The computer mount on my handlebars is held together by electrical tape. Wrapped in an infinity-like design it somehow holds the mount and my Wahoo cycling computer in place for at least a little while longer. My cleats don’t make a clicking sound when I clip-in anymore. A couple close-calls recently avoiding near-crashes and stopping a thousand times a ride at stop signs and street lights around the East Bay has worn them thin for the third time this year. Shifting sometimes requires a couple extra shifts to get the chain to fall into the right cog on the cassette as the cables are just as worn as the components they support. I recently replaced a broken bottle cage and should have replaced the handlebar tape months ago. I have rewrapped the handlebars a few times with the same fading and worn out grip while the cables readjust and create new ergonomic styles for each work-around I impose. I’ve been trying to hold it all together for one-more-ride. After nine months of racing and traveling the U.S., Canada, and even Rwanda I just need everything to function for one-more-ride for a team and program that helped me develop into the racer I am, and will be moving on to explore.
For as long as I’ve been racing I’ve always wanted to start the season with a bang. This almost always backfires and despite a promising lead-up this season with one of the best team performances of the year at Chico Stage Race, I blew up and spent a majority of the season trying to pick up the pieces.
Sure enough my biggest result came in my last test of the year at the Tour Du Rwanda UCI 2.2 8-day stage race in East Africa. I was released to ride with a Canadian outfit but took all my sponsors with me. I had my Token Wheels, IRC Tires, Marc-Pro recovery system, custom Jakroo kits, Wahoo computer, Giant helmet, saddle, and shoes, Herbalife and Nature’s Bakery nutrition, SPY sunglasses and Zealios sunblock to protect me from the equatorial rays. I wouldn’t have made it to this race without the support of the H24 cycling program and was without a doubt successful because of the sponsors and what they provided.
I started out the race with my first ever UCI win in the prologue and got to carry the yellow jersey into stage one. After losing the jersey I went on to escape in the third stage with 25km remaining to stay away on the summit finish by a narrow 2-second gap to second place to take my second ever UCI victory. I took top-ten finishes in the final two stages and found myself in the breakaway in the final stage around the capital of Kigali where thousands came out to watch for the majority of the race. I was solo for over 50km when I was caught by a 5-man breakaway in the closing kilometers and held onto 6th place on the day and 11th overall in the General Classification. I went out with a bang.
Before I ever started racing a bike I had worked for various organizations in the U.S., Uganda, and Kenya in both a volunteer and official capacity for various NGO, micro-finance, and humanitarian aid groups and have always held a special place in my heart for the people and the region of East Africa. To return almost nine years after I had last travelled to the region and to interact with the people in such a reciprocal way that was uplifting and impassioned through the power of bicycles was a wonderful way to transition into the next chapter in my life.
A few weeks after returning I accepted an offer from a continental team to live and race in Europe for the 2017 season. This team offers me an opportunity to bring my love for cycling and my commitment to social advocacy together as it is their mission as well. It also fulfills the fantasy I’ve had since I started racing to go to Europe and just see what happens when I get thrown into the heart of bike racing.
I am going to miss the adventures with the Herbalife team and will cherish the memories we made travelling the country in a van, sleeping on air mattresses six deep in living rooms, winning and losing, getting sick and getting fit together in what was the biggest roller coaster ride. We challenged each other and we got to know each other. I felt like we were a Breakfast Club group of cyclists from all walks of life thrown together to go find out who we are since cycling is more of an outlet than a career path for us despite how often we are questioned about our intentions.
And don’t worry Phil, I don’t think of you like Vice Principal Dick Vernon. I think we all find our General Manager, or Director Sportif, our gracious leader more of a Yoda character than a, “…You’ll get the horns!” antagonist. You have been incredibly supportive towards my goals while staying true to the relationships with each of us individually and as a team and that has made this experience very fulfilling. But for those questioning our choice to ride our bike too much and scrape by despite skills, degrees, opportunities, and lifestyle a plenty otherwise outside of cycling. “You see us as you want to see us—in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal. Does that answer your question?”