This is a follow-up from yesterday’s post, A Chance Meeting with an Olympic Track Cyclist. In 2008, I happened to meet Olympian Giddeon Massie at my local bike shop, Bike Religion* in Newport Beach. In the time since I’ve gotten to know Giddeon, he’s been racing for Bike Religion on the road and track all over the world in preparation for his 2012 bid to compete in his third Olympic games. In addition to competing in Athens and Beijing, he’s a 16-time US National champion and Pan-Am Games champion. If you’re unfamiliar with track cycling and it’s events, Giddeon’s a sprinter. And sprinters are a unique bunch. If you took someone with the power and strength of an NFL linebacker, the agility of a running back, the endurance of a 10k runner, the reflexes of a Formula One driver, the inward calm of a martial artist and the mentality of, well, a sprinter then you’re starting to get the picture. Track sprinting is one of the most compelling events in all of cycling.
Recently, I asked Giddeon to share with AGR readers about how he got started, his proudest achievement, and a few Group Ride insights. He was kind enough to oblige –
How did you get into track racing and what’s your favorite aspect of this unique side of the sport?
I began track racing when I was about 10 or 11 years old. Prior to that, I rode with my Dad on the road and began to do local group rides at about the age of 9 with him and 30-40 other adults. I challenged myself even at that age and would say, “Dad, today I don’t want to finish last on this hill,” or “Today, I’m going to finish in the front group of the ride.” My parents sought a place for me to focus those energies. Growing up in Eastern Pennsylvania, we were very close to one of the most prominent Velodromes in the US. With the free programs that are available to riders of all ages, like Air Products and Bicycle Racing League, my interest was piqued and my skill level was raised.
I think my favorite aspect of Track Cycling is the track craft that goes with riding the Velodrome, whether Enduro or Sprinter. I began my career with a focus on the endurance events, but only a short time later turned my focus to sprinting. The speed, closeness, and aggressiveness of that racing appeals to me. I’ll be a fan long after I’m finished competing.
What’s your proudest achievement as an athlete?
My proudest achievement as an athlete is not so much any particular win, but having the continual opportunity to look challenges, struggles, and defeat in the eye and overcome them. I believe, as an athlete, that is the most satisfying victory. I’ve competed in the sport at this level for over a decade all over the world, and let me tell you, I’ve lost and failed a whole lot more than I’ve won. But it is that “no quit, I will not let this beat me” mentality that has shown through. Those struggles are often blessings on the other end.
What’s your favorite pre-race music on the iPod?
Any Group Ride tips for people just getting into cycling or considering Group Rides?
My suggestion for group ride tips would be to come prepared. That includes making sure your equipment is in good working condition. Don’t have the inevitable mechanical and be forced to rely on someone else to fix it. Otherwise, grow accustomed to riding in a tight, professional looking group, don’t half wheel your partner and don’t be afraid to sprint for some city limit signs! Have fun with it, but most importantly be safe and anticipate that drivers don’t always recognize how quickly we are traveling, nor do they always see us. Be courteous and keep your eyes open.
*About Bike Religion: If you live in Orange County or Southern California be sure to stop into the Bike Religion shop at 149 Riverside Ave, just off Pacific Coast Highway along Mariners Mile in Newport Beach. The owners, John and Rachel Tzinberg, are a power couple – he’s a Cat. 1 strongman and she’s a former professional racer. They’re sure to get you whatever cycling-related products you need. If you’re visiting the area, they can hook you up with a high-end rental and point you in the direction of an awesome ride along the coast. BR has a great Saturday morning Group Ride that leaves from the shop at 8am and even offers free on-site bike servicing.
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,
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AGR is almost one month old. If you’ve been along for the ride so far, thank you! If you’re just jumping in, welcome! One of the best aspects of blogging has been connecting with other bloggers who share a passion for riding a bike. Everyone has a story to tell, a perspective, insight, that’s what makes blogging and reading blogs so fun.
One blogger who I’ve recently connected with is Tony Steward over at Joe to Pro Cycling. Tony has a great blog and a really compelling story. He posted an interview he did with me last week and I’d thought I’d share one of my responses. You can read the full interview and check out Joe to Pro at the link at the end of this post. Thanks Tony!
What do you love most about cycling that gets you on the bike year after year?
This might sound kind of strange but one of the reasons I love cycling is that I’m fascinated with human transformation and growth. I once read that the human body is one of the only organisms in nature that doesn’t break down under stress but becomes stronger and more efficient (with appropriate recovery of course). Our bodies and minds are amazingly adaptable over long periods of time. When I first started training to race, I rode a lot with a friend who raced pro on the LA Sheriffs team back in the ’90′s. He had untold thousands of miles in his legs and always looked effortless on the bike. He told me that in your first 5 years of cycling, you’re literally teaching your body how to become more efficient – oxygen consumption, energy expenditure, muscles/heart/brain working in syncopation. There are changes and adaptations going on in your body on the cellular level.
The key, he told me, is to just relax and let the body and mind do their thing. You can’t rush growth and transformation. It takes years, not just a few months, for these changes to take place. It’s a much longer view than just “getting in shape.” That’s why riders in their 30′s, 40′s, and even 50′s can ride so hard and are often stronger than younger riders even if the older riders haven’t been riding much recently. It’s telling that the hardest, fastest amateur races here in California are often the 35+ and 40+ masters.
I find it fascinating that power in a cyclist can’t necessarily be seen off the bike like in other sports. Basketball players are tall; football players are physically huge, but aside from being lean the best cyclists in the world look like normal people on the street (maybe even frail). It’s like the inherent power in a strong rider is just sitting there unnoticed until the time comes to use it…then, bam. But even for the best cyclists in the world, the rules of growth and transformation still apply. That’s where we’re all in the same boat. The body learns, adapts, grows, transforms. Similar to the way human character grows and transforms over the course of your life, it takes patience and time. In microscopic ways, one ride at a time, you are becoming a different person.
You can read the rest of the interview here: Christmas Eve Interview with Matt Bond (cc: @artofthegroupride) | Joe to Pro Cycling.