By Rachel Thody
Collegiate racing is a whole other animal within competitive sports. Firstly, students already balance a mass of responsibilities. Classes (some can be terribly difficult), homework, jobs, studying abroad, taking advantage of internships, taking care of family, being a good friend, maintaining a relationship, taking care of our own selves, the list goes on. Cycling is one of the most time consuming sports, especially the further up you move in the ranks. Category C racers tackle about 25 miles, while Category A races about 60-80. Hence the time spent on training rides ranges from a single hour to over 4 hours. Not to mention the time it takes to stretch after a ride, clean the bike, and keep up with proper maintenance. What do you do in 4 hours? Some riders even supplement their cycling with gym workouts and cross training. Having people that live that similar lifestyle, who triage their lives on a daily basis and prioritize this sport is sometimes all you need as motivation to go on that long ride, or get the most out of an hour of homework time.
I guess what it comes down to is this: competitive cyclists are truly crazy, and it’s good to have people around that share that same type of crazy. Who else is willing to ride 100+ miles (for fun), throw down anaerobic sprint repeats, crank out a 6am weight lifting session, and bundle up when the weather is gnarly? Or satisfied with making personal sacrifices to attain sought out results in a race or goal? How about waking up in the morning with an itch to turn their cranks up a mountain and then listen to the mechanical purr of the hub spin on a decent?
The people that understand even when the gears on my bike stop turning, the gears in my mind continue to spin; thinking about training, upcoming races, and results. Seeing familiar faces, weary with sleep after being brutally awoken for a morning session, or bright-eyed and laughing because it’s a warm August day and the sun never felt so delicious, is a reminder that we want the same things. The days we sat on the floor of a homestay or in a rental van, glad we had someone to share that space with.
I can’t emphasize how grateful I am for this particular and weird relationship that I share with quite a few people in this incredible sport. My teammates.
Thank you for pacing me during intervals that one Thursday.
Thank you for holding my helmet when I was blundering to zip my kit because I was nervous.
Thank you for agreeing to take the long way back home.
Thank you for riding with me.
Rachel Thody is a current member of the NWCCC and captain of the Western Washington University Cycling Team