Since this is the final weekend of the year, it’s a fitting time to reflect on the highlights of the last 12 months. I recommend that all athletes spend some time making a list of the top rides, workouts, and experiences of the past year. Sometimes we move forward so quickly that we forget to acknowledge our accomplishments and enjoy our experiences. Here’s my list for 2012, I’d love to see yours!
Best Race of the Year: The Trans Andes Challenge was a spectacular 6 days of racing through pristine singletrack in Patagonia, Chile. I raced with “The Queen of Pain” Rebecca Rusch and spent the evenings swapping stories with a group of great friends and fellow CTS Athletes who joined me for the trip.
Best Day on the Bike: The best single day on the bike was Stage 3 of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge Race Experience. It was the Queen Stage of the USAPCC, from Gunnison to Aspen over the 12,000-foot summits of Cottonwood Pass and Independence Pass. The CTS Race Experience team was incredible – strong, spirited, and enthusiastic – and the roadside crowds buzzed with excitement. The fans atop Independence Pass, followed by the screaming descent into Aspen, were a great way to finish the day.
Best Event: I went to a lot of events, but the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure in Napa, California, takes top honors. Not only is the fight against diabetes a personal and important cause to me, the ride was 100 miles in beautiful countryside, surrounded by some of the world’s best vineyards. I was fortunate enough to ride with and have dinner with the great chef Michael Chiarello (http://www.michaelchiarello.com); complete with the best wine I’ve ever tasted, hand-selected by Doug and Annette Shafer (www.shafervineyards.com).
Top Sporting Event of the Year: The London Olympics and Paralympics. From the endurance sports side, the road cycling races were the most exciting we’ve seen in recent Games, and I was on the edge of my seat for the women’s triathlon! CTS Athlete Erin Densham did everything she could to drop her rivals, and then the finale came down to a 3-woman sprint with a photo finish! Erin earned the bronze medal and exemplified the courage I love to see in athletes.
Best New Records: CTS Athlete Rebecca Rusch winning the Leadville 100 in 7:28:06 (a time that would have won the overall as recently as 2002). Robert Marchand setting a new hour record (24.251km) and new 100km record (4:17:27) at 100 years old! And 79-year-old CTS Athlete Fred Schmid for being the oldest finisher of the Leadville 100 MTB Race!
Best Training Partner: My son Connor. In 40-plus years of cycling, there’s been nothing better than hearing my son ask, “Hey Dad, can we go for a ride?” We ride mountain and road bikes together, he even joined me on the indoor trainers at CTS this week! The training is fine, but the time is priceless.
Breakthrough Moment of the Year: Summiting Cheyenne Canon in under 20 minutes. The climb is 3.1 miles with an elevation gain of 1200 feet, and for the first time in about a decade, I climbed it in under 20 minutes last summer. My fitness was good, but I had really been focused on weight loss over the preceding weeks, and that ride reinforced the notion that to get time-crunched athletes to the next level of performance, we need to get more serious about weight loss.
Breathtaking Ride of the Year: Stage 1 (http://youtu.be/W-bnwxB2fOM) of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California Race Experience started and ended in Santa Rosa, CA and included spectacular climbs and descents through Sonoma County. What I love about being a cyclist is that we go fast enough to see a lot, and yet slow enough to be able to take it all in. I can’t wait to see the route for 2013!
Best Non-Race Race: The Assault on the Carolinas. Get in on this great event in Brevard, North Carolina before it gets huge. The roads are amazing and quiet, the local riders are strong, friendly, and skilled. And it was great to open the throttle with my crew of coaches from the CTS Brevard Training Center.
Best Party: George Hincapie’s Retirement Celebration. Not only was the inaugural Hincapie Gran Fondo a wonderful ride, but the whole weekend was a blast. I was fortunate enough to coach George early in his career, and now at the end of his storied career it’s great to be working with him again through the Hincapie Sportswear Development Team. I have to say, though, that seeing George with graying hair really makes me feel old!
Hottest New CTS Athletes: If strength is beauty, then CTS works with some of the most beautiful athletes in the world. A few cases in point:
Alison Tetrick, pro cyclist with Exergy Team Twenty12
Sonya Looney, pro mountain biker for Topeak-Ergon
Tammy Sadle, pro mountain biker for Honey Stinger
Erin Densham, 2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist – Triathlon
Standout Video of the Year: When the Waldo Canyon Fire ignited on Saturday, June 23, CTS Coach Jane Rynbrandt was above Waldo Canyon leading a small training camp on Rampart Range Road. They were on their way back down to Colorado Springs when the first column of smoke rose from the forest below. They captured one of the first videos of the rapidly expanding fire as they high-tailed it out of the area. I was proud of the leadership Jane exhibited that day, and thankful that our coaches and athletes made it back to Colorado Springs safely.
Best Indoor Workouts: Any indoor session with the Front Rangers Junior Team in Colorado Springs or the El Grupo Junior Team in Tucson, Arizona. Both teams use CTS facilities for their indoor workouts, and it’s awesome to see their enthusiasm and energy for the sport.
Riders Who Went Off the Front: At the end of the year we salute the memories of athletes we’ve lost. Among them were two long-time CTS Athletes: Manny Lopez (left) and Mike Neuway (right). I’ll remember them both for their smiles, their unwavering positivity, and their unbridled joy for sport. Ride on, gentlemen; we’ll see you after a while.
Have a Great Weekend, and a Health, Happy, and Safe New Year!
Carmichael Training Systems