Catching Up with Litespeed at the Georgia Games
Lying in bed with the smell of fresh Starbucks coffee brewing, I stare out the window, only to see drops of rain falling after days…no, weeks of rain. Almost every day the rain comes…with scattered thunderstorms, not just drizzles, but sporadic downpours. I can’t believe it. Another awesome morning ride canceled. Only one group ride completed this week and none managed on my own…except on the stationary bike at the gym. When will the rain ever give me a break to cycle? I wonder if the Georgia Games Criterium is canceled. Then, I remember missing the Historic Roswell Criterium, a seriously heavy rain hit that criterium and no cancelation. I learned that day that a criterium goes on rain or shine, so I face the fact that I have to get up, eat breakfast, and hit the road. After all, I don’t want to miss the Georgia Games Criterium. After eating an awesome breakfast with pancakes, bacon and eggs, packing my workout bag, I head for my car. Howie, my boyfriend, comes running out of the house saying “You forgot the lunch I made. I made you a meatloaf sandwich. Packed some carrots and cucumber as well.” I thank him and hold him tight…slowly releasing him but still locking eyes, say, “I will miss you. I wish you weren’t on call and could come with me.” He replies, “I don’t want to be away from you either. I love you so much.” (Perhaps, his true disappointment stems from the rain as well. Since it is raining, he can’t even use this time apart to cycle more!) Waving goodbye, I hop in the car and head towards I-20 in the rain.
The whole way to Marietta, it rained lightly. I drove slowly as I have never driven to Marietta, and the time spent driving gave me time to meditate on the fact that people were racing in this wet and slippery weather. Racers were getting wet and risking serious injury to their body to compete. How much does this sport mean to racers? Not only are they risking their own bodies, but they are risking their own bikes…expensive bikes…thousands of dollars expensive! Here I am being so careful in my 2003 Chevy Cavalier, probably not even worth as much as my Felt Z-85, and I am scared of wrecking. I am driving slowly…giving plenty of room to other vehicles. I have insurance on my car and though not much…I would get some money if anything happened. I don’t think a bicycle can even be insured. Now, even though most of the racers most likely…at least I hope have health insurance, it is still not that reassuring. Think of the risk? Bodily harm to themselves and damage to a piece of property that they use all the time and enjoy. The hours spent on the bike each week is the equivalent to a part time job, which in itself raises another question: why? For a lot of these men and women, they have families and full time jobs…some own their own businesses. How do they have time to cycle? Better question. Why make time the time to cycle? What does it give back? No relationship is a one way street…for long. As I contemplate all of this, I pull up to the industrial park with lots of brick buildings and parking lots (also the location of the Tuesday Night Crit). I realize I am close as I see the bicycles pass by and the orange cones blocking thru traffic. Slightly confused, I ask a race official where to park as I notice no signs at all. The official points to the next turn in and I find a parking spot without any problem. I know it is raining but it kind of disappoints me that more people aren’t here to cheer for their sacrifices, risks, training, and natural talent. Happy to be here myself, I get my camera and walk down to watch the last couple of laps of the Men Pro 1/2 race.
Few people sprinkle the tree-lined street to watch the race, what appears to be a crowd of mainly wives, girlfriends, children, fellow teammates and other racers out to support their friends or loved ones. No food booths or live bands shower the streets to draw in the crowds at this criterium. However, there is good music. Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” blasts through the speakers. I think to myself, “I love this…cycling and good music. More people would really enjoy seeing these cyclists race or racing themselves if they would just come out here.” The breakaway flies by and Litespeed-BMW Cycling has 3 men in the 5 strong breakaway: Tim Henry, Oneil Samuels, and Hank Beaver. With four laps left to go, Tim makes an attack and no one even goes after him. Meanwhile, the peloton seems to be gaining speed and catching up to the breakaway a little bit. By the last lap, some of the members of the peloton are trying to bridge across to the remainder of the breakaway and fight for a podium spot. However, with a significant lead even from the breakaway, Tim Henry keeps his lead as he sprints to the finish line, and he is without any doubt the winner (by 30 seconds) and the new owner of the coveted Georgia Games Championship Jersey. Oneil Samuels, fellow Litespeed-BMW Cycling teammate, comes in second place. The last Litespeed-BMW Cycling member in the break, Hank Beaver, is in serious jeopardy of not getting on the podium with his other teammates. All the way to the finish line, Matthew Miller (unattached) races with determination almost side by side with Beaver. It seems the race is in slow motion as Beaver glances over and looks at his opponent. Something as innocent as a glance, practically a natural instinct, becomes magical during a race. It is as if Beaver is reading Miller, peering into the depths of his being and measuring how much strength he has left, figuring out how much fight it will take to beat him. Neither competitor lets off the pedals. They race their race until the end. Ultimately, Beaver wins the battle and crosses the white line first. Miller falls short only by a couple feet at most (not even a full second away from tying with Beaver). Following the top four, a stream of cyclists zip by to reach the finish line and call it a day…or wait around and race the Masters 35+.
Litespeed-BMW hangs out on the course, talking of the race with teammates, and I wander over to join them and congratulate them on an excellent job. Smiling gleefully, a gleam in their eyes, I see their adrenaline is still high. The whole team is, just as one would expect, thrilled at three of their teammates getting all three podium spots in the Men Pro 1/2, and they are happy to talk with me. I ask them to share with me and everyone else why they love to race for Litespeed-BMW Cycling. Hank Beaver does not even hesitate with his answer. Hank says, “Racing gives us a platform to give back. Every year we raise money for a charity called Camp Twin Lakes. Camp Twin Lakes is a camp for children with disabilities and serious illnesses. We also participate in Spin for Kids, which is a cycling event organized to raise money for Camp Twin Lakes.” Besides giving to charity, Tim Henry adds “racing gives us working schmucks a serious hobby.” It is a win-win situation, as the guys are amazing cyclists, genuinely enjoy the hobby, and it gives them a chance to give back to children with serious illnesses, disabilities and other life challenges. CTL provides all the medical treatments needed for the children while they are at camp (1 week during the summer, weekends all year round) and gives special training to all their staff. Spin for Kids is coming up on October 19-20 and has both mountain biking and road cycling for beginners and advanced alike. If you want to learn more, visit www.spinforkids.org or www.camptwinlakes.org. Crank It Up, an event preparing for Spin for Kids, will be August 2, 2013 at Sweetwater Brewery from 6:30-9 PM. There will be cold beer, live music, food, discounted registration for the Spin for Kids event in October, not to mention raffles where you will be eligible to win prizes from sponsors. Join Litespeed-BMW Cycling in making a difference by participating or sponsoring a rider in Spin for Kids.
Another event that Litespeed-BMW is super stoked about is the Litespeed BMW Twilight Criterium. It will take place in the East Atlanta Village. Although not all details have been released, mark your calendar for August 17, 2013. The guys from Big Ring Racing give this a big thumbs up and say they will be there this year. The Big Ring Racing guys enjoyed the race last year, loving the race course through the unique East Atlanta neighborhood. East Atlanta is full of character if you haven’t been there. It is loaded with coffee shops, restaurants and bars that often times have live music. The Litespeed BMW Twilight Criterium starts at 2 PM with the Women Category 3/4 race and concludes with the Men Pro 1/2 at 8 PM. Although it will not be as dark as it was at the Athens Twilight back in April, as the race will finish around 9 PM, I am looking forward to kicking back in a comfy chair…hopefully with a beer in my hand…watching the sun go down as the racers finish the day! There will not be as many drunk college students cheering them on as in Athens, but let’s show Litespeed-BMW and other amateur racers out there who are in our cycling clubs and group rides our support by coming out to cheer as loud as we can. Everyone wants fans and for people to cheer for them. It’s obviously not why they do it…or they would have stopped a long time ago. However, Oneil Samuels tells me that his favorite race is the Athens Twilight because “you have 20,000 (really, 30,000) fans screaming, watching you race, hoping you wreck.” (I assure him that I don’t want anyone to wreck, but he doesn't seem to believe me or mind the fact that some people do want racers to wreck.) Above all else, his comment reveals that he likes to have support and people out there to watch him, so let's not let him down. The racers provide the entertainment, but the fans smiling and cheering add to the excitement and atmosphere. I have a feeling that the Litespeed BMW Twilight Criterium will draw a lot of spectators and will be an event worth attending this year. If you haven’t ever been to a nighttime race, this event is a must!
The last thing I ask the Litespeed-BMW Cycling guys about is training advice. Racers, despite what a lot of people say about roadies, have been really nice and helpful. Everyone that I have talked to (besides one person who was angry because of bad race decision…my bad) has been willing to talk to me and give me advice on how to become a better cyclist. Talking to Tim, Oneil, and Hank, I learn that it is time to start doing hill repeats. (I am a little sad to learn this really works as it does not sound fun at all.) Tim recommends not just going on a group ride and killing it on hills, but to set a goal. Pick one hill. Go up and down that hill. He says, “The more specific the goal…the better.” Hank supplements his time on the bike with working out at the gym several days a week, and he gives the advice, “Rest as hard as you train.” Above all else, I learn by asking how to train smarter that it is time to invest in a heart rate monitor. They all recommended using one for training. (Tim doesn’t have to use one any more since he can tell about where his heart rate is now just from experience.) I just haven’t had many gadgets. I love going out to ride as hard as I can in a group ride (or by myself). I have never used Strava. I don’t own a Garmin. I have a Cat Eye bike computer, but honestly, there are so many other things (lighter wheels, lighter brakes, seat…the list goes on…and on) that a heart rate monitor has been the last thing on my mind. Nonetheless, sometimes change must occur for progress to be made. I will go home tonight and order a heart rate monitor so when it finally stops raining and deciding to have torrential downpours, I can resume training…smarter! For now, I will get on the trainer…in July, and I guess I will turn on the Tour de France for some motivation. Thanks so much to Tim Henry, Oneil Samuels, and Hank Beaver for taking the time to talk to me and for the great advice. Thanks to everyone for reading!