This picture is a summary of my campaign as an U-23 Elite.
With a clear objective, the right support system and an unwavering commitment to competition, I was well on my way to exploiting my talents. Neither I nor my crew would expect for me to reach such a high level in such a short amount of time.
So after reading that Boston Globe article: Did I impress the folks at USA Cycling? I did.
What about The Killington Stage race? How did I fare there? Answer below:
After turning heads in the uphill time trial (photo above) I consistently climbed in the front group with the likes of Tyler Hamilton, Scott Moninger and George Hincapie (who went on to win the overall).
By virtue of my efforts at the Killington Stage race and my performance at the Hessen-Rundfart in Germany a few weeks later, I was named captain of the US National U-23 World Championship Team. With the help of Danny Pate, I delivered in Valkenburg, Holland being the first North American to the line finishing next to the likes of Thor Hushovd and Cadel Evans.
At this point I had my own mechanics and support staff at the road races but come cross season I took great pleasure in assembling and maintaining my personal race machines. Did I take my bikes too seriously? Some people might have thought so...
... but I knew just how important a propper fitting and functioning machine was. A prime example being the 1998 U-23 National Cyclocross Championships.
Though the course was very fast it also featured treacharously steep and off-camber drop-offs to be negotiated at high speeds. All that spelled disaster for anything less than perfectly tuned machines.
After a 50 minute slug fest the race was clearly between three riders; Jonathan Page, Tim Johnson and myself. Going into the last half of the final lap Page rolled his tire on one of those nasty drop-offs I forementioned. Gone was his race. Tim would sprint away from me in the final stretch for the gold and I would hold on for the silver medal.
Pundits claimed Jonathan was robbed of the win but I was always quick to point out the race was not just "the race". Those evenings upon evenings of meticulously maintaining my equipment fleet were not just for fun.
At that time I began to form key alliances within the bicycle industry. This is me chilling in the Pedros wagon with Tim, my trainer Adam Nisson and the original co-founder of Pedros, Bruce Fina.
This was a time where though my prime focus of day in day out race preparation was intense, I was begining to understand that a strong backing flush with mentors I could trust was very important.
The following year saw my graduation to Team Cannondale. Though the spring campaign was spent racing in Europe with the first euro-based U-23 US National Cycling Team under Noel Dejonckere, I always rode my trade team machines supplied by Cannondale. Why? The same reason I refused to ride on the US National Team bikes (then GTs) the year prior (I competed solely on my Richard Sachs). Loyalty. In cyclings world of "what have you done for me lately" riders, I had a different value set. This value set would reap great rewards for me in the future.
The Cannondale USA team was spear headed by chief CAAD designer Chris Peck. Chris consistenly gave me the latest machines to test both on and off the race course to relay valuable feedback. My years with Cannondale would see the development of the CAAD 4,5,6 and 7. This is Chris and I hanging out pre-race with his lovely wife Heather. Curt Davis who also was employed by Cannodale was a great mentor and supporter as well ( believe he is to my left).
Forecast of things to come...
At this point I was a hot commodity and after some reluctance and a nudge by Greg Lemond and Judge Jones (pictured below)...
... I took the leap to the most powerful (and also the most short lived) Domestic Pro Team of its time; Team Mercury.
Did I impress at L'Avenir?
Yes.Did I earn a spot on Team Mercury for the following year? Of course I did.
But later that fall back in the comforts of home, after a year of traveling the globe, it was business as usual.
Much More To Come,