The First Call: Slipstream Junior Development Team

This post is from Zack Gould.  He reflects upon this time last year and where he is now.

          For years, I had been trying time and time again to become a part of what was then called the “5280 Road Team.” It previously consisted of riders such as Danny Summerhill, Alex Howes, Tejay Van Garderen, and Taylor Phinney. More recently, the team was made up of younger upcoming riders like David Kessler, the Eckmann brothers, Greg Daniel and Michael Dessau.  As the older guys began signing U23 contracts, the 5280 program slowly fell apart.

 After he attended the 2010 National Talent ID Camp, I had a conversation with Michael Dessau about the team. Michael and Noah Williams had discussed a possible rebirth of the team. And so, long story short, the team was soon to be resurrected by it’s savior; Director Christian Williams.

I figured I would send just one more resume. I had been denied so many times previous, I wondered if it was really worth it. I nervously hit the “send” button and chills went down my spine. A couple days later, I received an email from Christian basically saying that he was still in the process of getting the job, and that it was a little too early to add riders, but would let me know shortly. I tried not to get my hopes up too much, but I had a good feeling in my gut about this. A week or so later, my inbox showed “1 New Message,” and little did I know that this would be, to this date, one of the most influential emails I had ever received. I was in. His number was at the end of the email, and I excitedly called it.

Christian and I discussed team camps, races, who were my new teammates, and even Chloe’s (Christian’s wife and everyone on the team’s second Mom) cooking! I was so excited; I had never been to a team camp before, or traveled outside of the state for races except for Nationals. I was so excited to finally be a part of an actual TEAM. Little did I know that this TEAM would go on to be one of the most talented and united teams ever established.

The team roster tied together the previous riders on the 5280 team with GS Tenzing, a team Christian directed and created out of Texas. I hadn’t been a part of either of those programs previously, so I wasn’t quite sure how I would fit in.

As I boarded the flight for my first team camp, I was both excited and nervous. I really didn’t want to be an outsider on the team.  Luckily, these nervous feelings only lasted for a whopping ten minutes.  Christian and my new teammates made the transition very easy. I had already started cracking jokes and messing around with my new teammates. We all became very close right away, but weren’t sleeping three to a bed yet…that comes in a later blog, maybe…Anyways, the camp was mostly to just get everybody together, play some kickball, and oh yeah, ride bikes. I got my first kit and thought it was the coolest thing ever, and wore it with pride every ride. The camp ended too soon, and I was very excited to see all my new teammates in just a few weeks later at Valley of the Sun.

Now, as I write this blog on the flight to my first National Talent ID Camp, I think about the new riders we have for the 2012 road season. I’m sure they all had the same nervous, yet, excited feeling that I had. I know that same exciting build up of packing for camp, the flight, and then the car ride to Wimberley. Most of us just got together a couple weeks ago at a “Testing Camp” in Wimberley, Texas, and this gave us some time to get to know each other. Even after just one weekend, a lot of the chemistry between the new and “old” guys began to grow. And thus, we establish relationships with each other that will last forever.

As I feel the plane descend beneath me, I am undoubtedly excited for the National Talent ID Camp, but seeing most of my teammates again will be by far the best part. Can’t wait!

Cheers,

Zack Gould

How a Good Team Can Be Like Christmas Every Day

The spirit of the holiday season is infectious in a good way.   Families get together, there is giving and receiving gifts, the food, and the general atmosphere of it all is, generally speaking, a positive thing for all.  And I dare say that when you find (or make) the right team, it is a bit like having the holiday season all of the time.

One of the best aspects of a good team is that the riders and even staff look forward to getting together.   Some teams get together only for races, while some set up daily rides.   Some teams are closer to social clubs and have more gatherings off of the bike than on, while others have training camps, event scouting camps, boot camps, and so on.    What works for any of these teams is that the members look forward to spending time together, regardless of how that time is spent.

That isn’t to say that a team has to be friendly to be effective at the races, but those teams that lack cohesion off of the bike don’t tend to have much longevity.  After all, we spend more time getting to the races than we do at the actual races.  Similarly, the meshing of personalities and people can also prevent a team from being successful at all. Stay in the sport long enough, and you’ll experience or at least see a team that looks like it should be devastatingly good on paper, but they don’t quite pull it all together.

The stress of this sport can be killer in that we’re all working so hard individually, and then the races can be so hard, that things are on edge as it is.  Add in sponsorship money, equipment, the actual work time of organizing the clothing order or the team’s race promoting efforts, etc.    That said, there are many teams that do pull it off, and just like families and the holidays, there is that stress of it all, but it is ultimately worth it, because it helps the family come together.  Sure, there’s the stress that this brother and that brother might be bickering over who gets the bed next to the window, or who did the most work to get dinner ready, or who got their race wheels and who had to wait for the next shipment, but it isn’t the type of thing that prevents family from showing up.

While few people actually look forward to bickering and such, it is the brothers or teammates who can bicker about who are doing the most to make dinner happen WHILE they are making dinner happen.  They are doing this while they are preparing dinner for the family.  They are giving their efforts for everyone.

During the holiday season, we all like to receive gifts and invitations and cards and such.   It feels good to know that someone is thinking of you enough that they are willing to give something.   Opening a present feels good!   Even after the bickering over kit design, when it comes in, even if you don’t particularly like the design, being on a good team and seeing that new kit feels good.  Same sort of thing applies when it is underwear or a new team frame that doesn’t fit you well.   It’s still nice that someone was willing to give you something (even if “give” means “discount”).

As we mature from childhood, when we were thinking more along the lines of what we were getting instead of what we were giving, we find ourselves looking for people with whom we can share our efforts.   We look for a group where putting forth the effort to promote a race feels worthwhile because the people it helps are the ones you care about.   Organizing a ride for the team and the meal afterwards is worth it because you get to see those people you want to see and with whom you want to spend time.   You give because what you get back is the feeling of belonging and appreciation.

This doesn’t only apply to the camps, parties and gatherings.  It applies to the actual races as well.   There’s the travel of getting there and the excitement in the car, van, train or even plane.   There’s the energy of the atmosphere at a race.    And there’s the giving and receiving during the race.   Teammates helping each other, and while one teammate may get the win because of a lead out or because the team set it up somehow, all share in the experience.

You’ll encounter some along the way who want more than they give.   There will be the person who wants three instead of two jerseys.  There’s going to be the rider who benefits from the team and then either feels entitled or then expects it to be the case every time, while losing the feeling that they should give, too.    It happens.    Each team, like families, will find their way to deal with such cases if or when they arise.   When the team is clicking well, though, these types of people don’t tend to find their way on to the roster.  When a family is tight, these types of people don’t tend to be raised within.   Often enough, the takers move themselves along when the “better” team or hook up comes along.    If you can’t readily get them to be a functioning member of the family, let them leave.  Or, if it gets to where there are more and more empty seats at the family dinner because of people avoiding them, then you need to usher them out.   It isn’t pleasant sometimes, but facing those situations directly and dealing with them gets everyone back to doing what they enjoy the most.

It does take work.   But when you are in the right place, you are thinking more about what you can do to help and less about how that is work at all.   You think about what you can do to organize a ride, an outing, or even what you can do in a race that can help the team as a whole.   When you find yourself in that kind of group, made up of people just like you, it is like the best Christmas gift exchange, and it happens every time the team gets together!    You end up looking for ways to give, because you want to be belong, and then ultimately, you get back much more than you could ever put in, which is what makes you want to give even more.    It’s a beautiful thing and place to be when a team and family come together.

Class isn’t just about going to school.

Things aren’t always going to go your way at the races.   Some days are better than others, and then some days are just a lot worse than others.  It happens.    Here’s the secret, though…nobody outside of you will really remember the bad days, and you are better off of if you can move past it quickly.

That said, HOW you react to those bad days can set some memories in others that they might not ever shake.

If you throw your bike or yell at your mom or cuss at a competitor, then that will burn into some memories.   If you go over and congratulate and “good game” your competitors, that’s class.  People will remember that class much more readily than they remember you had a less than stellar result.    The thing is, nobody really cares if things didn’t go well for you.  They aren’t judging you as a person or anything because you lost the sprint or got dropped or crashed or…

But if you throw a fit or make a scene about it, then you look like a poor sport.  No class.  You may have wanted everyone to know you felt like you were supposed to win, but all you really did is show that you need some work both on and off of the bike.

When things don’t go your way, just get on with making things right.   If the race is over, get changed into clean, dry clothes and start putting away your gear.   if the race isn’t over, get on with riding anyway, or collect yourself and start putting things right, even if it is just putting one foot in front of the other, or straightening your bars.

Nobody needs to hear about “he took me down” or that your “..derailleur is all jacked up” or any of it.   Nobody is wondering what your excuse is.   Everyone will see how you react to your problem.  Or even better, nobody is even aware that there is a problem.

At nationals criterium this year, I saw a two person crash in one of the younger races.   One rider did the “owww, OWWWW, ooOwwWWW” wail.  The other got up in hurry, untangled the two bikes, and then held the noisy rider’s bike while he waited for him to get up.

After a moment, when the kid on the ground flopped around some more and then took off his helmet and threw it, the calm rider just leaned the bike against the building and worked his way back to the pit.

I didn’t think to get the calm rider’s number, but I’ll remember him when I see him next year.   I’m also going to remember the rider who threw a fit.  But not for the same reasons I remember the rider who had class.

LeBron James air balled a free throw the other night.  His bad shot was on TV in front of a lot more people that will be at your bike race.   He could have looked at the sky or the ground and made a face or hollered something.  Or blamed the ball or the backboard (you guys who blame your bike are the ones I’m pointing at).

But he dropped back to play defense, because that’s what he needed to do.  Move on.

The helmet can also be used to keep in brain cells.

There’s been some emails and calls here, particularly in the last couple of weeks coming from parents and coaches of junior riders. Seems some juniors are thinking that I’ll be their ally when it comes to backing them up to train like a pro and not so much on the edukashun.

Juniors– you can’t train like a pro yet. For one thing, you shouldn’t have enough time. For another, your body isn’t ready. You SHOULD be getting your body ready for such a work load, but that doesn’t mean train like that.  It’s more about work ethic and habits.

Think about it. If you trained like a pro at 16,17,18 years old, and let’s say that you were exceptional and made it to the pro ranks at 19…how are you going to improve? You can’t really train like more than a pro when you are a pro.

Big picture, kids.

There IS time to workout your brain. If you are the most stalwart pro around and get to be such until you were 40 years old or so, you’ll still need to do some job after. And even if you don’t because you were a superstar and made millions (rolling eyes), you’ll still need to talk to people about other things besides depth of your carbon rims and which component group is better. When you are racing around Europe, you’ll be better off knowing that some battle or something was in the area instead of just knowing that Cancellera attacked near there in 2009.

Update– I just read that one of our Continental team riders, Rob Bush, just graduated college.   Congrats Rob!

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