November 3, 2009
We all know that to reach the top level of any sport one must be dedicated to the effort. There’s the maintenance of one’s diet, training and recovery, and then there’s the endless logistics of flying across the country, renting cars, sorting out hotels, and navigating to race venues. Often, all of this seems harder than the racing itself. Doing all of it alone makes everything even more challenging.
This past weekend I happened upon a story of dedication that needs to be shared.
First, a realization: my races are a family affair. I’m lucky to have parents who enjoy coming to races to support me.
My Father often plays the role of pit chief, while my Mother is a fearless maestro of her vast collection of cowbells. My boyfriend, Tim, travels to most races with me. He’s not only my photographer, he also maintains the Ibis Hakkalügis and scrubs the mud stains out of my Vanderkitten/Hot Shoppe skinsuits. Fortunately, I don’t have to do any of this alone.
For the Granogue and Wissahickon races I secured a tent and a stationary trainer, and I was grateful because the weather was cold and raining. As I warmed up on the trainer at Granogue on Saturday, a young man named Bryan Fawley of the Hudz-Subaru team walked up and asked Tim to help him pin up his race numbers.
We got to talking about racing and traveling, and I offered Bryan the use of the tent and trainer to prepare for his race. He had flown over 1,300 miles to Pennsylvania from his home in Dallas, Texas with the goal of scoring a single UCI point. I wished him luck and took off to the start line for my race.
This was a great race for people who love thick mud, heavy bikes and slippery run-ups. When I wasn’t careening out of control on the slick off camber sections I was exchanging my bike for a fresh one. The combination of mud, grass and leaves wreaked havoc on everyone’s bike, sometimes building up enough to preventing the wheels from turning. My pit crew was able to keep up with my demand for fresh bikes and I took a bike every half lap.
After my race, Tim and I walked down the hill to pick up my 6th-place prize money. The Elite Men’s race had begun not long before. Along the way, we watched in disbelief as Bryan trudged dejectedly up the hill, bike on shoulder, rear derailleur swaying at an awkward angle behind him.
He hadn’t lasted but a few minutes in his race, and like many others, he’d become a victim of the mud: the rear derailleur hanger broke from the stress of trying to shift with ropes of grass twisted around it. We offered to help Bryan track down a new derailleur hanger so that he could race the next day, but upon returning to our car there was no sign of him.
While I warmed up on the trainer at Wissahickon on Sunday, the Magical, Disappearing Bryan appeared to say hello and to tell us his story. He’d quickly left Saturday’s race in an attempt to find a replacement derailleur hanger before shops closed for the night.
Fortunately, he convinced a shop to stay open late so that he could purchase a new hanger. Unfortunately, on receiving the new one, he noticed that the derailleur itself was mangled. Worse, the shop didn’t have any suitable replacements, so the owner spent some time bending the broken one back into working shape.
Armed with a replacement cable, Bryan drove back to his hotel only to find that the unthinkable had happened: the seat stay on his bike frame had cracked! Undaunted and undiscouraged, he mixed up some J-B Weld epoxy and fastened the frame back together. Mind you, all of this took place late at night after most competitors had retired for the day. At this point my mouth was hanging open listening to Bryan’s story. I was floored by his dedication to racing and his unwillingness to give up.
In the end, Bryan’s bike held up and he managed to fight his way from the back row into 13th place. He finished only three spots away from a UCI point. Having seen his dedication I’m sure he’ll be getting his UCI point soon!