By Alison Tetrick,
Pro Cyclist, Entrepreneur, and CTS Contributing Editor
And there I was. Right back where it all started. It was like I never left. A trip down memory lane. I was home, where I grew up in cycling. Where I achieved some of my proudest moments that I still remember fondly. Even though some of the faces had changed, it was still so beautifully the same. Still, there were a lot of familiar smiling faces and hugs to be given. Home. Sweet. Snelling. Road. Race.
Road races, remember those?
When was the last time you signed up for a road race or event you hadn’t been to in years? It’s an exercise of introducing your current self to your past self. You’re trying to let go of old baggage and expectations, and embracing that you’re right where you are supposed to be.
I arrived at Snelling Road Race. I took a deep breath, thankfully not too close to the porta-potties, and soaked in the warmth of the morning sun on my skin. There was a nervous buzz of number pinning, warmups, and the drip drip of conversations about watts, attacks, TSS, and preemptive excuses. Yes. This is a bike race. And this was why I wanted to drive here too early in the morning and show up to race.
The Elegance of the Simple Road Race
It was like seeing a friend I hadn’t seen in years. Suddenly we were reunited, and the familiar conversations and connections were still there. It was seamless. Well, as seamless as running into a former flame you have remained friends with.
I am different now, yet road races have stayed the same. We are still woven together into a quilt of memories and future potential patterns. It was like catching a wiff of smells from childhood, hearing a ballad from a high school dance, and riding my bike on familiar roads that contain more memories than potholes. That is what the Central Valley of California means to me, thanks to USA Cycling and loyal race promoters such as Velo Promo. For my Grandpa it was the Cherry Creek Time Trial series. You have yours, too. Different year. Different you. But the relationship remains the same. Now it is just you and your bike and a course you know all too well.
Spring in the Central Valley
Spring road racing in the Central Valley of California is a mecca for eager bike racers seeking opportunities and fitness. The setting features emerald ribbons of rolling hills, sugary frosted almond blossoms that attract the occasional bee sting, and a few bike racers demonstrating slightly too much early season fitness, all framed by the majestic snowcapped Sierras towering above the ranches and farmlands. It isn’t glamorous, but it is simply beautiful.
Several different races have been created on those country roads over the years because that potholed tapestry is just waiting to be painted into a masterpiece of two-wheeled suffering. And the only glories to be found are a winner’s t-shirt, a visit to the local taco truck, and endless bragging rights on your group ride.
As I raced along in 2022, I could not help but smile at the memories from spending so much time on this magical web of bumpy roads where I have won, failed, and fallen. I felt different, but at home. Road racing was my life and identity for so many years.
Although these days you’ll find me at all things gravel, that doesn’t mean I don’t like to see how hard I can ride in my old playground from time to time. I have different objectives now, but I am still up for a challenge. And isn’t road racing a beautifully brutal way to test your fitness?
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It is okay to re-evaluate your priorities and keep showing up when you want to do just that. I don’t warmup anymore or look at power when road racing. But I still feel nervous and slightly aggravated that the pins put little holes in my jersey.
Going back to Snelling
I raced Snelling for the first time in 2009. I didn’t win. That’s a different story altogether. Actually, I never won the Snelling Road Race until, well, a few weeks ago. I only had one goal, and that was to have no regrets. Don’t look back, unless it is to smile at what was and what will be or see if I can help someone along the way.
As always, my two top priorities were to have fun and be safe. Then repeat. It worked. I won. But that isn’t the point. I was so happy to remember who I was then in relation to where I am today. And what can I do with this knowledge? I reacquainted myself with my younger version out there as I floated along with the time and the effort, even as efforts grew uglier the more the fatigue accumulated. There was snot, mashing of pedals, and questioning of the time splits.
Although I can’t go back and tell my younger self to have the confidence and own her own crazy truths, I can still conjure up her often unbridled spirit. Maybe I miss the fire in the belly of baby bike racer Alison from so many years ago, but I am also proud of who that young racer made me today and that she is still unabashedly within me. I saw her in many of the women racing and I craved to encourage their bravery and fearless strength.
I realized that as different as I felt on that familiar course, I was still so much the same. It was me, showing up and racing. And everyone there that day was doing the same thing. Showing up. I loved meeting the people investing in our sport, especially women’s cycling, and racing on a closed course with my friends. We made the day.
Visit the past, but don’t stay there
I don’t have a lot of advice for you in this column, except to celebrate the joy within our sport and all of us racing, training, riding, and keeping these wheels moving. That’s what pushes our community forward. You may not hit your best power and pace numbers like you used to, but that is perfectly fine. The best version of you changes with age, experience, and the seasons of life. We can only be the best version of ourselves in this moment or period of life, and sometimes that means showing up, pinning on a number, and joining the pack. In the end, we all find out we are exactly where we are supposed to be.
Looking back on Snelling 2022, I was one happy professional bike racer, proud of my former self and excited for my current and future self’s growth. Sometimes memories fall down your cheek as tears and your current moment is more precious than ever. Looking back at that day, don’t call it a comeback, just a brief homecoming. It is fun to go back to the beginning to appreciate where you are now and then plan where you want to go next. Look back with a smile, but keep fueling forward progress by stoking the original fire inside of you. Keep showing up.
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