Going for it

3 09 2011

It’s been awhile.

I’m pretty sure that has been the starting line for the last couple of blogs I have written…   However unoriginal it may be, it’s quite true.  I love to write, but for some reason the only time I get the urge to post a blog is when I can procrastinate doing something else.  Well, this time there isn’t any school work to put off, no meetings to miss, nor are there any other things I can really delay by jotting down my thoughts.  My reasons for writing this are twofold: I want to update my readers and friends (if there are any still out there) on my upcoming racing, and the other is that I am slightly worried that my English has downgraded after a few months away from home.  I find myself speaking in “euroisms” more often than not.  What does this entail?  Well, let’s just say I tend to “go with the bike” instead of simply just riding it.  I have been “making trainings” instead of just training.  I use the expression “normally” probably every other sentence, and can’t even remember whether I am supposed to say, thanks, merci, bonjour, ciao, per favore, or hello.  The line has blurred between what language I am speaking and where I come from.  I’m pretty sure I am speaking as if English was my second language, the only thing is, unfortunately, no other language has taken the number one spot.

I may be exaggerating a bit.  But, really, I began to worry so I figured a good dose and outporing of proper English language would sharpen me right back up.  So here goes…

The last time I updated was sometime mid-season.  I am pretty sure I had just finished racing the Ronde L’Isard, where I finished 11th overall, much to my disappointment.  My first trip to Europe in the spring went about as well as I could have asked.  I stopped going to every race hoping to get a result, and started going to every race expecting one.  So when I went to Isard with the goal to win, I was disappointed to come out 11th.  I was a little overly ambitious and overtrained leading up to it.  I had trouble there and that was difficult for me to swallow after such a stellar spring.  But, swallow it I did, and got back to racing.  I took a few days off to get my feet back under me, and had a great next two races with 5th overall at the Tour of Berlin and 7th overall at Fleche du Sud.  It felt good to be back in the thick of it again, but by the end of the trip I was definitely ready to go home.  I went home, had a mediocre nationals, and then took 8 days off the bike.

Never have I taken a mid-season break, but it was something I definitely needed.  Some time to recover mentally and physically, and then I got back into it at home in Traverse City.  I had some help from the local Traverse City guys allowing me to tag along for some motorpacing sessions before heading off to Boulder for a good block at altitude.  After a few weeks of crushing myself in the Colorado mountains, I came back over to Europe to start my last trip of the season, and the one I had been preparing for since the beginning of the season.

My race schedule for my last trip to Europe consisted of the Tour of Namur in Belgium, the Giro Ciclistico della Valle d’Aosta in Italy, and the big one – the Tour de L’Avenir.  For some reason, since the beginning of my time in the Under 23 ranks, I have had a fascination with the Tour de L’Avenir.  I would research about it, look at its history, the past results, and anything else I could find.  Being a rider from the US meant that the team has been so stellar over the past few years I never got a chance to go.  To do the race had always been a goal of mine.  After riding well all spring, it was beginning to look as that dream could be realized.  I began to hone in on my goal and put much of my focus and energy towards it.  And now, as I sit here, deep in the Jura mountains of France writing this blog, I am about to realize the culmination of all of my hard work over the past few weeks, months, and years when I start the race the day after tomorrow.  It’s pretty exciting.  But for some reason, the nerves aren’t too frayed.  I know I have done everything in my ability to prepare myself for the race, I just have to pedal the bike.  Fast.

We have a brilliant team for the race – I would even venture to say one of the strongest ever fielded by the US.  We have great climbers, flat riders, and a really fast sprinter.  If things go our way, there’s no telling how far we can go.

For those who would like to follow the team’s and my progress in the race, I’m sure it will be on cyclingnews.com every day, and I will also be writing a daily blog for the French website www.velochrono.fr.  If you don’t speak French (like myself), I’m sure Google Translate will work just fine.

I hope the next update will bring some positive news.  For now, it’s just putting faith in the work that has been done, the hours of training, the days of racing, the strict dieting, the traveling, and just believing.

Believing.  And going for it.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Until then,

Larry

Riding the break in the Queen Stage of Aosta





Sometimes you just have to smile.

25 05 2011

Well folks, it has been awhile.

Not that you would expect anything else from my recent (or not so recent) blogging trends…  Getting one per year out of me seems to be about on par.  And here is the first – hopefully not the only (I’m not making any promises though) – post for 2011…

I came to Europe in March and began a spring racing campaign that was close to perfect.  I was competitive from my first race to my last.  In my first stage race here, I surpassed every result I had ever gotten in Europe – combined.  And from there, it only got better.  My first European podium, followed by more.  Each race, I improved on my result from the last.  My morale was sky high.

In my final race here, one of Italy’s biggest one day races, the G.P. Palio del Recioto, I practically had the win in my hands.  I had ridden the early breakaway, and each lap, our blistering pace shed more and more riders, until there were only three of us left on the final climb.  I drove the pace, riding on my limit through the driving rain, and by the top it was only myself and one other rider, who I kept repeatedly dropping.  We had a fifty second gap on the next person with only 10 kilometers of descending to the finish line.   The win was very likely and the podium near guaranteed.  That was, before I came crashing down in a rain-soaked switchback a few kilometers before the finish…  My morale went crashing down with me.

All I could think about were the other names who had occupied the podium in the past: Basso, Cancellara, Simoni, Salvodelli, Rebellin, Bertolini, Cunego, Battaglin, Moser, the list goes on and on.  To have my name in such elite company…  It was heartbreaking.  The few hours after the race, my vocabulary contained few words, save for an abundance of expletives.  It was rough.  But when I sat back and thought about what had just happened, I came to a realization.  All I could do was smile.

Last time I posted, I was in the midst of preparing for a semester off of school to make the jump full-time into the world of cycling.  I cannot say I knew what to expect, and while I hoped for the best, I had absolutely no clue how it would pan out.  It seems that’s how many things in my life are – I plan on something happening, I hope for it to work out, I make something that is a huge uncertainty in reality a minor speedbump in my mind.  My mother can’t stand it.  I act like everything will work out fine, though I really have no way of knowing whether it will go the way I planned out in my idealistic mind.    Based on the way things have seemed to work out over the past few years, I have to say this method, while not quite infallible, has worked out pretty well.

Two years ago, not far from today, I planned this season in my head.  I would take a semester off of school – but work it out over a year’s time, settling everything with every party involved, my parents, my school, my roommates, and others.  I planned to move to somewhere great to train, with amazing training partners.  I envisioned the races I would do, the results I would get, and the teams I would race for.  Considering the situation I was in at that time, with no real results, no team locked up for the following season, few connections in the world of cycling, and hardly knowing many people who lived outside of Michigan, to someone in the outside world, my plan might have seemed a bit outlandish.  I guess that’s why I never shared it with anyone but myself.

If it isn’t outlandish though, what’s the point of having a vision at all?  Aiming for something realistic isn’t really aiming at all.

Shortly after I created this “plan” I went about seeing it through.  First off, at the end of my first season with the US U23 National Team, I ended up getting on an amazing team, one that I could only have dreamed of.   Step one checked off the list.  The next steps came some while later, but it was unbelievable how they just kept checking off the list.  I was able to work out getting the semester off of school.  Some people were more difficult to convince than others, but most understood just fine.

When it came time to leave school for the semester, my teammate Chris Butler had an open spot in his home in Greenville, SC, and I was able to move in.  I could not have asked for better training partners than the guys there – my first ride was with Butler, George Hincapie, and Craig Lewis, the Greenville hit squad as my new roommate liked to refer to it.  Shortly after moving there, I headed off to a great training camp in Denia, Spain, and that went as well as I could have asked.  After camp and prior to beginning my racing season I was probably one of the most fortunate guys in cycling, as I was able train with George every day for almost a month.  That block of training set me up perfectly and I don’t think my season would have gone anywhere near as well as it did were it not for George taking me under his wing.  And I have to thank him for putting up with all my stories for hours on end, day after day.

While sitting in the back of the team’s sprinter van after the race that day, I came to this realization.  Two years of planning, two years of hard work, two years of unwavering belief, and it was all finally culminating, transforming into results.

I smirked.

But not for long.  Yes, I got plenty of results.  I did as well as I, or anyone could have asked, and I was psyched about that.  The vision I have, however, includes a pro contract by the end.

So, until then,

-Larry

Leading the field at Tryptique Monts Chateau - © Casey B. Gibson 2011





It’s Funny How Things Change

19 10 2010

Well, it has definitely been awhile since my last post.  Much has happened from then until now, although I don’t know if I could fit it all into a blog post… Even if I tried it would surely take over an hour to read and I don’t believe that is something anyone would want to do.  So I will try to update everyone on the past year and a half of my life in a single paragraph (maybe 2…).  For those who know me, you may know that this might actually be impossible as I’m definitely not known as the most concise person on the planet… Here goes.

At the time I wrote the last update I was halfway through my first trip to Europe as an Under 23 rider with the US U23 National Team.  I was in Luxembourg, which at the time I’m pretty sure I deemed to be the most beautiful country in the world.  Pretty it was, but I may have spoken a little too soon, as I have seen some much more beautiful places since.  I had been having a decent trip up until that point, although it wasn’t until the end of that first trip that I really had my first breakout ride at the Tour des Pays de Savoie in the French Alps.  I was able to help our team leader at the time, Tejay Van Garderen, to 2nd place overall, while also posting some decent stage finishes for myself as well.  During that race I saw a glimpse of light, being my first really good ride in an Under 23 race, that I might have the potential to make it to the professional level one day.

Previous to that summer I had spent a rigorous freshman year at the University of Michigan trying to balance a difficult school schedule, a heavy training load, as well as trying to be a part of as many groups and activities on campus as may have been humanly possible.  I did all of this while trying to maintain some semblance of a social life.  My goal that school year was to do what it took to be accepted into the Ross School of Business at Michigan, a prestigious 3-year business program ranked as one of the top in the nation.  All of my high-school career I knew I wanted to go into business after college and that Ross was where I wanted to go.  I somehow got through a year managing a balancing act by getting decent grades, getting over to Europe in decent fitness, and still, in the midst of it all, making some great friends.

Previous to that trip to Europe and having my “mini-epiphany” that I could maybe one day make it as a professional cyclist, I had always really considered cycling a hobby – albeit one that I was pretty engrossed in.  Going over to Europe and racing as a junior cyclist, I had spoken to other kids, all who aspired to be professionals someday.  Whenever I told them I wanted to go into business, they kind of just looked at me curiously.  I guess setting a goal for myself that seems unrealistic has never been something that appealed to me.  I knew that I could make it into Ross, and I knew that if I made it there, I would become a businessman.  Whether I could make it to the professional level as a cyclist, was something I was much less sure of.  Sure, it was a dream of mine, just as any kid dreams of making it to the NBA one day because he thinks playing basketball is fun, or of becoming a rockstar after he learns how to play hotcross buns on the guitar.  I dreamt, but I guess I was a realist at the same time.

At the end of this first U23 trip to Europe, with an invite to return later in the summer in my hands, I was about to realize something else.  I finished the Tour des Pays de Savoie in high spirits, with this newfound realization that becoming a pro might be a possibility.  I went home in high spirits and dreamed of my future as a cyclist the entire plane ride home.  I jumped on my bike as soon as I returned.  Five-hour rides seemed painless, I was now working towards a greater goal.  My mildly euphoric state was cut short one day when, mid-ride, I felt my phone buzzing off of the hook in my jersey pocket.  I pulled off the side of the road to see what was wrong, and it turned out to be a plethora of messages from my friends, all having been admitted to the business school.  I had almost forgotten about it by this time, but could not wait until I got home to find out.  I called my friend and soon to be roomate Thomas to check my admittance status online, which he gladly did for me.

I got in.

I proceeded to call my mother, sister, and others I knew, all while sitting on the side of the road in some middle-of-nowhere Northern Michigan town.  While I couldn’t have been more ecstatic to accomplish what had been a goal of mine for over four years, it came at a less than opportune time.  Just as a dream of mine was starting to look like it could one day be a reality, a goal of mine was accomplished and a future career in business looked to be almost certain.  That was, if I decided to take it.

Shortly after learning of my acceptance, I left for another block of racing out West in the US and Canada.  It couldn’t have gone much worse, as I was overtrained, and most of my teammates, including myself, were pretty cracked.  Psychologically, I probably couldn’t have been worse off going into a second European trip, but somehow, what was about to happen would make my decision even more difficult.  I must have had the perfect amount of recovery and my coach must have really known what he was doing, because in my first race back in Europe, I almost won.  I finished 4th in the prologue of the Tour of Antwerp, one second off of the win, against the strongest in Belgium.  The rest of the trip went superbly, much better than I, or anyone else could have expected.  For a first-year American kid racing in Europe, especially one that had been going to school the entire year, I think it is safe to say people were surprised.  I definitely was.  My success helped me gain a spot on the BMC Racing Team’s U23 squad, one of the biggest and strongest professional teams in the US, if not the world.

I was now a part of two amazing programs – although two programs which probably could not be farther apart.  As I began my first year as a student at Ross, regularly ranked among the top-5 and top-10 of undergraduate business programs in the states, I also began to prepare for my first season with BMC.  I felt that I was one of the most fortunate kids around.  I was succeeding at and accomplishing two of the biggest goals I had set for myself in life – at the same time.  I dropped almost all of my other on-campus activities to be able to focus on school and cycling, as disappointing in either was the last thing I ever wanted to do.  I felt the pressure of everyone who had ever helped me along the way riding on my shoulders and knew I could not let them down.

It seemed to be going well as I finished my first semester off reasonably, not with the highest GPA, but with a fine one.  Much more impressive considering that at the end of it I discovered that I had been suffering from mono for the last 2 months of it, including during my second round of midterms and my final exams.  I then went to training camp for BMC in January and rode very well, again much better than I or anyone else expected – especially after just having recovered from mono.  From there, I don’t really know what happened.  I did decently in school for the rest of the semester, and decently in riding for the rest of the season.  Nothing stellar in either.  While I was studying all I could ever think about was cycling.  And in riding, I was very strong, stronger than I had ever been, and I had numbers to show it, but for some reason I couldn’t seem to pull it together when it came to a race.

Over the past year I learned alot.  Trying to perform my best in school, while being as strong as I could in cycling, taught me alot about both of those subjects, and about myself.  I love riding my bike.  And I love going to school.  I realized though, that I also love being the best at whatever I do.  If I put my heart and soul into it, I think I will be able to succeed at either, but trying to balance both might just not be in the cards.  I want to be a professional cyclist, but I also want to finish school.  After taking a ton of time to weigh both things out I decided that later this year it is time for me to try one of them full out.  I am going to take a semester off of school to see whether it is feasible or not for me to make it as a professional cyclist.  I have been really fortunate to have such a great and supportive team, and one that has stuck by me for the next season.  I have also been fortunate enough to have an understanding and supportive school, one that is allowing me to take this semester off.

After this season, we will see what happens and where life takes me.  It could be eventually to cycling, or to business.  Whichever one it is though,  I will at least be able to say that I gave it my best shot.  I hope to (really this time) keep everyone updated along the way, whether it be via my 140 character twitter updates, or my extraordinarily long blog posts.

 

Guess a paragraph or two wasn’t in the cards either…

 

-Larry

On my way to winning my hometown crit earlier this summer

Hope to do this more often next year...

At the Tour of China opening ceremony. That race is a whole other story...

At the Strasbourg Cathedral for a stage start in the Tour of Alsace

 





Deluxe-mbourg

29 05 2009

For the past two and a half weeks I have been living in a small town called Kautenbach, Luxembourg.  The country is the most beautiful place I have ever been, with vast forests, small mountains, and amazing roads.  The training here is unbeatable, with numerous roads going in every direction, all with great pavement and over challenging terrain.  Today was about 75 degrees and sunny, so the weather isn’t too bad either.

Last weekend I finished up a five day stage race here in Luxembourg called Fleche du Sud.  The race was probably one of the most difficult I have ever competed in, with an extremely strong field of guys from all over Europe.  It is one of the first times I have ever considered finishing a race an accomplishment, something that for me is difficult to get accustomed to.  U23 racing is a whole new level compared to the juniors, but so far the transition has gone well.  Before the race in Luxembourg I raced a 2-day elite race in France called Boucles de la Marne.  In the second stage I made the lead group of 17 riders and was on my way to a great result until I went down on the final descent, my second crash of the day, due to the wet, slippery roads.  I finished the race though, which wasn’t too bad, considering only around 50 of the 130 starters could say that.  So overall, the racing has been great, and should get even better this upcoming week when we go to a race called the Volta Ciclista a Tarragona on the mediterranean coast of Spain.  Apparently we stay in a plush hotel on the coast, so I am pretty excited for that.  The racing should be great as well, with some tough climbs over the 5 days of racing.  

Aside from racing, we have gotten to do a little sight seeing while here in Europe.  While in Belgium the week I arrived we kept ourselves occupied by going to the town square for a coffee every once in a while, and even going to the market in downtown Izegem on the weekend.   The day before yesterday we took the train to Luxembourg City for the day.  It is by far one of the coolest cities I have ever been to, with many restaurants, shops, castles, and pretty much everything you could think of.  The town is built on a sort of plateau, with stone walls surrounding the whole city, each around 300 feet tall.  The walls are a pretty amazing sight to see, and for the few hours we spent in the city, we had a great time.  Aside from that, all I have been doing is just racing, training, and recovering, and I look forward to hopefully getting a result in the near future. My lack of blogging has been mostly due to the fact that we do not have internet access where we are staying, and as a result, we have to walk down the street to the local hotel to surf the web.  It is a bit of a hassle, so I usually only cover the basics while here.  But I didn’t want to keep everyone waiting too (considering it has been wayyy too long since my last post), so I decided to write today.   

I just realized I forgot to explain the title of this post…  While riding my bike the other day (when I come up with all great ideas/what I believe to be great ideas) I thought about how nice the entire country of Luxembourg is.  Everything about it is extremely nice–the houses are nice, the cars are nice, the roads are nice, and even the people are really nice.  It is pretty much the definition of deluxe, and I thought to myself maybe that is where the word is derived from… De (spanish and I believe French for of) and Luxe(mbourg).  Of Luxembourg.  Just a thought.  Maybe not.  Haha, well I will try to update more in the near future.  Hope all is well.

 

–Larry





A Day of Rest? Not for me…

3 05 2009

I am finally sitting here in Izegem, BE after a few flights and a lot of waiting.  Currently, I am in the middle of the toughest aspect of European travel–trying to adjust to the time change.  My flight left yesterday, May 2nd, from Traverse City at 10:30 in the morning, and arrived in Brussels at 7:30 am today, May 3rd.  The fact that I got to Belgium at 7:30 makes the time change that much harder because I am not really allowed to go to sleep until it is night here, or else my sleep schedule will be out of whack.  That means I have to stay up for another 9 hours at least–meaning I will have been awake for a total of around 30 or so hours… Not too cool.  

Yet this staying up would normally be a pretty easy task–get here, unpack some clothing, fold it up nicely, make sure the bike fits well, go for a nice little ride, maybe come back and go to the grocery store…  This is not the case, however, as my suitcase was lost along the way (apparently not lost, just diverted to Germany), and it is Sunday.  The first part is probably the lesser of the two evils because it only limits me from unpacking, but the fact that today is Sunday closed many possible time wasting doors.  First of all, no one works on Sunday in Belgium.  That means that there is no one here to build my bike, or get it out of the closet if it is already built.  This eliminates any possibility of a ride, which would be a nice way to pass the time.  I decided I would resort to go shopping at the grocery store to pick up some snacks for the house–but being a Sunday in Belgium, that is closed as well.  Sunday also means no coffee shop, nor anything else outside of the house.  I can’t even do anything like clean or organize my stuff because I have no stuff to organize.  And I am sure that if I sat down to read a book I would almost definitely fall asleep.  So I am stuck in a sort of limbo here.  There really is nothing for me to do…  Anything active is ruled out due to the day of the week, and anything inactive will make me fall asleep.  So I decided to write up a post, since that would surely keep me from falling asleep (I think)…  It has worked so far.

This is all I want to do...

This is all I want to do...





How time flies…

24 04 2009

Looking over the pacific...

Looking over the pacific...

It has been quite a while since my last entry and rightfully so.  The past few months have been a whirlwind, with classes, cycling, studying, and all of the other activities I participate in here in Ann Arbor.  In January I attended team camp for 10 days in Arizona and California, which was pretty sweet.  We got our new bikes, got in some great riding, and were tested by numerous professionals–a sports psychologist, exercise physiologist, and even a sports medicine doctor.  I came out with a good indicator of my fitness–which was a little behind my teammates residing in the warm Arizona or other climates.  So when I returned home I had my work cut out for me, with my power values demoralizingly low compared to the previous season.  Camp re-motivated me to train and when I got back I put it into high gear.  I went back out to Arizona for the Valley of The Sun Stage Race in February, which went pretty well, although I was still a little off form, and then to the Redlands Bicycle Classic in California in March.  

At Redlands, I finally started to come to form and raced pretty well, considering it was my first time in such a large race.  The race was pretty brutal, especially the first road stage, where there were 30 mile an hour winds and some of the best US pro teams driving it on the front.  It hurt to say the least, but I finished, which was our team’s objective for the race.  I would have liked to make the front group on the final road stage, but what can you do when you haven’t been riding anywhere near as much as the others in the race and are living in a cold climate.

After Redlands it was pretty much school crackdown time for me and I have been in the libraries ever since.  All I have been doing for the past two months or so has been riding my bike, studying, and sleeping.  I eat a little in there too.  But overall, it has been going pretty well.  I have been coming into form with my cycling, I won a local training race, and have been putting in some long rides on the weekends.  I am done with three of my classes, I just finished my third of four finals today, and have my last one on Tuesday.  So once that is done I head home for three days before going to Belgium on May 2nd.

It has been a hectic year, but a good one.  I am looking forward to racing over in Europe and hope to have some good form, and coming back faster than ever before.  I think this year could be my most successful (with cycling and school) and can’t wait for the summer to start.  

For anybody who happens to read this, if for some reason you still check my blog… I hope all is well.  I plan to update this more often this year, so check back soon.  

 

–Larry





Oh, the trainer…

4 12 2008

I finally brought my trainer down to Ann Arbor and have begun the indoor intensity part of my winter training…  For those of you who don’t know, a trainer is something you hook your bike up to that makes it stationary.  I feel bad for my roommate, with two bikes, a trainer, floor pump, and so much other bike gear in our room, it is pretty hard to move around.  Luckily he’s a trooper though and never complains about it.  I try to keep it out of the way and I am doing a halfway decent job…

The other day was my first time riding in the dorm room and let’s just say it was an interesting experience.  I had to angle my bike a certain way so it could actually fit and I so had a decent view of the tv.  I have to watch something while riding the trainer because otherwise I would die of boredom… My DVD of choice is the 2006 Tour de France–it is the only cycling video I have.  I cannot watch anything with a plot because I tend to lose focus in a hard workout or interval and never know what is going on.  

For some reason our room is absurdly hot when the window is closed, so about halfway through the workout I decided to open the window and the door, so a nice draft would blow through… Unfortunately it was not only a nice draft, it felt like a winter storm had blown in from the North Pole. When the door in our room is opened all the way and the window is as well, the wind flies in.  And that is just what it did.  Snow was literally blowing past me (yes, I was inside) and the cloud of steam surrounding me got larger with every breath I took.  It was quite the sight… Unfortunately I did not have a camera to take a picture with… Maybe next time








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