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BLOG: Makes A Good Story

Shannon Williams

I was talking with a few folks in the shop this week that had gone to New Orleans for the IM 70.3 on Sunday. The conditions, apparently, were super rough-lots of wind and choppy water. One of the two, Drake, was telling me about swimming in the washing-machine-like water, how we couldn't see over the swells, how he was constantly getting mouthfuls of water and his goggles kept falling off, and he said, "At least it makes a good story!".


That got me thinking about all the weird/funny/ridiculous things I've seen(or done) at races of various types over the years.


I lived in San Francisco for a while, and I did the Escape from Alcatraz a coupe of times back when it was just a big local event, not the craziness that it is now. One year, I was waiting in line to get on the ferry that takes all the competitors out to the island, and I was behind a group of big, young, loud guys. Like a lot of people, they dealt with their nervous energy through constant bad jokes at high volume. The line was long and I was pretty ready to get on the boat and away from them. As we got into the boat, they were doing last-minute body marking. The Bro in front of me hadn't had his done, so he tried to pull up his wetsuit to expose his calf for the marker. It wasn't easy, so the nice woman who was doing the marking said,"Why don't you pull the suit down instead of up? It'll be quicker."


He looked at her as if she had recently sustained a head injury and said, not kindly, "Because I'm not wearing anything underneath." He looked at his friends, as if to say, "Look at this idiot with the Sharpie".


The nice woman paused, smiled, and said, "Whatcha planning on doing in transition, Champ?"


The look on the Bro King's face as he realized he was going to have to get nude in front of 2,000 people in a field because he was too dim to think past the swim was memorable.


Another year at Alcatraz, I got out of the water and was changing out of my wetsuit(luckily with clothes underneath). I was next to a guy that was having trouble getting his right arm out of his long sleeve wetsuit. He'd gotten his left out and was gripping the end of the right sleeve with his left hand and pulling, but his shoulders were presumably tired from swimming, so it wasn't working. I watched for a beat, wondered if I could help, then figured he'd be ok, then started to lean down to get my shoes. Right then, the guy gave a big heave and his arm came out of the suit, elbow first, at approximately seventy thousand miles an hour. I took the elbow right in the nose. I remember thinking, "Oh-you really do see stars..."


The guy turned, looked at me and said, "Oh. God."


Amazingly, my face was so numb from the cold that it didn't even hurt(until the next day).


The good bike race stories, unfortunately, usually involve a crash. I was in a Masters crit in Northern California a few years ago-I don't even remember exactly where. I remember the course, though-it was the kind that didn't look technical on paper. The corners weren't sharp. But the road width-or lack thereof-made the race sketchy. It was a big group, and when the road narrowed there wouldn't be enough room. It was fine until the last few laps, when everyone started to fight for spots. We were just about to see the 'two to go' sign when we hit one of the narrow spots. One guy tried to stick his wheel in a hole that didn't exist and he ended up in the grass. He hit a divot and went pinwheeling by the group, somehow still at speed. As he came by us, the guy next to me said, loudly but as calmly as if he were ordering coffee, "You deserve that, Jim". At that moment, Jim's shoes were four feet above his helmet. That was the absolute best example of adding insult to injury that I've witnessed. I laughed so hard I almost crashed myself.


It's funny until it happens to you. Last years I was racing in another Masters race, this time in Louisville. The early part of the race was being dominated by the local heavy hitters on the Texas Roadhouse team. They had sent a guy up the road, and I wanted to get up to him before his gap got too big. I was on the left side of the road, and I swung out to jump in the left gutter. As I jumped, I saw a lip in the pavement that I hadn't known was there(in retrospect, it was a pretty dicey move). I figured I could get over it with a small bunny hop, but my front wheel caught and turned and I went down.


It's astonishing how quickly the mind works when you're crashing. Before I even hit the ground, I thought, "This is gonna hurt-I hope I don't take anyone down with me-I'm probably gonna get hit from behind". I didn't get hit from behind, but I did get some comments from the rest of the group as they went by.


One said, "Stay down".


A few seconds later, "Idiot."


I probably deserved it for laughing so hard at Jim.


Some racing stories, thankfully, don't involve crashing; one that I know I'll remember until I die is from the Gateway Cup in St. Louis in 2007. Gateway Cup is a four day series of big(100+ person fields) fast crits that happens every year on Labor Day weekend. The races draw talented fields from several states, and a result there is meaningful(at least to me). The first race is on Friday night and is usually the fastest one-and almost always a field sprint. I was racing in the category three races, and I thought I had a shot at a decent finish, but I'd have to play the last few laps well-I'm not a great sprinter, so I'd have to position myself perfectly.


Five laps to go, and I was on the top fifteen. Four to go, and I was surfing the top ten, managing my position without wasting too much energy. Three and two to go, and I was at the front but not on the front, which was perfect. My legs felt great; I couldn't believe how well this was going. As we started the last lap, I was in fourth wheel, then third. This was exactly what I wanted-it's a short distance from the last corner to the line, so I wanted to be no further back than fourth or fifth wheel.


I came around the last corner in third wheel(this was great!), and suddenly, inexplicably, there was a lull-everyone just seemed to pause. I thought about Magnus Backstedt, winner of Paris Roubaix, who said, "If you're looking around, wondering who is going to open the sprint, it should be you". So I did. 100 Meters from the line I was clear. 70, 50 meters...I didn't see a wheel next to mine. 30 meters, 20...the finish. I threw my right arm in the air; this was the only field sprint I had ever won. I was thrilled. I coasted past turn one, where my mother, father and sisters were sitting(they all live in St. Louis). I was in the process of shouting, "I won!" when I heard the group go by. They sure were going fast for a cool-down lap... that wasn't the last lap. I had sprinted at one to go. I have never felt so dumb. Or, coincidentally, so dumb in front of so many people. I rolled around the course one more time, and up to my family(again).


Sometimes you can tell how poorly you've done by the way people look at you. When your seven year old niece can't look you in the eye, you know it's bad. Really, really bad.


My friends later told me they spent HOURS traveling to the far corners of the internet looking for photos or video of that 'finish'. At the time, I was immensely grateful that none was found. Now that I've gotten over it, though, I wish someone had captured that amazingly ridiculous moment. I'd give anything for that photo.


At least it makes a good story.



BLOG: Max Gander

Shannon Williams

I used to think of Max Gander as "The Gran Fondo Kid".


I first saw him some time around 2006. Like a lot of amateur bike racers, I'd waste time on Mondays following race weekends scouring the internet for race photos. I came across one of Max, who was probably nine at the time. It was from a time trial, and it caught my attention because the kid looked so absolutely pro. He was wearing a Gran Fondo kit, and he had every detail dialed-aero helmet, glasses, shoe covers-everything about his tiny Louis Garneau kit was perfect. I remember thinking that he was some sort of team mascot, or that maybe his mom and dad were racers who were letting him play dress-up. I thought it was cool, but it didn't even occur to me that someone that young could be so into bike racing that he'd figure all of that stuff out by himself.


I was wrong. Over the next few years, I kept seeing Max(I'd learned his name by then) at races. He'd become friends with Nate and Jonny Brown, two brothers from Memphis who are now local legends(Nate races for Cannondale-Garmin now, and Jonny has won two Junior National Championships). They'd show up at all the local events and help each other win the Junior races. There was a big stage race in town one year-the Edgar Soto- and Jonny and Max took turns wearing the leaders jersey. Somehow, I still just thought of him as a kid playing around.


Somewhere along the way, though, I started seeing him not just around all the races, but at the front of them. He stopped racing with the Juniors all the time and started racing in the category races as well. He was still just a kid, but he was up there, half the size-and less than half the age-of everyone else, throwing punches, in the mix. He was fearless.


I remember standing at the start finish of the old Wednesday Night Crit course at Titan's stadium, watching the Cat 4 race. The bunch came by, and someone close to me, almost under his breath, said, "Damn. Look at Max". He was sitting third wheel, elbows out, protecting his spot on that technical course, looking like he'd been racing for ten years. No smile, mouth closed. We all just smiled and shook our heads. I remember wondering how long it would be before he would be kicking my ass. I think a lot of us were thinking that, and we all looked forward to it in a weird way. He was like a kid brother to the whole Nashville bike racing community. We'd watched him grow up; every summer he'd be a little taller and a lot stronger on the bike. He spent a lot of time around adults and was more mature than most kids-it was nothing for him to catch a ride to a race with a non-family member. I got the sense that his parents, Wolfgang and Evie-both cyclists themselves- trusted our little community to look after their boy when they weren't around.


Personally, I was a bit envious of Max. I truly found the bike later in life, and I had always wondered about what might have happened if I had come to it early, like Max did. I guess in that way, I lived vicariously through him. I assumed that, for him, riding and racing wasn't something that needed to be squeezed in when there was daylight, managed around vacation time, or apologized for to friends/family/coworkers that didn't get it. I assumed that at his age it was just something he ran to every chance he got; an unfettered source of joy. I loved the idea of that.


The last time I ever saw Max was in 2011. I had moved to Austin for a job, and I drove down to San Antonio one Saturday to race. I showed up a few hours early to watch some of the other races, and as I walked up, I saw a kid that looked like Jonny Brown off the front of the race. It didn't seem possible that it was him, but then I looked at the guy standing next to me and realized it was Jonny's dad, Dave. We said hello and he told me that he had flown the boys in for some riding and racing(Dave's a pilot).


The group came around for the next lap. Jonny had been brought back, but there was Max-off the front, countering his friend's move. He was in the drops, out of the saddle, and as he came by he looked under his arm to check his gap and maybe catch a glimpse of all the old guys he was hurting. It was flawless-he looked like a thirty year old Euro pro. Except he was smiling.


I moved back to Nashville a few years later, andI heard that Max wasn't riding anymore. I heard that he had, like a lot of kids do, gotten to the point where the riding started to seem like work. The fun was gone. I assumed that he had probably also found a girlfriend and gotten distracted by the usual things that happen to teenage boys. I was bummed for him but not totally surprised-I've see something similar happen to a lot of Junior racers. I took comfort in the idea that the bike would always be there, and that Max would probably find his way back to it later in life, maybe after college.


He never did. I found out later that after Max stopped riding and racing he found drugs and alcohol in a serious way.  It doesn't seem possible for it to have escalated so quickly, but Max lost his life to an overdose in December of 2015. When I heard, I was desperately sad. I was terrified that a life could change course so violently and so quickly. And...I worried that our community had somehow failed him. He was one of our own. He is one our own.


So, to remember Max, we decided to name our little race after him. The Sevier Park Crit will now be called the Max Gander Memorial, presented by Sevier Park Fest. We know it's not much, but we thought that it would be an appropriate way to remember a kid that, at his core, was a true bike racer.


Our race is on May 7th this year. I know it will be a busy time; race days always are. But during the course of the chaotic day, I'll be thinking of that fearless kid attacking the old men in the Texas sun.



BLOG: Cedar Hill

Shannon Williams

This weekend was the first big weekend of racing here in Tennessee. Saturday Was the Hell of the South road race in Lewisburg, and Sunday was the Cedar Hill crit up in Madison. These races are great races by themselves, but having them together and early in spring makes them even more of an event for everyone that has been training hard all winter and feeling the itch to race. All week people have been coming into the shop to talk about the course, who's racing, who's coming from out of town, and what the conditions might be like.


I had to be in the shop Saturday and so couldn't race. It's no fun knowing that all of your friends are out racing, and that you could maybe help out a bit if you were there, but I loved checking my phone all day and getting reports about what happened. Several guys on the 4/5 team were doing their first road race(they picked a hard one to start on), so hearing their stories was a blast and brought back a lot of memories. The masters racewas big(80 or so)and stacked-lots of fast guys showed up to race, including a big group from Texas Roadhouse, which has been a regional masters racing powerhouse for as long as I can remember. My teammate Jason Tatum did well, making the final selection and coming in 5th after locking up with cramps in the final sprint.


The crit on Sunday would be the same story-bigger and stronger fields than we typically see in our local racing scene. I was planning on doing the masters race and then lining up for the 1/2/3 race later in the day to get some extra race laps in(assuming I could hang on). I hoped that having legs that were a bit fresher would help out, since on paper we were outgunned. Roadhouse had six strong guys and always race well together. Our team had five, but two were coming back from injury and would likely be just trying to finish. That left Tatum, Alistair and me. Luckily, the three of us usually race well together.


I made a dumb mistake and got the start time wrong, so I rolled up to the park with almost no time to get numbers, get pinned and warm up before the masters race. I was pretty unhappy with myself-and with the conditions, which were pretty awful-48 degrees and rain, which makes for a miserable, dangerous day. Luckily, I saw Alistair talking to Tatum before the race. Usually, it's Alistair's job to hold Tatum back early in he race, saving a bit of energy for when it matters. I was glad, since I'd need the first few laps to get going after only having a five minute warm-up. I lined up at the back, at least happy that I'd be able to ride around in the bunch while my legs warmed up.


The whistle blew and we rolled out, and as we approached the first corner I was far enough back that I could see the front of the group as it exited the other side. What I saw was Alistair, in the drops, out of the saddle, attacking.


Oh. Maybe that pre-race chat hadn't been what I thought it was. There wasn't much I could do about it, so I rolled up to the front to be ready for whatever happened next. Alistair got reeled in pretty quickly, and Tatum immediately attacked. I hoped he'd at least draw out a few guys and stay away for a while, since it would be my turn to go next, and my legs were basically still in the car. Tatum stayed away for a lap or so, but he's on a pretty short leash these days after a great season last year. After he got pulled back I thought, "well, maybe I can just hang out here for a minute and act like I don't know what's going on. It's still early, after all...". But there was a brief lull-the perfect time to go-so I went.


I went a bit too hard. I've written before about closed energy equations, and attacking in a bike race is a great example of one. The more energy you expend getting away, the less energy you have at your disposal to use to stay away. So, after I got clear of the group, I was having some trouble. I remember thinking, "This is dumb. I could be at home on the couch right now". But I figured I'd stay out there a bit, hopefully make Roadhouse chase, get caught, and maybe do better next time around.


After about a minute, I looked back and saw that that wasn't happening. The group had sat up, and there was one rider trying to get across to me. I figured I'd at least make a go of it, so I put my head down and tried to find some rhythm. After about a lap, I saw that the other rider was getting closer, so I eased up a bit to let him get on. That situation is interesting-on one hand, it's a bit demoralizing; I always think, "I'm up here murdering myself, and this guy is gaining ground. What am I doing wrong? What did he eat for breakfast?". On the other hand, it's always nice to have help. In this case, I was very much focused on being glad for the help.


Once we got together, I started to feel much better and we rolled for a couple of laps. I looked back and saw two riders coming across-Neil Fronheiser from Treehouse and Curtis Tolson from Roadhouse. Good news-those two both had strong teammates in the bunch, and now none of them would be chasing. Once Neil and Curtis got up to use, we got organized pretty quickly and our gap grew. Eventually, I looked back and couldn't see the bunch. I was feeling good at this point, and I thought we might have a shot at making this move stick. I started to think about what I needed to do to beat Curtis and Neil, both of whom are much better sprinters than me.


The next lap, I was shocked to see Tatum come flying by with Brad Spears on his wheel. Brad had taken a monster turn, dragging the field up to us at what must have been close to 30 mph. The minute they made contact with our little group, Tatum attacked. It was almost the perfect move-Brad 's pull had worn everyone out-including Brad, so no one else was in a position to go with Tatum.


Almost, since we were in a spot in the race where we were close to the end, but not close enough where one guy was likely to be able to hold off the whole group. Tatum is our best(only) sprinter, and if he got caught close to the end, he'd be worn out and we'd be out of options. But his attack earned him a big gap-17 seconds almost immediately. We didn't have any choice but to try to shut down the group and hope for the best.


As we went through the start/finish a few laps later, I was shocked again-the officials were holding up the "two to go" sign. Two laps to go. I had assumed we had at least five to go; Tatum might have a shot.


Unfortunately, Roadhouse also saw that the race was going to be shorter than expected, and they got organized. They put five guys on the front, trying to pull it back for their sprinter, Richard Keller. Keller is super fast, especially on this course, so if it came back together, he'd be a lock for the win. Five chasing one. Not great odds.


They were taking time out of Tatum in chunks-the gap fell below ten seconds. I sat behind their train; there was nothing I could do but wait. They'd either bring him back or they wouldn't. If they did, we'd be screwed.


I had forgotten about Brad Spears. He attacked violently enough to get off the front and stay in the gap. I still didn't know if Tatum would have enough room so I just stayed tucked in. I was worried that the ramp-up for the sprint would be fast enough to bring Tatum and Brad back...but as we rounded the bend to enter the finishing straight, I could see that Tatum had done it-he'd held them off. It was a titanic effort, and it paid off in the best possible way-he won by himself, with no one else in the photo.


I absolutely botched the bunch sprint, but I absolutely didn't care. I couldn't wait to congratulate my friend.



BLOG: Spring

Shannon Williams

Spring is here.


It's obvious everywhere you turn in Nashville-there is much more green anywhere you look, the sun is shining, people are dressed differently and they're eager to get outside. If you walk down the street in our neighborhood, you'll see that people are just happy to get out.


Here in the shop, that means we're a bit busier, and we get to catch up with friends that we may have not seen since fall. The folks that come in usually fit into one of two categories. The first category is people that are looking to get outside more now that the weather is turning fantastic. Many of them have been looking forward to doing a triathlon this year, or riding a century, or just riding. They want to talk about getting started.  It's fun to talk to those folks; their enthusiasm is contagious.


The second group is full of people that have been working their butts off all winter. They have goals in mind and they've been working towards them, in many instances since fall. They're a little more lean and muscular every time we see them. They've got an ironman coming up, or they're going to elite nationals in Kentucky in June, or maybe they just want to hit the spring races hard. We've seen a bit more of these folks over the winter. They come in because their bikes need maintenance after long trainer sessions, or because they want to talk bikes or training or because they just want to get out of the house and be around people. This group has a slightly different energy-they're getting excited because they've done a lot of work and the payoff is close. It's kind of like school, except in this case after all the hard work the exam is a bit more of a reward than anything else.


This weekend was the apex of the spring feel. Tons of new faces wandering in thinking about bikes for the first time. Racers coming in after having been down to Lewisburg to do a recon ride for the upcoming Hell of the South road race, or up to Madison to check out the Cedar Hill crit course. They want to talk about what might happen on race day-how they should prepare, what they should expect. Saturday morning we rode with a Canadian pro, fresh from two months in Tucson, here to race next weekend(that was painful). During the day, our friends Danielle, Jonathan and Rusty brought bikes in for a final check before their upcoming race in Texas-the first big race in a big year(Danielle is going to Kona this year).


Sunday I rode with some guys from the shop team, and afterwards I rolled around by myself for a while-it was one of those days where I just didn't feel like getting off the bike. So I just cruised around town for a bit, hoping my sunscreen was holding up.

I saw four or five big groups of runners out in the neighborhood. Our shop is on the Country Music Marathon route, and as the race approaches, we see more and more runners out running parts of the course. Yesterday was different, though. Eight weeks ago, when it was still cold and gray, I'd see those runners out clocking miles, bundled up, taking comfort and motivation from the group. They were out getting it done, but none of them would usually look particularly happy.


Sunday was a different story. Everybody had bare arms, legs and heads-and everybody was smiling. They were laughing and telling jokes-I could hear them a block away. They're close to the end of the journey; the end is in sight, and they're happy to be close.


Spring is here.


Regardless of where you are on your journey-nearing the end or just getting started-we're happy to see you and we're excited for you. To all of our friends racing over the next few weeks in Lewisburg, Madison, Murfreesboro and Galveston: good luck and good legs. We can't wait to hear how it goes.



BLOG: Flanders

Shannon Williams

WARNING: If you're not a pro bike racing fanatic/geek, you will most likely be bored by this post.  You might be bored even if you are a fanatic, but at least you'll understand the subject matter.



Eleven years ago a chapter was closing in professional bike racing.


For the preceding twelve years, the one day classics-especially the cobbled classics in Belgium and northern France, had been dominated by two men-Johan Museew and Peter Van Petegem. Johan Museew was the more prolific winner of the two. A sprinter in his early years, he had come to understand, with the help of an adroit manager, that his talents would be best served in pursuit of glory on the hard roads of his native Belgium. He had at his service the riders of the legendary Mapei team, one of cycling's true dynasties. On his day he was close to unbeatable-he won Paris Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders three times apiece.


His foil was Peter Van Petegem. Not as dominant physically as Museew, Van Petegem had the gift of focus in the extreme. He had the ability to be at his absolute best when it mattered most: the seven days in spring that Belgians call Holy Week-the Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix. Similarly, he had the ability to almost magically appear at the front of the bunch at the moments when it mattered most-he'd be seen at the back of the peleton, in the cars, 10 K's before a crucial moment in the race-a seemingly massive mistake. Then, as the bunch gathered speed for the bottom of a berg or a turn into the wind, Van Petegem would appear in third or fourth wheel, ready for the crux.


By the mid-2000's these two great riders were long in the tooth. Museew rode his final Roubaix in 2004 and retired that year. Van Petegem, five years younger, had more time left in his legs, but it was understood that he was in the winter of his career. Approaching the 2005 Tour of Flanders, it seemed like that year might represent the last chance for the man that understood the northern classics better than anyone to make one last mark.


No one knew who might possibly replace these two giants, but there were hints at the 2004 Tour. A 24 year old Swiss named Fabian Cancellara had run riot in the opening prologue and worn the yellow jersey for several days. Another 24 year old, a Belgian named Tom Boonen, had won two sprint stages, most notably on the Tour's final day in Paris. These two young men showed obvious promise, but the prevailing wisdom was that success in the cobbled classics wasn't for young men; the races over the cobbles were so long and physically and mentally challenging that a mature, experienced racer was at a distinct advantage.


The 2005 edition of Flanders played out, initially, according to plan. On the old course(it was changed in 2011), the real selection was typically made on the Muur of Geraardsbergen-the final climb of the race. 2005 was no exception-six men made it over in the front group: Van Petegem, Boonen, Erik Zabel, Andreas Klier, Roberto Petito, and Alessandro Ballan. Zabel, having won the Tour's green jersey six times, was a feared sprinter and an obvious threat to win on the long straight drag to the finish, especially since he had a teammate, Klier, in the group with him. Ballan, having been in an earlier breakaway, was a spent force. Petito seemed out of his depth. 


So it seemed that the real race would come down to three men-Van Petegem, Zabel, and Boonen. It seemed like there could be a storybook last victory for Van Petegem. Watching the race, I assumed that Van Petegem's problem would be getting rid of Zabel before the finish. I was proved wrong nine kilometers from the finish, and that was the moment when one chapter closed and another began in earnest. 


Boonen was on the front of the group, and Van Petegem attacked. That Van Petegem would choose to attack Boonen and not Zabel showed that Van Petegem understood the real threat, and possibly that Van Petegem had seen the future. He knew that Boonen, not Zabel, was the rider that was the most dangerous. In that moment, Van Petegem showed one last time that he understood these races as well as anyone.


Boonen's response to that attack showed why Van Petegem was right to worry. As Van Petegem flew by to Boonen's left, Boonen seemingly effortlessly grabbed the wheel...and then countered, dropping not only Van Petegem but also the other riders in the group. It was an astonishing effort coming after 240 kilometers of racing. Boonen-who, in retrospect, would have likely won the sprint from the small group, simply looked back once, put his head down, and powered to the finish, winning alone.


That was it. That was the moment. The torch had been passed. Van Petegem would never again contend for the podium at a one day classic-in fact, the next year he'd sign as a lieutenant for Boonen. He had seen the future and resigned himself to it.


The rest, is well, history. Boonen would go on to win not only Roubaix but the World Championships in 2005. It seemed that he would be every bit as dominant as Museew, if not more. It wasn't a stretch to imagine a record five wins in Roubaix and more green jerseys.


But the next year Fabian Cancellara would win in Roubaix. His talent, slower to emerge, shone bright as Boonen was having mid-career difficulties with drugs and injuries. Regardless, the two would dominate the classics for the next ten years in a way that has never been seen, not even by Museew and Van Petegem. Every year since 2005, the conversations surrounding the important one day races have involved the two of them-either their current fitness, or their absence. They have been called once in a generation talents that happened to some along in the same generation. Between them they've won 14 monuments and multiple World Championships. They have defined their era.


Now, going into the 2016 Tour of Flanders, Boonen and Cancellara are the ones that are long in the tooth-they're now both 35. Cancellara will retire at the end of this year; Boonen is undecided. As we approach the end of their time in the sun, it's hard to imagine that he next chapter will be as thrilling as the last.


Then again, I'd probably have said that eleven years ago.



BLOG: Tomorrow

Shannon Williams

I was out riding yesterday with a new bike racer. He has recently caught the bug for the bike and is excited to learn everything he can.


We rode next to each other for a few hours and he told me what his expectations/hopes are for the next few years.  He gave off the energy that you can only find in someone who has recently found something they love-I've heard it called "the zeal of the newly converted", but that has a weird sinister cult-y ring to it. Anyway, he is thrilled to start racing and is learning as much as he can.


One thing he said stuck with me after we had gone our separate ways on the road. He had said, that since he was a bigger guy, that he assumed that he "should probably stick to crits". Now, I like crits as much as the next guy. Probably more than the next guy. They're a wonderfully American style of bike racing, and I hope I'll be doing them until I'm 80. But I don't like the idea of someone limiting themselves-especially when they're so new in a sport. Especially since you never know what you're capable of.


It made me think of Evelyn Stevens, and something she said recently. For those who don't know, Evelyn Stevens is one of the best American bike racers around. She came to the sport relatively late in life(she was an investment banker), but she hasn't wasted any time once she started racing-she's an Olympian and has been top five in the World Championships in two different disciplines. Earlier this year she set her sights on one of the most difficult events a cyclist can attempt-the hour record.


The hour, at a glance, is pretty simple. You get a fast bike, go to a velodrome, and see how far you can go in an hour. Of course, as you might expect, there is much more to it than that when you get out to the bleeding edge of top-level human performance. The hour is an excruciatingly calculated event-your effort level is determined by figuring out precisely the power you can produce at lactate threshold. Your position on the bike is agonized over, so as to represent the perfect balance of aerodynamic efficiency and biomechanical strength. No detail is ignored. The hour attempt, in a sense, is one big math problem. Figure out exactly how hard you can push the pedals for one hour. Then make yourself as aerodynamic as possible. Achieve your result.


And the effort is massive. Many of the world's greatest cyclists, Eddy Merckx included, have said that the hour was the most difficult thing that they ever did. To be able to go as hard as you possibly can-all the while staying absolutely focused-for AN HOUR- is the province of a select few.


In February Evelyn Stevens wrote her own name in the history books-she is the current holder of the hour world record. It's a stunning accomplishment. But what I found most interesting and compelling was something that she said after her effort. She said that she had hit her limits for today.


Limits...for today. It's an amazing thing for her to say, if you think about it. After all that science, all that effort, you'd think that she would feel as if she knows exactly where her limits are, period. But she didn't-she simultaneously embraced and rejected the science. She looked at the numbers and said, effectively, "Nah-I know I can do more than that. I know I am more than that".


That's what I love about sport in general, and bike racing in particular-it's a wonderful blend of science and romance. You train with all of the science-you watch your weight, you draw up the training plan based on your lactate threshold, you get as aero as you can...but then there is this moment where you have to just believe. Accept that you've done everything that you can for today, but tomorrow? Tomorrow is a different story. Anything can happen tomorrow.



I suspect that if Evelyn had been on the ride with us yesterday, she'd have scoffed at the idea of my friend putting limitations on what he can do. I think she might have told him to keep working, keep training...and keep his eyes on tomorrow.




BLOG: Fall Creek Falls

Shannon Williams

In my experience, there are two kinds of cyclists: Repeaters and Wanderers.


Repeaters are creatures of habit-they're content to ride the same roads, over and over. A repeater is the kind of rider that will surprise you with how little he knows about the roads in his hometown, because he only rides a few of them, ad nauseam. He is the experienced rider that can get lost almost instantly once he gets off of his beaten path.


Wanderers are the opposite. They usually can't stand to ride the same route twice in a month, let alone in a week. If you go out riding with a wanderer, make sure you don't have somewhere to be later. Eventually you'll hear, "I've never been up this approach to this ridge-wanna check it out?" thing you know, it's getting dark and you're out of food.



I'm a repeater, through and through. I am amazed at my capacity for doing the same thing over and over-on the bike and generally in life. I enjoy routine, and...well, I guess I just don't get tired of stuff very quickly. I can't remember the last time I didn't have oatmeal for breakfast. But, even so, every so often I start to feel the rut. It's usually about this time of year, after months of trainer rides. The routine chafes instead of comforts. I don't enjoy the bike as much and I need a change.


So this past weekend, when Wendi told me she was running a half marathon on the trails at Fall Creek Falls, I decided to ride over and meet up with her.


You might be wondering how far it is to Fall Creek Falls by bike. Well, I have no idea(It's far. Too far for me right now, at least).

My Garmin ran out of juice about halfway through. And I didn't bring enough food. Or water. And it was too cold when I started, and too warm by the time I finished. I didn't wear sunscreen. And I realized about two hours into the ride that my route was a guesstimate at best, and that I was planning on relying on my phone to find the way(you know where this is going) but I didn't have reception and my phone battery died.


Suffice to say I made a lot of mistakes that I should know enough to avoid. And I paid the price. That last hour or so was extra unfun. By the time I got to the park, I was tired, mad and sad all at once. I'll probably be sore until Thursday. But...I totally don't care. That last hour won't be what I'll remember. I'll remember how good the burrito tasted afterwards(whoever made that burrito should be knighted). How I may have had the best tasting beer of my life yesterday afternoon. I'll remember the new roads and the glorious tailwind that I surfed all the way to Murfreesboro. I'll remember that yesterday was the first day that felt like spring, and that I still just love riding my bike.



Even if you're not the type, you can still get out and wander every now and then. Just make sure your phone and Garmin are charged.




Shannon Williams

This week's guest blog was written by Andee Woodward, a new member of the Red Kite Triathlon Team. We hope to have more of these to share in the months to come.




Why is the question I am asked almost every day when I tell people I am training for an IRONMAN. But as much as I am asked that by others, I ask it of myself even more. The training required to compete at the IRONMAN distance is hard. It hurts. So why do I do it?

Why do I wake up at 4:45 AM, drive in the pitch black to the pool, and finish my swim before most people are even awake? Why do I pass on going out to lunch with my coworkers? Or try to limit how much I have of my favorite foods and drinks? When I have already been on the trainer for two grueling hours, what makes me hang in there and tough out the final hour? Why do I keep going when I am only 10 minutes into a run and realize I was so focused on staying within my heart rate zone that I forgot to bring gloves and my hands are going numb?

Before I get into the possible answers to those questions, I want to give you a little background about me. Starting as a young kid and going all the way through high school, I played baseball. Although I enjoyed it a lot, the most running I ever did was the time it took to run around the bases. As a result, I was always pretty fast, but only in short bursts.

My initial introduction to cycling happened when I met my future wife and her family. Although she moved to the US at a young age, my wife was born in France and inherited the French love of cycling. Watching the Tour de France and talking to her dad about his childhood cycling camps piqued my interest and I bought a hybrid bike and signed up for a cycling class in college. Riding several times a week, I realized I was starting to love it. The class ended with a 50 mile ride, which at the time seemed insurmountable, but I was able to do it. Once the class was over, I started riding less and less and by the time I graduated and started working full time, I had given it up completely.

My reintroduction to cycling came about a year after I started working. I realized I was getting almost no exercise working a desk job and started to gain a lot of weight. I wanted to do something that I enjoyed and one of my coworkers, Josh Lewis, was working his way up the road racing categories. I began to talk to him about cycling and it brought back the memories of riding in college. This time I wanted to be serious about it so I bought a "super expensive" entry level road bike. I rode around town and did a few short charity rides over the next couple years, but it never really took off until I started doing weekly group rides in 2014. It was during these rides I realized that what I thought was fast wasn't really fast at all. I had a long way to go. I continued the group rides and joined a race team the next year. I did a few crits and road races and finished my first 100 mile ride. In order to get faster for future races, I tried to keep up with the fastest guys in the group and eventually began to train with them more and more. They had weird bikes and no sleeves, but they were fast. While training, they would talk about the swims they had just finished and then at the end of the rides, when I was completely spent, they would throw on shoes and go for a run.

After the racing season was over, I figured I might as well go for some runs too, just to see what it was like. Long story short, I am now signed up for three 70.3 distance triathlons in 2016 and if all goes according to plan, I want to finish a full IRONMAN in 2017.

That's my history. So back to the original question.

Whenever I am asked why a few different answers come to mind. Maybe I do it for the adrenaline rush and sense of accomplishment after finishing a challenging workout or race. Maybe I do it for the fitness and health benefits. Maybe I do it to make my friends and family proud. Maybe I enjoy when other people say I am crazy. Or maybe I am actually a little bit crazy. (Probably the latter.)

In truth, it is a combination of all of those things, but mainly I do it for the adventure. To find out what I am capable of doing. To really push myself outside of my comfort zone.

My answer to the question is really pretty simple.

Why not?

BLOG: In Favor Of Butterflies

Shannon Williams

We get a lot of different types of folks that come in the shop, just like any other bike shop. But we spend a fair amount of time noticing and discussing the differences between two types: road racers and triathletes.


It's an interesting discussion to me, because, to the rest of the world, there's almost no difference between the two groups: they're both endurance dorks that wear weird clothes. And that makes sense. But either group will be quick to point out the differences between their group and the other group. A lot has already been written and said on the subject, but one difference jumps out at me-butterflies.


I started thinking about it when my friend Lucas was telling me about an experience with his dad, Rusty. Lucas and Rusty have both done multiple long course triathlons, and Rusty has done something like ten. Lucas told a story about a race where he was at a race supporting his dad and not racing. He said that he was surprised that, after all of his experience, Rusty still exhibited all of the signs of pre-race jitters-on edge for a couple of days before, sweating the details to the point of being obsessive, multiple trips to the bathroom; etc. Lucas said that he would have thought that all of Rusty's previous races would have prepared him to the point where that phenomenon would subside.


That, to me, is the big difference between road racers and triathletes. Butterflies for an Ironman(or any triathlon) are big. You've been training for months-or sometimes a year, and it all comes down to one day. You've invested a tremendous amount of time and money. If something goes wrong, there's no do-over. It's all wasted. Regardless of how many times you do it, it's only natural that nerves are going to play a big part in the run-up into race day.


Road racing, on the other hand, plays out in a different way. You ride your bike and train all winter, but usually there is no one big goal. There are target races for sure, but in any one race there are so many variables that are uncontrollable that it doesn't make sense to hang everything on just one day. So most bike racers just shoot for being good at the start of the season. And, in bike racing, if you have a bad race, you usually only have to wait a few days before you get to race again and have a shot at redemption. If Saturday is a total mess, usually there is another race on Sunday. Or Wednesday. Or the following weekend. The result is smaller butterflies.


I read an interview once where Lance Armstrong was talking about one of the reasons why he decided to come back after retirement. He was at the start line of the Leadville 100 mile mountain bike race, and he was nervous because he wanted to win, and he was uncertain whether he could. He realized he missed that nervousness. Now...I think we can all agree that that comeback was one of the better examples of bad judgment in the history of the world, but the point about those pre-race jitters is interesting to me. As adults, we don't get that kind of nervousness too often. Job interviews, speaking in front of a bunch of people, that kind of thing. They're rare, because they represent a situation where we're trying to do something we're not sure we're capable of.


But endurance athletes-all of us dorks in weird clothes-are different. We have the opportunity to get nervous, because we challenge ourselves. We try to do things that are new, or that are longer or more difficult than what we've tried before-or against faster people. That's why we get nervous. That's why we get butterflies, big or small.


So I'm in favor of seeking butterflies. I think it's healthy to seek out the things that challenge us, that we know will make us nervous and maybe a bit on edge(and maybe make us take a few extra trips to the bathroom the day before).


It's January and there's snow on the ground. It's a perfect time to make big plans and think about what you're going to do this year.  So maybe think about a challenge and start to plan for it. Maybe a marathon or an ultra, maybe an Ironman, or a century ride or a higher race category. Something that might be impossible, but you'll never know until you try.


Hunt those butterflies. We're looking forward to hearing about it.



BLOG: Hell Of The South

Shannon Williams

Last spring our Masters racing team went down to Lewsiburg, TN to race the Hell of the South road race-the first big road race on the Tennessee calendar. Our friend Marshall Bassett puts it on, and he does a fantastic job-he always picks an amazing course and makes a quality event. This year's course was, as it usually is, very fun but extremely challenging-a 22 mile loop with a fast tailwind section, a middle section with a series of short hard climbs(and lone longer one on a dirt road), and exposed road with rolling terrain and a headwind into the finish. Our race was three laps for a total of 66 miles.


We were a bit uncertain about how to approach the race, since our field was small and our team had the largest team in it. My inclination was to race aggressively and put everyone else on the back foot. Alistair, who has been racing at a high level since he was a kid and who has forgotten more about bike racing than most of us will ever know, counseled caution. He knew the course was hard and was worried that we'd have to pay later for any early, unnecessary expenditure of energy. We talked it over for a bit and decided to just see how the race played out and react accordingly.


My friend Torsten once told me that, if there are 50 guys in a bike race, there are 50 stories at the end of it, and they are all different. He was right, and I also think that, even from one perspective, there are several stories in one race.


Lap One: Stupidity.


We rolled out, and everyone seemed pretty aware that we were in for a rough day. There were a few soft attacks, but no one really put his back into it so early. After a few miles, there was a quick descent with a hard right-hand turn at the bottom that led into the tailwind section. I knew that we'd get up to speed quickly after the turn and I wanted to be positioned for it, so when someone accelerated on the left side before the turn, I followed him. We rolled through the corner fast and clean, and when I looked back there was a gap to the rider behind me. So I pulled through hard, hoping to grow the gap. After twenty seconds or so, I flicked my elbow. Nothing. I turned around. Nothing. Nobody there.



Now...I didn't have any illusions about riding away for 60 miles, but as I've said before, when you get a gap you have to respect it. So I turned back around and rode. Not full gas, just steady. And as we went through the rest of the tailwind section, the gap grew. I got to the climbs and over them by myself, and I'll admit that for a few moments I thought that maybe they might make a mistake and give me too long of a leash. But as we got to the end of the lap, the group got organized and pulled me back. I didn't feel too spent from the effort, so I just hopped back on the back of the bunch and tried to eat and drink.


Lap Two: The Real Race.


As we started the second lap, it seemed like everybody was ready to start racing. The attacks were more violent and there were more of them. The group split and came back together several times, but each time the gap took a little bit longer to close. As we got closer to the section of the course with the short climbs, it seemed like the real selection was about to be made. I still felt good, so I stayed close to the front, but when John Carr attacked and got away clean I missed his wheel. He was up the road by himself for a few miles, and the group sat up a bit. I thought that John might be playing the role on lap two that I played on lap one, but a rider in a kit that I didn't recognize jumped at the bottom of the first small hill and I tagged on to his wheel. He dragged me across to John very very fast, and when we got there, I noticed two things: 1. the group was nowhere in sight behind us, and 2. this out of town guy was flying. He almost dropped John and I both on the first climb, and then he did drop John on the second one. Once we got over the climbs and it smoothed out I recovered a bit, but I knew I was in trouble.


Lap Three: Crisis Management.


22 miles to go, and I was all kinds of hurting. I was paying the price for that first lap effort. The only thing I had going for me was that, for the time being at least, Out Of Town Guy needed me. He didn't want to ride 22 miles by himself(who would? That would be stupid)-he wanted the small amount of help that I could give him, and he knew that while I was with him, my teammates wouldn't be chasing. And I milked it as much as I could-I told him my teammates were back there disrupting the chase, and that we didn't know how far ahead we were so we needed to stay together. So he took it easy on me and was waiting for me on the climbs, but I was hanging by a thread. Every time he pulled through, I came a few pedal strokes from being dropped. My hope was that once we got over the climbs I could recover enough to get lucky in the sprint for the win.


As we started up the last climb, Out Of Town Guy distanced me a bit. I was just riding my own pace...and then the official on the motorcycle came up next to me. He rode beside me for few seconds and then said, "You have three minutes on the group".


Bad news. With a three minute gap, Out OF Town didn't need me any more. He could ride the last 10 miles without any worry of getting caught. When he heard that news, there would be no more waiting.


The moto started to accelerate to give the gap information to Out Of Town. I screamed, "NO-WAIT!! I'LL TELL HIM-DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT!!!". The official game a me a look that said, "Nice try" and kept going.


Two minutes later, I was by myself. Out Of Town Guy accelerated and won by himself. I limped in for second, worried the whole time that I'd be caught in the last few hundred meters.



Alistair is a hell of a nice guy. He didn't even say "I told you so".




Shannon Williams

Stay warm out there! Open Saturday 10-2, with happy hour starting at...well, 2. Or 1:30. We have too much beer in the fridge-come help us drink it!

BLOG: In The Blood

Shannon Williams


We put on a mountain bike and cyclocross race this past weekend at a park that used to be a golf course here in town. The experience was the usual mix of mind-numbing details and last-minute hand wringing over whether or not everything had been taken care of and if anyone was going to show up. It's always worth it, though, and in the end it was a fun couple of days with a great group of people.


Saturday afternoon I was out setting up the course with Andrew Parker, who owns Halcyon Bike shop. We were co-promoting the race with Andrew, so as we were driving stakes and rolling tape to mark the course, we talked about all of the things associated with the race. But it's a long process, and after a while we ran out of race-specific topics and just started to talk about bikes in general and racing in particular. Andrew and I raced on the old Nashville Cyclist team together back in the day, and we talked a lot about our experiences and all of the people that came and went from that team.


Andrew has a lot of natural talent on the bike and when he was racing it was pretty obvious to anyone who was paying any attention that he could be a very good bike racer if he wanted to. He stopped racing when he took on all the work associated with opening a shop and running it by himself. I assumed that he had just lost interest in it, but when I asked him about it out in the field, he said the exact opposite. He said he still has dreams about racing his bike on a weekly basis. He has other interests now and big time constraints that don't allow the massive time commitment necessary to race on the road, but he still loves bike racing and promotes races to stay involved in the scene.


The next day-race day-was a total blur, as it usually is. Race days are always full and take a while to process. As I was leaving the venue after the race and rolling through the whole weekend's events in my head, the conversation with Andrew stuck out. I've had similar conversations with other people over the years about bike racing, and I'm pretty amazed by it. It's a hard sport-it takes a lot of work and sacrifice to be even half-decent, and then the racing itself can be grueling, to say the least. You'd think that when people stop, they'd be relieved. No more early mornings/late nights, missing fun stuff and time with family and friends, ridiculous amounts of time in the car. No more long nights after races, being too tired to sleep, knowing that it's back to work the next day. But that doesn't seem to be the case. People really miss it.


I always think about a quote from Chris Horner, one of the best bike American bike racers ever. He was talking about attacking in the crucial moments in races. He said, "You gotta want to go. It's in the blood." I think he meant that people are either aggressive bike racers or they're not, but I think it's true in general as well. Something about racing a bike, or running trails, or triathlon, or surfing-whatever your sport is-gets inside you. In your blood. Once it's there, it's near impossible to get it out.


That's definitely true for me. I've been riding and racing for a while now, and there have been many times when I've felt like I wanted to find another hobby that doesn't require as much time-or one that doesn't require as much ridiculous clothing and leg-shaving. But I always come back to it, because at this point, it's just part of who I am. It's in my blood. And I'm grateful.



If you're reading this, chances are it's in your blood, too. If so, there are probably times when it seems like a curse. Too much work or too much sacrifice(or too much lycra). I'd encourage you to see it as a blessing-there are people that go their whole lives without caring as much about anything as you do your chosen sport. You're one of the lucky ones. 


We'll see you out at the races.



BLOG: Make Your Own

Shannon Williams


Our friend Nathan was in the shop the other day.  As per usual when he stops in, the conversation ranged to a variety of topics, but the last thing we talked about stuck with me. He brought up the idea of experiences v. things. He had read about some study that found that people who use their money on travel(experience) are happier than folks who use their cash exclusively on things-cars, clothes; etc. We talked about examples from our personal lives, and how, even though we sometimes feel guilty for spending a lot of money on a trip, in the end we're always happier to have that memory. I know I'd rather have a month in Europe than a new car, because I very seriously doubt that, when I'm 80, I'll sit around remembering a car I used to drive...but a month-long trip? That'll stick.


The cool thing is that for endurance athletes, we don't have to go to Europe. Most of us are out there making our own little weird but cool memories close to home on a regular basis. For instance, I know that there are an impressive number of athletes that live in Nashville that will never be able to walk down 4th street in Louisville or along the pedestrian bridge in Chattanooga without remembering something amazing that they did there. Those are just normal places in a city that have been rendered almost holy to a very select group of people. Anyone that has run the Country Music Marathon or done the Music City Triathlon has memories of Nashville that are totally different than anyone else's. If you did Music City in 2015, you can stand on the bank of the Cumberland and remember how absolutely nuts it was just to try and swim across because of the crazy current.


Having lived and ridden/raced a bike around here for a decade or so, I'm confronted almost daily with little memories or former milestones. There's a stretch of Highway 46 out past Leiper's Fork that will always remind me of the state champs road race in 2007. I had found myself on the wrong side of a field split, waited for the right moment, and attacked to try to get across. I can remember what I was thinking at every pedal stroke, and I'll probably relive it every time I ride that stretch of road forever. It was no fun in the moment, but it was worth doing to have the memory forever.


It's not just roads. Every time I go to the convenience store on the corner of Wilson Pike and Concord Road, I'll think about the time a few of us thought it would be a good idea to pull out the TT bikes and do a team time trial up and down Wilson Pike-in August. It was fun, but it had to be 105 degrees. When we were finished, I was so wrung out that I didn't think I could make it home. We stopped for drinks at that market, and we all did our usual trick of putting our helmets in the ice box to cool off. And we just sat there, looking at the ice box...I don't remember who was the first one to climb in the ice box, but I remember it felt pretty damn good. The clerk at the store was a little creeped out, but after taking turns siting in the ice box we were refreshed enough to get home.


There are tons of little memories out there. The spot that you got dropped. The spot you hung tight with the group for the first time. The city limit where you won that sprint that no one else remembers. The place where you ran so far that you had to get your spouse to come get you.  The time it was so cold that you ran all the trails in the park and didn't see a single soul. The parking lot where you sat, waiting for swim practice, fighting the urge to just turn the car back on and head back home to bed. Places where you surprised yourself by doing something spectacular-or spectacularly stupid. Every once in a while, it's fun to look around and take note of all the spots with memories attached. They're like little gifts that our chosen sport has given us.


Happy 2016. Get out there and make some memories.



Thanksgiving Hours

Shannon Williams



Tomorrow(Wednesday)-Open 10-6. YAY!

Thursday/Friday-CLOSED. Eating/Riding. YAY!

Saturday-OPEN 11-5. YAY!

Sunday-CLOSED(as usual)-See you in Chattanooga for Privateer 'Cross! Yay!




Shannon Williams

READY FOR WINTER??? We know-it's hard to think about with all of this glorious sunshine outside. But next week is the time change, and we all know what that means...


If you want to come out blasting in spring road races, or if you just signed up for a big triathlon next year, or if you're just looking to stay fit/get up early/hang out with fun people twice a week...we've got the answer!

Our classes are Tuesday and Thursday mornings, 6-7am. You bring a bike, a towel, and a water bottle. We provide trainers and training plan, music, and can-do attitude.

Price: $80/month.

Call us at the shop(615.942.6218) or email ( for availability.


Shannon Williams


TONIGHT(Tuesday):No ride this week. Sorry, gang-see you next week!

WEDNESDAY: Kenneth Campbell ride-25 miles, 16-17 mph pace, one big climb in the park with regular regroups. Roll from the shop at 6(rain cancels).

THURSDAY: BNB(bikes and beer) ride: We like bikes. We like beer. We like them together. Come join us on a super-casual slow group ride to explore Nashville's finest purveyors of alcohol. And maybe some food. Roll from the shop at 6:30. (Rain cancels).


Shannon Williams


TOMORROW(Tuesday): Instead of our beginner friendly ride, we're having a Flat Change Clinic/Dumb Question Amnesty night at the shop. Come on over, have an adult beverage and ask all the questions you've always been afraid to ask(questions don't have to be limited to mechanical ones. Riding etiquette, Tour de France explained...all topics welcome!). No judgments-this is a safe place. 6:30 at the shop-BYOB.

WEDNESDAY: Kenneth Campbell ride-25 miles, 16-17 mph pace, one big climb in the park with regular regroups. Roll from the shop at 6(rain cancels).

THURSDAY: BNB(bikes and beer) ride: We like bikes. We like beer. We like them together. Come join us on a super-casual slow group ride to explore Nashville's finest purveyors of alcohol. And maybe some food. Roll from the shop at 6:30. Rain cancels.