A Chance Meeting with an Olympic Track Cyclist
Back in 2008, I stopped mid-way through a training ride to chat with the guys at my local bike shop, Bike Religion in Newport Beach. There was a big dude I’d never seen before chatting with John Tzinberg, the owner. They were talking racing and John mentioned to the guy that Bike Religion was looking for some racers to put together an elite team. I was on the Cat. 3 team and laughingly suggested the new guy come on board our squad even though I could tell that he must’ve been a pretty big deal. “Probably hasn’t race Cat. 3 since high school,” I thought.
Some riders, even if you’ve never met them, you can just tell. Something about the ease with which they carry themselves or the way they hold their bike gives away the secret that they’ve spent years honing the craft. This guy had all that in spades with a style and uncommon humility that’s usually found only in truly exceptional athletes. These kinds of qualities are inspiring from a distance and deathly intimidating if you happen to line up next to them on the start line.
At the end of the conversation, he introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Giddeon,” and asked which way I was riding and could we ride together? Really? I took a glance at his slightly faded USA team kit and wondering if this was the real deal. We rolled and chatted about nothing in particular – the weather, the roads. I finally mustered up the courage to ask about his kit. Either he bought it off the rack or he earned it. Come to find out, Giddeon had just gotten back from China. Beijing to be exact. He had come out west to train before the Olympics at the ADT Velodrome in Carson and found the area to his liking. So he returned after the Games to live while he continued training and searching for his next ride. I thought, “I’m an idiot. This guy’s the REAL deal.” And the kit wasn’t from Beijing, it was from a previous year’s national team. Oh yeah, he was an Olympian in Athens 4 years prior too.
I have to admit I didn’t follow track racing but I’ve started since our meeting. Giddeon’s a really big deal in that world, though you wouldn’t know it by talking to him and he definitely won’t bring it up unless you ask. As we chatted on our ride, I discovered that the sport of track cycling has very little in the way of offering it’s decorated Olympians professional opportunities between Olympic games. So most athletes return home after training for four years and representing their country on the world’s largest stage to slim pickings when it comes to making a living in the Velodrome. This astounded me considering we’re talking about some of the best athletes on the planet. We chatted a bit about that and I was impressed, amazed really, with his honesty and openness to discovering the next phase of his journey. Stuff that would seriously stress me out, job hunting and relocating, he seemed to take in stride and had faith that his next move would be revealed – a path that will take him to London in 2012. If you’re counting, that will be 3 Olympics.
Over the next year and half, I got to know Giddeon as we chatted out on the Group Rides. I heard about his training and racing up at ADT, a kind of pain and suffering that I’ll never know. He’s a guy that takes on the challenges of his sport with a burning will but doesn’t take himself too seriously. I also got to hear about his passion for giving back, speaking to student groups, and volunteering his time for youth cycling clubs. He seems to accept the mantle of role model with humility, humor, and grace, appreciating his gifts while not taking them for granted. I don’t need to tell you that in the cycling world of entitled uber-athletes, a guy like this is refreshing enough to restore a fan’s faith in cycling. But don’t get me wrong with all this nice-guy talk, he rips the legs off the competition. On the boards, the dude takes no prisoners.
If you see Giddeon in the Group Ride, be sure to say hi and it’s guaranteed you’ll get one back. And if you don’t follow or support USA track cycling, you should.
Tomorrow, I’ll post a short interview I did recently with Giddeon. It’s filled with great insights and a few Group Ride tips to boot. Until then,