Specialized launched a new Tarmac last week. It’s a beautiful piece of engineering that uses a new “Rider First” method of design that you really can feel out on the road. I could tell you all about how it was the best bike I have ever ridden, how I never felt more confident descending or how I am now a believer in disc brakes on a race bike. I could tell you all of that, but it’s already been said. What I am left with is my experience in California with Specialized and a small group of riders who were in Santa Cruz to test the bikes.
I knew going into the trip it would be hard, sure. Chris Reikert, who I have followed for years, helps run PR over at Morgan Hill and wanted me to come out and be part of the “fast” group of press. We would do about 200 miles and 22,000 feet of climbing over 2 days to put the bikes and our bodies through the paces. I was cautiously optimistic that I would be fine. I was wrong.
38 miles into the first day I was in the darkness. I was getting dropped for the second time of the day, lungs churning hard on hot California air, heart willing, but legs not making it happen. We were only 1/3 of the way through the ride and I wanted to hang it up. Truth is I was outclassed by the people on the trip. I have never denied the existence of my ego, and hell it’s done a lot to shape the person I am today, but on that day, and that mountainside the vision of myself as a bike racer was being compromised.
65 miles later I was getting dropped again, and was riding head down when the van pulled up next to me. Our amazing mechanic leaned out the window and pleaded, “Hey man, you are pretty far behind, want to jump in the van?”
So, I had a choice, the van meant no more pain, no more embarrassment of being outmatched over and over and over. Hell, the van probably had snacks as well! The van had a lot to offer if you were willing to give up.
I look back on that trip fondly. Sure, I suffered like a dog, did my best only to realize it wasn’t good enough. I was dropped over and over again in a multitude of ways. But you know what I didn’t do? I didn’t get in that van, and sometimes, that’s all that matters.
(photos by Alex Chiu)