So the big news here is that I mailed off my contract for next year and will join OUCH-Maxxis in 2010. The team is going through some changes for next season which aren't up to me to disclose, but suffice it to say that I'm PSYCHED to be part of a program with such a legacy. Since I've raced this has been the team to beat in the US, and if they weren't winning the race they definitely made it tough for whomever did, and put lots of other guys in the hurt box in the process (myself included, generally). I look forward to being that guy next year, and apologize in advance to the guy in the gutter 100 wheels back looking to the head of the race, cursing my name; I was once in your place, brother, but stick with it and times will change.
Every once in a while I get really intense waves of excitement and can't believe that years and years of work actually paid off and I landed my dream job. I mean, I'd like to say that I always knew I would get here, but at the end of the day, I still can't help but feel like I pulled off some really big coup and that someone, sometime, somewhere will "find out" and take it away. I get super antsy to just START next season so I can prove that I deserve my spot, perhaps as much to myself as to the rest of the world--or at least those paying attention to such things. Because really, I'd like to think of this as just the beginning...
Those times are juxtaposed with a feeling of overwhelming humility--bordering on insecurity--because of the guys I'll have the pleasure of riding with, and the expectations placed on me as a result. A third of the guys on the team have spent significant time in the Pro Tour, many are Olympians, and nearly everyone on the team has won at least one national championship (at least I'm in that category too).
Going through the process of simply getting on this team showed me what big gaps exist in my knowledge of how this sport works; and the longer I race the more I see the necessity of constantly acknowledging one's shortcomings and remaining humble. As soon as you get comfortable with what you [think you] know, you stagnate--forever condemned to the level you reached before you stopped caring to learn from 1). your mistakes, and 2). your peers.
Einstein described insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Yet that seems to be a quintessentially human impulse: how many of us (especially athletes) have lofty goals and expectations for ourselves, yet refuse to think outside the box and break free from the routines we've collected over the years? It's with this thought in mind that I again bring up the most influential cartoon of my life:
These are the thoughts swelling around in my head as I prepare to embark on the next big adventure of my Big Adventure. Part of me wants to qualify all this and point out "it's just a Continental team," or "it's not the most lucrative job," or "it's just bike racing." But you know what, fuck that, it might not be the biggest deal in the world but it's MY big deal, and really there are very few things in life that are so intrinsically lofty that they transcend the bubbles we create for ourselves.
So for now I'll enjoy this interlude and appreciate achieving what few people in the world can say they have: giving themselves and their dreams enough credit to put in the leg work, follow through, and accomplish what at the beginning seemed impossibly far away. We are called in life to hold each other accountable to our abilities and constantly strive for self improvement. Several people have told me it was "inspirational" to watch the progress I've made this year and see what was possible with focus and hard work; I find that hugely motivating, and hope those people realize I'm not special and didn't do anything special and ANYONE can make their IT if they choose to commit. And for those who will undoubtedly try to detract from what I do: I hope you eventually learn your mental energy is more productively devoted to self-betterment, and that lowering those around you doesn't actually raise yourself any higher.
And so I begin my "training" for 2010 next Monday, thankful for the opportunities available to me, and grateful to be paid for what I would happily do regardless. My big goals for the coming year are to: remain humble and insecure enough that I don't become comfortable with what I've accomplished; treat each race as an opportunity to THROW DOWN and learn more how to ply this trade; and pause frequently to remind myself that this is all REALLY great and fun, because as my dad says, "the perfect life is one made up of perfect moments."