Consider some wise words from Vulpine model and friend Jon Woodroof. Since moving his life from Atlanta to Amsterdam he’s learnt to avoid wheel sucking and spin through from the back of the pack to succeed and be happy. Life lessons learnt the hard way, his cycling is improving too.
At times maybe more painful than crashing in a crit: the hard reality of being left behind. As a racer I’ve always done everything I can to avoid this. Embracing the struggle is one of the best things about cycling regardless of at what level you’re riding. Loving the challenge of staying in the pack can keep you coming back as long as the tough reality of getting dropped can be used as fuel. Since joining the peloton, the importance of getting dropped has taught me to focus on what gives me momentum. Let me walk you through this recurring theme for me on and off the bike.
Spin to Win!
I see being forced off the back as an allegory that has influenced my life off the bike. By this I mean, life is fast paced for almost everyone and you can’t lead out, all the time. For me personally, the past almost two years have been the most frenetic, fast paced and chaotic yet. I’ve been dropped a few times but I’m still in it to win it!
Losing sight of what helps you keep your momentum.
Back in the fall of 2013, I made the move to Amsterdam from Atlanta with my wife, son, daughter and dog. I hit the ground running in a sales position in a new market with new colleagues doing everything I could to bring in business as quickly as possible. You could say the following 5 months was me at the front of a pack taking primes along the way but still ending with a DNF as that office was closed unexpectedly. I also did my share of track, road & CX during that time learning the rigours and camaraderie of Dutch competitive cycling building some of my most solid friendships ever.
But both professionally and competitively I got dropped. The focus and motivation that had fueled my efforts at work everyday was suddenly gone and I was faced with a fight or flight fork in the road. Fight to stay in Holland or book a flight back to the States. As a family, we embraced the challenge to continue to build our new life in Holland and we kept moving forward. After 2 months of job hunting, I got back in the pack!
Just focusing on the wheel
Call it tunnel vision, lack of perspective of simply wheelsucking: not seeing the bigger picture in a race means poor planning. My subsequent job in Amsterdam was with an amazing startup and my heart was in it. A 6 month contract gave me the opportunity to prove myself. I focused solely on that. I brought in a single new deal for them in that span and as the focus for their new business turned from the UK and German markets, I again – despite my best sprinting – was off the back after a good run. I took a moment to reflect and rather then going back on the job market, I decided to make my own job.
Going slower helps you go further
Base miles add up. You can’t sprint the whole time. Adopting a slow & steady routine is a challenge but when you want to take a solo flyer off the front, you’ve built the stamina you need for the long haul effort. By the winter of 2014, I had been in Holland for just over a year going at a steady pace at my desk and on my bike. I felt confident that I had what it took to start my own consulting business, reapply for my and my family’s visa’s with the new incorporation and began slowly taking on clients. The pace began to pick up quick in the spring.
Catch a draft
I started to fatigue as an independent entrepreneur. I re-realized I can’t take this on, on my own. Of course my wife Stacey has always been supportive ever since I opened my own bike shop with friends back in 2007 but the day to day demands of the projects I had taken began to stack up. I’ve begun to rely more on resources like help from the PROs at Headroom Assistance and freelancers on upwork.com I’m continuing to iterate on what works best and may find myself dropped again in 2015 but I’ll again use the time off the back to plan my next attack : )
I know what you’re thinking: “cool story bro” But this is where the magic happens! Once you’ve got the rhythm and ability to lead when needed, sit in and recover, swallow your pride and accept when you’re off the back, you can share this wisdom with others.
Some of my best moments on the bike are with my son on our #AmsterdamCommute. Riding in Amsterdam is unlike anywhere else in the world. Rolling with Otto, I get to recount our experiences over the weekend, his highs and lows throughout the week at school and random Star Wars character trivia. Of course, his skills traversing the city on the bike as a 5 year old improve everyday but riding for him is not always easy. He has to keep up but when he falls behind, he no longer gets as discouraged. He digs in and diligently builds momentum to catch back up whilst staying aware and cautious. Seeing him grow (on the bike) makes me proud and now his little sister is pedaling no problem as well. She, too, will soon learn the importance of getting dropped & focusing on what gives her momentum.
Featured on the Vanilla blog last year, the Roll Call AMS is a casual #earlytobedearlytoshred ride of designers, engineers & entrepreneurs that rolls at 6:15 Fridays from various spots in the city. Join me for a morning (no drop!) spin the next time you’re in Amsterdam!
What are some experiences where you’ve been off the back and came back with an attack?
all photos by Jon Woodroof – twotoneams.nl