where I cut my teeth racing. This is where I took the reigns to the illustrious Middlebury Cycling Team (home to Lea Davison, Megan Guarnier, Evelyn Dong, Spencer Paxson, and others). This is where once upon a time I was forced to stop mid-ride on a bleak, snowy, winter day, sat down in a snowbank on the side of the road, took off my cycling shoes, and literally breathed warm 98.6 degree air onto my poor, frigid toes so as to not lose my little piggies to frostbite. (Ex post facto update: I still have ten toes.)
In summary, Vermont is awesome. And the only thing better than that is riding bikes in Vermont is riding bikes on a stunning June weekend when you’re back for reunion with friends and friends you don’t yet know you have. Like this cross-alumni peloton we pieced together at the 11th hour for a Saturday morning group ride.
…much like a normal day of work, I found myself working on the front.
With a respectable ten riders at the start, we whittled down the group so that at the poop-or-get-off-the-pot point, only one intrepid soul, Geordie, was along for the full 80 mile ride up to Richmond, VT to visit the motherland of UnTapped. Everyone in the initial group had a blast, although I can’t speak for Geordie who I dragged around for more than a few hours, but at least he and I were rewarded with a surprise mid-ride blueberry pancake stop. Only in Vermont, eh govna’?
Sunday lazily rolled around after a late night Saturday evening on campus — it was college reunion after all, where we all get to pretend we’re still in college for a brief snippet of time — and it was back to business.
Nostaliga, nostalgia, nostalgia all day. It don’t get no better.
Professional cycling is the only job I’ve known, post-college. It presented a disciplined, symbiotic relationship in those four years in Vermont, finding the balance of academics and athletics. I’m blessed to have made this past decade into the career I have. I thank my family, and most certainly thank my brother Robbie for getting me into cycling. I also have Middlebury — both the college as well as the town of Middlebury, right in the heart of Vermont — to thank for letting me taste the sport of cycling in such a stunning location.
I really do wonder now and again if I would be racing a bike for a living if I hadn’t gotten into the sport in such an incredible place.