Itterbeek. A post from Slipstream-Craddock rider, Jonathon Schilling.

 “Alright, let’s go.” That’s all Christian said. “Let’s go.” Where? Probably back to the house for a training ride considering we had just shown up to a race that wasn’t happening until tomorrow in Lovendegem, and the nearest race was in a town called Itterbeek that was about 70 kilometers away.  That race was to start in about 45 minutes, so the chances of getting there on time were slim to none.   So we all piled into our open-cargo-bay “Sprinter” van which had no seats, no seatbelts, no air conditioning, but A LOT of room… kinda. When you try to store six bikes, six riders, and all their gear in one compartment, all that space seems to vanish into the floorboards…

As we entered onto the highway, we noticed a change in Christian’s driving, not necessarily his technique, but the speed and forcefulness at which he carried out his technique, power shifting and racing the Sprinter van as if it was actually designed to, well, “sprint”. It was around this time that the speculation began among us. We were confused as to why Christian would be driving so passionately if we were just going back home, since we could only see out of the two rear facing windows of the van, none of us had a good idea of where we were or that Christian was actually trying to get us to the lost cause of a race which was Itterbeek. We certainly wouldn’t get there with enough time to dress and register, much less actually warm up, and pre-ride the course, so why bother? However, all of Christian’s intentions were delineated via Grahmm’s (one of our 17-18 teammates who came to help Christian and watch us race) cell phone which was pressed up against the glass of the divider between the driver’s compartment and the storage/bike/passenger area of the van. The cell phone screen said, “Get DRESSED” which was really code for “we ARE racing today, so you may want to get kitted up now, cause this one is gonna be tight..” So, while speeding down the highway at 100 or 110 kph in the back of a cargo van, all of six of us changed into our racing kits rather haphazardly. Since it started to rain outside, the discussion turned to the regular debate on whether to wear knee or legwarmers for the race, or to wear nothing at all and just go naked…(Danny).

We shortly arrived at the race in Itterbeek, and riders were already staging when we rolled up. We all rushed to registration, which was in the back room of a small Belgian pub that was luckily placed right next to the start line. Since there was no line (everyone had already registered and lined up) we all showed our license and with a little pleading and begging and some “influencing” from Christian, we got our race numbers, and hastily formed a “pinning circle” where everyone lines up and pins the person’s number who is in front of them, great for maximal speed, bad for a good pin-job but we didn’t really care at that point.  All of this was while we were given our race instructions from the officials.

We lined up at the very back of the pack, with no warm up and no idea what the course was like.  Thankfully, the first two kilometers were neutral up a hill. Right before the race started, Christian gave me some advice that, in my opinion, turned the day from a “screw this” type of day into a “we can do this” type of day. He said, “We are here, we are still a team, and we can still win this race. Calm everyone down and tell everyone to take two or three laps to chill out mentally but warm up physically. We can still do this.”

And so the controlled chaos that is a Belgian Kermesse began. I had relayed Christian’s advice to the rest of the team by the end of the neutral roll-out and after a couple of laps of understanding the course and re-focusing towards winning the race, we were ready to fight.  By this time, multiple attacks had been launched and brought back, but the real racing was just beginning. I had spent the first three laps getting a feeling for the course, and I decided to jump on a counter attack with two riders that were half my size. Right away I felt different than the three previous races. When I went hard, it hurt, but I didn’t suffer.

Previously, I had suffered through the whole race and struggled to find a way to pull out a decent result. I had come to Belgium with one personal goal–to come home with one reasonable result, a top 10 would have sufficed, some sort of sign that all my hard work had really paid off and that I had progressed from the prior year’s trip to Belgium.  Up until this race, that result hadn’t come, but I was really hoping to change that with this opportunity, and since I wasn’t suffering, I had a very deep and focused desire not to screw this up. So I worked with my two break away companions and realized I was strong enough to drop them relatively quickly. However, Christian, who was standing on the side of the road in the rain giving me advice and motivation, told me to hold up and wait for back up. So I trusted him and shared more of the work with the two weaker riders, which ultimately slowed us down, but in the end, Christian’s advice would prove fruitful. Right on cue, Danny Parks came surging up to our group solo. YES. THIS WILL WORK. Now we had two Chipotle riders in a break of four with the rest of the team either forcing the peloton to chase us back, or launching up the road trying to bridge solo, like Danny did. Safe to say, it was looking like my dream may really come true, a top 5 in Belgium, the mecca of the cycling world.

With three laps remaining, Christian was telling us to drop the other two riders in the group, so we did just that. We would alternate attacking the two, making them chase and bring the other teammate back up to the lone attacker, only to attack them again until the two riders popped. It didn’t take long, and before I knew it, it was just Danny and I, riding our hearts out to stay away from a small, but charging chase group along with a rabid peloton, hungry to bring back the two Americans off the front.  I remember Danny pulling me up the last long, cobbled rise  to the finish. I don’t recall ever going so deep with so much passion to succeed. It was one of those times when you are totally torn apart, every essence of your being wants to quit and stop the pain, but simultaneously, every fragment of your psyche is calling on you to hold on, to endure just that little bit longer, because right now, the benefits outweigh the losses and right now you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The rise eventually ended and the cobbled finish line finally came.

The team let me take the win that day.  I crossed the line first, but it was a team effort, because without the hard work of Danny, Michael, Imari, Noah, and Zach, there was no chance that I would have held out for as long as I did.  Without the determination, team-work, and will to succeed that permeates this team, none of this past year’s success would have come to fruition. Without the hours upon hours upon hours that Christian devoted to seeing to the success of this team, there would be no team. Without the boundless love and support of our parents and friends give us, there would be no teammates. And without the infinite versatility of Chloe Williams, there would be no food on the table, no fun and warmth in the air, and no wildly inappropriate jokes to lighten the mood. The chemistry of this team in built upon the foundation of sharing and sacrifice, which unites us all, and ensures success.

The close-knit unit that I call the Garmin-Chipotle Junior Development team (now Slipstream-Craddock Junior Development) has supplied my with friendships that will last a life-time, lessons that I will be able to pass onto my children, and experiences that changed my life and that I will remember forever. The way WE were able to band together on that rainy day in Belgium, and work together to bring home the third and final win of that first European trip, the style in which we won, was just a confirmation of a reoccurring theme that had manifested itself in this team. That theme is, no matter what, we find a way. Whether it’s getting from Canada to Dallas without a van, or getting from Lovendegem to Itterbeek without any time, we find a way to succeed and over come. And to think, this was just the first year!

Jonathon Schilling is a first year junior (17 years old) from Missiouri.   He’s a two-time national champion, most recently winning 2011 15-16y Time Trial. He’s also 8ft tall, but can’t dunk a basketball.

Adam Croft takes 3rd at USA Cyclocross Nationals

He’s done few cross races, so Cross Nats should be on the schedule, right?   Those first few races were done with his mtn bike.  Nice mtn bike, for sure, but when your bike is more than 1/3 your body weight…

…but he borrowed a cross bike, made the trip from Virginia to Wisconsin, and he’s gonna take home some hardware because of his efforts.

Great kid.  Great result.

We’re proud to have you in the coaching and team family, Adam!

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