Homeboy: Reflections From Home?
The following was written in a jetlagged delirium while jacked up on coffee. I apologize for any incomprehensible rants and the like. It was very hard to try to capture the pure magnitude of this past year in a relatively short journal. Please enjoy … I’ll have about three more journals before the end of the season.
A year for the books!
If I had to define this year in a sentence it will be: “The end of the beginning and the beginning of the end.”
This was a year that changed me. I write this now from my local Starbucks cafй, a very fitting Americanized place to start my reflection of last year. I sip on my Grande non-fat, no whip Mocha and think back to my arrival, South Africa.
South Africa for me was my place for revival and rebirth. I left for there to place myself into an environment where my changes into becoming a road rider could take place. I also went for a more broad and profound reasons of personal discovery and adventure. I sweated away 15 pounds, road myself into the ground, and learned about living in a different culture and environment.
Most of all I need to thank Sheldon and the Bole family for the generosity in allowing me to live with them. I was able to take away so many lessons on life and people from living with them. They helped to change me.
My fondest memory during my time was the road trip I took from Johannesburg to Balitto. It was a three-day journey through the heart of South Africa. Everything from the 260 kilometer epic ride on the second day to the rolling hills of Kwazulu-Natal, which I regard as the most beautiful area to date that I have ridden through, are memories for a lifetime.
Riding on the left side of the road, Christmas vacation on the beach, races with 4000 people, and living at the top of a 1 kilometer climb are my next best memories. The 5 months I spent in South Africa laid down a foundation for my whole transformation to a road rider.
Europe € Belgium € Oostende € Cycling Center
While in South Africa I ran across a posting for on an Internet news group for the Cycling Center in Belgium. It was a program for American riders to race and live in Belgium run by Ann and Bermard Moerman. I contacted Bernard and e-mailed a friend who’d been there to find out if he was for real and it checked out. I still had my doubts, but went with the program.
Upon arrival I felt at home and any doubts went out the door. At the beginning of the year I set goals for my development during. By the end of the year I had doubled in the development I had planned, all because of the Cycling Center. I could go on, but if you have been reading these journals you know the races and trials have been through. I feel in debt for life for the dedication and support Ann and Bernard have given me.
Then there are the teammates – through the rough and bad to the smooth and the good they were some great times. I truly believe that almost everyone came away from the Cycling Center a different person, well at least those of us coming back. At first we didn’t all get along, but we all came together to form a team not by association of jerseys but from a common friendship and suffering. We went into the war zone with guys we could rely on. I look forward to next year when we are going to be able to enter the war zone with bigger guns, more ammo, better intelligence and some extra tricks up out sleeves.
Belgium became my home for me. I don’t know what it is, but I just fit in and the pace of life there worked for me. It’s really a hard thing to explain in writing but it just works for me. I can really see myself spend my years there and enjoying them.
One way to put it would be the network of friends I was able to develop. I found a group of people outside my teammates on the ABC-Aitos cycling team where I was able to escape the monotony of a professional cycling life. Everyone from the t‚Botteltje accepted me and brought me into their group. They were a great bunch of people to spend time with and I will miss them all this winter.
Also everyone from Yurgeon at the bakery to Kathleen and Stefan at the green store were friends. They were people who you became to know, asked about your day and races and were always there to help you out.
Then there is Julie. There is a quote that goes, “You don’t choose love, love chooses you”. Well I am now a firm believer in this. I never wanted to find a girl, all I wanted to do is ride and race my bike this year. Then one day I had a bad race and at the last minute decided to go out with the guys to a cafй downtown, t‚Botteltje. It was there I meet Julie. We talked, laughed, and just had a great time. I don’t know what exactly it was about her that made me go talk to her (could have been the Guinness or the way she smiled) but I am so glad I did. I found that night an equal to me, a Yen to my Yang. This winter will be sad without her near.
So what did I get out of my journey? Character.
Not really I developed my character, although it did change, but I learned what I was made of. The other day Jed and I had a lengthy discussion over some coffee about Europe and how it changed us. When we finished we concluded that the extreme stresses and pressures of racing broke down a rider physically and mentality to expose them to their core. Once the end of the season hit it was easy to see who you and your teammates were.
I read a book earlier this year by Frank Herbert called Dune. In it the Freeman rise to become the most feared army in the Universe. The reasoning is they are products of their environment living on a desert planet, Arrakkis, under extreme conditions. In a way I looked at Belgium as the Arrakkis of cycling. I threw myself into the hardest amateur cycling environment on the planet but I didn’t know what would happen.
After six months I found out I hadn’t cracked, in fact the journey had brought out a new and better me. I went from a competitive track rider into a decent road rider in one year. I changed and adapted to my environment not only in cycling, but also in life. I sit here in Starbucks, a place I use to be at home at, and feel as though I am a foreigner. When I left Belgium, I left home.
I could go on for pages and pages more, hell I could write I novel, but I won’t I’ll leave it at this quote: “Live neither in the past nor in the future, but let each day’s work absorb your entire energies, and satisfy your widest ambition.” -Sir William Osler-