While perusing VeloPress I dug up this gem from of a book from two Michigan natives - Jamie Smith and Jef Mallett (Frazz) - Jamie sets out to explain the sport he loves and the roadies who live for it in this lighthearted treatise on bike racing. Roadie reveals what’s to love about dressing in technicolored Lycra at the crack of dawn on Saturday and returning at sundown with a glow of satisfaction—and more prominent tan lines.
Perfect for those who are puzzled by road cyclists, have considered riding a road bike, or walked away from a bike race completely baffled, Roadie addresses all of the curiosities that accompany the sport of cycling, from shaved legs to colorful jerseys and unbelievably expensive bicycles, shoes, and components. Every seemingly neurotic tendency is explained and celebrated with humorous illustrations from nationally syndicated cartoonist Jef Mallett (also rumored to log thousands of miles of riding per year).
Explaining strategy and races from the famous Tour de France stage race to the local criterium, Roadie brings the excitement of bike racing alive for anyone with an appetite for adrenaline. And for the thousands who purchase a shiny new road bike each spring, it’s a much-needed primer on the politics of a group ride. Pacelines, drafting, sprinting, climbing, and breakaways are turned into everyday commonsense with colorful anecdotes.
Whether interested onlooker or cycling aficionado, readers will find themselves laughing out loud as they revel in the roadie’s world.
The MBRA Executive Board is seeking officers for the 2018 & 2019 seasons. Each position will be elected to a two-year term. You must be a Michigan resident and hold a USA Cycling License to run for a position. All executive board members are required to call in to MBRA executive board meetings (approximately 1 per month) and in some cases to attend special events.
Please be sure that the contact information for your club or team is up to date on USACycling.org and listed correctly on our voter roll. For corrections or to assign a proxy please email Larry Martin (firstname.lastname@example.org) by August 1, 2017.
Positions up for election are as follows:
- Vice President
Nominations will be accepted via email. The deadline to self-nominate or nominate candidates is August 1, 2017. Submissions for nominations should be emailed to Larry Martin (email@example.com).
Candidates must accept the nomination and provide the following information:
- Position You're Running For
- City of Residence
- Experience (Event Promoter, Racer, Official, etc.)
- Platform/Why You’re Running (Please limit to 500 words or less)
Voting members include the following:
- President or designated club member of a MBRA cycling club/team who has/or will host or co-host at least one MBRA-approved race event in the past or upcoming calendar year.
- Race promoter or designated MBRA member who has/or will host or co-host at least one MBRA-approved race event in the past or upcoming calendar year.
- USAC Licensed Official who has/or will officiate at least one MBRA-approved race event in the past or upcoming calendar year.
There is a limit of one (1) vote per person, per member class, with the maximum allowable number of votes of three (3) from any individual who is a qualified member under the aforementioned criteria.
Electronic elections will open the week of August 1st, all ballots must be cast before September 1, 2017. Results will be announced by USA Cycling the following week.
This nomination and election process was revised following public input at the MBRA Special Election Meeting at CyclingLawyer.com Crit on July 8th, 2017. Minutes from the meeting are available online.
The highway center line and, by extension, the yellow line rule that we all must observe during our road races originated in Michigan. While there's some confusion as whether we should credit Edward Hines (1911) or Kenneth Sawyer (1917) as the first man to paint lines on the road, both helped to shape the roadway standards of Michigan and our nation.
The yellow line rule is just one of many rules in the rulebook designed to keep riders safe on the roadway. It's one of the easiest to violate accidentally and probably the most dangerous. It's also one of the harder ones to enforce for an official who is riding in the passenger seat of a follow vehicle. Sight lines are limited. Depth perception is challenging. And distractions with other aspects of the job make it difficult, which is why they rely on the collective eyeballs of the peloton to self-police itself.
Don't be that rider who takes advantage of this hard-to-enforce rule. Never cross the yellow line to advance your position. And always keep in mind the danger of oncoming traffic for yourself and your fellow competitors. Even if you don't cross the line, your riding may force others out into the opposing lane.
Making it to the finish safely should be your ultimate goal.
1. Work on your bike handling skills.
2. Recruit young riders.
Our hats off to those clubs who actively keep their skills sharp. No matter how long you've been riding, you can always get better at handling the bike. Thanks go out to the Team OAM-NOW riders who conducted the clinic in Kalamazoo last Friday. Good bike skills will help you avoid the crashes that scare people away from this wonderful sport.
Our hats are also off to those teams who are cultivating future racers. The sport appreciates anyone who helps attract new riders, teach skills, teach rules, and teach the etiquette that will ensure the growth of the sport. Big thanks to Andrie Junior Development, Ann Arbor Velo Club, Wolverines Sports Club, and a few other families who took all those Junior riders to Madison last year to gave them the Nationals Experience.
If your Club/Team is doing things to improve skills and recruit young riders, send us your pictures. We'll give YOU a shout out, too!
MBRA will be holding a special meeting on Saturday, July 8, 2017 at the CyclingLawyer.com Crit to discuss and plan elections for the MBRA Executive Board. The purpose of this meeting is to set the rules and date of the officer elections. Members of the community are invited to attend and provide public comment. Clubs, race promoters and members of the community who are eligible to vote on these matters should have already received this message via email as well. The meeting will be delayed 1 hour since our last email so that it starts after the juniors race - we want everyone that wants to participate to be able to voice their concerns.
5:30 PM - Introduction and Sign-in
5:45 PM - Review of Voter Roll
We will review and determine which clubs, race directors, and officials are eligible to vote.
6:00 PM - Discussion and Voting to Approve Bylaws
Two concurrent sets of bylaws exist - we need to choose one set by which the organization will abide.
6:15 PM - Discussion and Voting to set date for Officer Elections
After consultation with USA Cycling and the MBRA Board the final Officer Elections will take place online.
6:30 PM - Close of Meeting
Meeting minutes are available for download here.
In Reading the Race, michigander Jamie Smith and veteran road captain Chris Horner team up to deliver a master class in bike racing strategies and tactics. Armed with strategies and tactics learned over thousands of bike races, cyclists and cycling fans will learn how to read a race—and see how to win it.
Bike racing is called a rolling chess game for a reason. Sure, a high pain threshold and a killer VO2max are helpful. But if you’re in it to win it, you need race smarts. Starting breaks, forming alliances, managing a lapped field, setting up a sprint—on every page, Horner and Smith reveal new secrets to faster racing and better results.
Smith and Horner dissect common mistakes, guiding riders with lessons learned from decades of racing experience. Reading the Race reveals the veteran’s eye view on:
- Assembling the best possible team
- Crafting strategies around the team, course, and rivals
- Reacting instantly to common scenarios
- Making deals and combines
- Breaks, echelons, blocking
- Pack protocol and etiquette
- Finishing in the prize money or on the podium
- Winning the group ride
Whether you’re a new racer, an aspiring pro, a coach, or even a roadside fan, Reading the Race will elevate your cycling IQ!
Available now from VeloPress
You can receive a fine for presenting your bib number incorrectly (that is, pinning it on upside down or in an incorrect position), but in the Tour de France the number 13 is actually exempted from this rule!
Tony Martin, during the recent Tour de Suisse, wore #13 right-side up and lost that race on the last day to Rui Costa.
Everything in life counts! So why shouldn’t you get credit for the race you just did? Well, you probably did even if you didn’t realize it.
New road racers start out as a category 5 for both men and women. In order to move up a rider needs to gain experience racing with a group and demonstrate their ability to perform the basics of racing safely with a group. At the most basic level, the cat. 5 to cat. 4 upgrade for men depends on the number of mass-start races finished. The rulebook states it simply as 10 mass-start race finishes with no preference given for 1st place or last. But if you’re looking to move up quickly, don’t miss the point of the beginner category: learning to race in a group!
So every race counts as long as you finish, as long as it’s a mass-start race; time trials don’t count. Your name does not even need to appear in the results for you to count it! It’s great when it does, and promoters work to place riders, but it’s not always practical or possible. But if you toed the start line and kept going until the finish, it counts!
“But how do I count it if I’m not listed in the results on USA Cycling?” you might ask. Good question. It’s an old-fashioned concept called trust. After you finish a race, write it down. Even if you don’t know your placing, just mark it as “finisher”. When you submit your request for an upgrade online (http://www.usacycling.org/category-upgrade-information.htm), it magically counts! Be honest (some double-checking does happen), but be thorough in your count. You can use this spreadsheet (http://bit.ly/raceresultslist) to track everything you’ll need at upgrade time.
“But what about the points for this race?” is an inevitable question. These days you get points for rankings, ratings, race series, state series, club involvement, grocery purchases, music downloads, and driving too fast. As a new racer, upgrades are based on mass-start race finishes, so forget the points. Once you get to be a cat. 4, then the race results start to count. But until then, just race. Save the points counting for later.
You may be thinking, “That’s it? Just track my race finishes?” Yes, that’s about it. Just make sure to remember the purpose of the beginning category: getting mass-start race experience.
Every year a new rider shows up who is faster than the rest. If that’s you, congrats! But remember that while attacking from the start and staying away the whole race is impressive, it doesn’t count for more upgrade points. And it doesn’t help you learn how to ride in a group, corner, work for field position, identify good riders to play off of, and many other skills that will be helpful once you progress to faster and faster categories. So relax and take some time to ride in the group, trade pulls, see if you actually can sprint it out at the end, go through the corner next to another rider, and generally get used to working with the group.
If you are like most of us when we started racing, it’s not so easy. Stick with it! It takes time to learn, to get in better shape, to figure out how to save energy, and to finally find your way toward the front of the field at the end of a race. So keep showing up, learning, working hard, and you’ll get that upgrade in 10 races, just like that hammer in your field.
MBRA Upgrades Coordinator
The summer is here and so is the Michigan Road Race Series!!! Let's get to racing! The format is changing this year as the Michigan Challenge Series will no longer be organized and scored by MBRA, but by members of BaseMedia Racing. While we're scoring the series, we want to emphasize that it's still open to everyone - no matter what team you are on! The biggest change from your perspective is the requirement to register for the series using the link below. You can sign up any time during the season and your races after that point will be tracked.
- Registration is $5, it's a small price to pay for glory
- Nine races in the series (Note: Capital City Classic is cancelled for 2017 and will not be scored)
- Minimum five races to qualify
- Best six races will count towards total series points
- Register before 11:59PM EST on June 4th, and all previous races will count towards series points
- If you register after June 4th, points will only accumulate for subsequent races
- Debaets-Devos will serve as the series championship race and will count as double points/tie breaker
Men Cat Pro/1/2, Men Cat 3/4, Women Cat Pro/1/2/3, Women Cat 4, Men Masters 35+, 45+, 55+
Races Scored In The Series:
Race 1 - April 29th - Willow TT
Race 2 - May 13th - Port City Crit
Race 3 - June 3rd - Waterford Weekend Races
Race 4 - June 4th - Race For Wishes
Race 5 - June 18th - Sylvania Cycling Classic
Race 6 - July 8th - Cycling Lawyer Crit
Race 7 - August 12th - Corktown Crit
Race 8 - August 20th - Gaslight Criterium
Race 9 - August 27th - Debaets Devos Crit
The more time you spend riding the indoor trainer, the more likely you are to develop the habit of riding on the hoods. It's much more comfortable. You can see the TV better.
But there are several reasons why you need to ride in the drops while riding in a pack. Riding in the drops will improve your aerodynamics and allow you to get more benefit from drafting. But the bigger reason to ride low is to lower your center of gravity. This will make you MUCH more stable and give you much better control of your bike. You will negotiate corners better. Riding in the drops will also put your fingers closer to the brake levers, and give you better leverage when braking and allow you to push the bike forward when braking hard. Riding here will also prevent you from getting your bars hooked with the rider next to you.
Riding on the hoods is certainly more comfortable. You can breathe better. You can see the road better. It doesn't hurt your neck and back. But it's not giving you optimum control.
And if the riders around you want you to have anything, it's optimum control of your bike.
Guidelines for Which Categories to Offer:
- State Championship Events: Offer 3 categories (Cat 1 /2/3 race, Cat 3/4 race, Cat 5 race).
- Established Race: If the race has a history of more than 20 women attending (for Cat 1-3), offer 3 categories (Cat 1 /2/3 race, Cat 3/4 race, Cat 5 race). If history shows less than 20, offer 2 races (Cat 1 /2/3/4 race, Cat 5 race).
- New Races: Offer 2 races (Cat 1 /2/3/4 race, Cat 5 race).
- Cat 5 Rule: For ALL races, Category 5 racers should always have their own race regardless of attendance.
*When raced together as a 1/2/3 field, the field should be scored as a whole for prize money purposes. However, for the purpose of submitting the races to MBRA category 1/2 racers and category 3 racers should be submitted separately.
Other Requests / Suggestions:
- When racing the category 1/2/3 fields together, please offer a different race number series to the Category 1/2 racers from the Category 3 racers, so the racers can easily distinguish who they are competing against in their category. For example, the Category 1/2 racers would be a 100 series, and the Category 3 racers would be a 200 series.
- Large cash primes/purses for women’s racingare greatly appreciated and effective for motivating women to race and increase attendance, including drawing in out of state teams. We always recommend equal payout to men and women! Thank you!
- Have the hosting team for the race offer a course “pre-ride”/clinic before your eventto help promote your race and also to help make the course seem less threatening to new racers. These have been very effective in the past to encourage cyclists to give racing a try.
Thank you again for your interest and support of women’s racing!
This article was initially posted online - April 30, 2016.
Author: Jamie Smith
As part of our series of exclusive interviews of Michigan riders who have reached the major leagues, we are happy to introduce you to Allie Dragoo: Allie is one of the fresh faces in cycling today. At first glance, you may think she came out of nowhere since she didn’t race much on the road in Michigan, but she’s paid many dues unseen by road cycling fans. The 26-year-old Grand Rapids native is currently racing for Team Twenty16 RideBiker p/b ShoAir Women’s Professional Cycling Team. She graciously took the time to speak to us recently.
It’s April 30th. Where are you right this moment? And what race are you doing next?
I am in Salt Lake City. My next race is Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico (May 4-8) then AMGEN Tour of California!
You took a different route to road cycling: via BMX. (John Tomac and Mike Simonson got their start in BMX.) Talk about your path from BMX to Team Twenty16 and tell us about how BMX helped you develop as a rider.
I raced BMX with my brothers for a few years and when they stopped, I was the lone soldier. I raced for roughly 13 years and 2 years professionally until I made the choice to go to college. I received a four-cross scholarship which is similar to BMX… at school the roadies persuaded me to go on a road ride and I was hooked ever since. BMX has helped me in the road scene by being able to hold my lines, ride in a bunched up peloton, sling through the grass if necessary, and be able to take a nudge without grabbing a handful of brakes (most of the time) ha.
You were offered a golf scholarship to college. So really, you could be at a golf tournament right now in a warm sunny location. Instead you chose a much harder (physically) sport. What is up with that?
I played golf in high school and one year of college. I still like golf and think it is relaxing to watch and play, but riding and racing bikes is a lot more fun. Both sports can be very frustrating and I swear I never choose an easy sport to play… BMX, hockey, golf, road racing… Being pushed and pushing the limits is a thrill for me!
You've chosen a different career path (Allie majored in Physical Education at Marian); what kind of support to you get from family and non-cycling friends?
All of my family, friends (cycling or not) are very supportive. I do have a rule though, since cycling is my full time job I do need a mental break from it- so when I go home I allow about thirty minutes of Q&A about cycling and then I just want my family, friend, and me time.
When you ride past a golf course, do you still check out the pin placements?
I do not check out the pin placement but I do know when I am approaching a golf course even if I cannot see it; I can smell it. I also like watching people tee off, putt, and I often wonder if I asked them to assist them in technique if they would let me? I had a coach and many mentors/friends who I listened to and watched closely on form. I like to think I know a thing or two and can help out!
In golf, the women's side of the sport is much more developed than cycling, but still lives in the shadow of the men's game. In cycling, what do you feel it will take to grow women's cycling?
Women’s sports in general are often overlooked. I think we just need to keep being strong and racing our best. We knew from the get-go that we are overshadowed and underpaid, that’s why I don’t complain too much about it… I look for personal sponsors and ALWAYS remember to have fun while I’m racing and training.
I would say that your rise in road cycling has been somewhat meteoric. It's been fun to watch. You've gotten to where you are, basically, in three short years. To you, it probably feels normal, but others really look at it as a quick jump.
I have progressed very quickly but that did not come easy. I asked questions, paid attention, and took as much in as possible. I have a great coach, director, and a manager. I NEED my family and friends support to do this. I pray a lot and make the most out of this great opportunity that I have been given.
What were your goals when you left Marian University? What are your immediate cycling goals for 2016? And what are your long term goals?
During the middle of my senior year at Marian, I was planning on graduating and getting a job; cycling would become recreational and I would just ride whenever I could. I met Nicola Cranmer during cyclocross season and she told me I needed to prove myself. I think I am doing a good job :) but I want to keep improving and keep proving. There are many highs and lows during a season but I make sure to learn from the lows and keep my highs humble.
You hit one snag last fall when you were bumped from the Worlds team. How did that affect your attitude over the winter? And what did you take from that episode?
Worlds was a very good experience for me. Even though I did not get to compete, I stayed and supported team USA when I had every opportunity to get a flight and go home. I learned a lot about myself and how well I could handle a frustrating, difficult, and sad situation. I held my head high, smiled as much as I could, cried when I couldn’t smile but I stayed positive. I started this sport with a lot of support but after this happened my support crew grew even bigger, more fans, and I believe more memories than I would have had if I was in the race. Over the winter I took a few weeks off… I enjoyed the gym, running, and yoga. I caught up with my family and friends. Built a house in Tijuana with other cyclist and realized how lucky I am to be able to ride and race. I reflect back to worlds and realize how minor that “event” was in my life… But you can count on it being used to fuel the fire.
What is your training regimen like? What do you think is most responsible for getting you to the level you're at now? (I would guess it's the leg speed you developed in BMX. But that's just my guess.) What type of training advice would you give to young women racers?
My training varies like any other athlete’s training. Hours, intervals, rest…RECOVERY. I listen to my coach (Dean Golich, Carmichael Training System). It’s amazing how you can be so in tune with your body and know why you’re tired or why you feel so good. Important training advice i have for young women racers: If you’re not having fun, stop, and maybe come back to it. Listen to your body. Eat and drink while training. Recover well. And don’t be a food stickler, enjoy a treat.
What else would you like racers and fans to know about Allie Dragoo?
I just want people to see me as a person. I have two arms and two legs. I make mistakes and learn from them. I am open to constructive criticism. I love my family, friends, I am a Christian, and I like to paint.
Big thanks to Allie for taking the time to provide those responses. We’re proud to call Allie a Michigander and look forward to more great things from her this season. She's painting quite a picture with her racing career - to follow along look for @AllieOop365 on Twitter.
This article was initially posted online - March 3, 2016.
Author: Jamie Smith
As you probably know, Alexey Vermeulen has - at the age of 21 - made the jump to a Pro Tour team this season riding with Lotto-Jumbo after spending a couple of years with BMC's development program. His 2016 campaign has already begun with his appearance at Le Samyn in Belgium on March 2nd riding in support of his teammate, Koen Bouwman. I sent him a handful of questions that he graciously took the time to answer. He gives us some great insight into how he made the jump and what the transition has meant for him.
Alexey, it was just a matter of time before you got called up to the Pro Tour. But we all figured it would be with BMC. How did your relationship with Lotto-Jumbo come to be?
After breaking my wrist in Italy, I had refocused myself on recovering to race the World Championships in Richmond. I was mentally at a mixed place. My entire year had been focused on racing strong at L’avenir. During the year I had the opportunity to stagiere with BMC for the Tour of Utah and Colorado, but I made a difficult decision to continue to focus on L’avenir and pass on that opportunity at that time. My conversations with Lotto-Jumbo started shortly after I had broken my wrist. To be honest, I was very concerned about letting down BMC. Similar to the stagiere decision earlier that summer, I was faced with an exciting but critical decision. In my early conversations, it was evident they were asking the right questions. Lotto-Jumbo had been following my U23 career, and I felt it was a good fit the more I talked to the team. They made it clear that they believed in my potential as a GC contender and were committed to sharpen my skills. In the end I left every conversation more confident that I could make a difference on Lotto-jumbo and more excited to make the jump. I am very blessed to have been part of two incredibly professionally managed teams that have long term vision.
Victories on a resume only carry you so far; one has to have the necessary power numbers to be considered at that level. Clearly, you have those. But what other things do you think Lotto saw in you? What would you hope they saw?
From what I hear, one of the races that impressed them was my performance at Val d’Aosta in Italy this past July. This is the hardest U23 race in the world, I believe, because of the terrain and competition. I hope they saw the way I carried myself on and off the bike. In my mind I was building fitness to win bigger and bigger races. I always try to race respectively and I ALWAYS race to the finish line. These are small things that I have learned over the years from my dad and coach, and I think they are very important even though sometimes in the short term it may not seem to matter.
Your XC running certainly helped your early development. Do you think you would have been as strong a cyclist without other types of training in your background?
This is an awesome question, and yes, I think running and cross training have played an enormous role in my progression, and they still do. It was evident at a young age I had a gift of endurance. I would always have my best results at hockey in the 3rd period and could make up a lot of time late in cross country races. Cross training is especially important in Michigan where the weather plays a role in your outdoor training options. I can ride in -20 degrees, but doing intervals and hard work in that weather is not productive, so I was forced to look for other options to accelerate my fitness. Running and hockey had a lot to do with my early success in cycling, but overall I think it really just helped me to be a more balanced and tough athlete. I did things cyclists never do during the winter…and had to find ways to transition from cycling in order to run fall cross country races. I also have been supplementing with weight training with Marc Mueller since I was about 14 years old when it was Heart of a Warrior (now PowerCycling). Marc has been by my side since the beginning and as my career has progressed. We have even created a couple new moves together, and I even have one named after me! I work 2-3 times a week with Marc for about 2 hours starting in October through January if possible. We work on strengthening issues that I encountered with my body the previous year, mix weights with bodyweight, and with the indoor bike to do some of the hardest training I will do all season.
Do your old running teammates at Dexter H.S. understand the magnitude of riding for a Pro Tour team?
Many of the boys from the cross country team are some of my best friends. We try to keep in touch, and whenever we are all in town we always have an annual reunion at Zingermman’s Roadhouse. In the end though, the usual question is always, “Will you be in the Tour de France this year??” I think if I ever answer “yes” to that question then they will fully understand.
When did you start serious preparation for the 2016 season? And how much more “elevated” or more intense did your training become when you signed with a Pro Tour team? Do you feel any additional pressure?
This past offseason was a bit more complicated with my wrist. Having to take a big break in the beginning of August and build back up in the heat of the season is not great for a professional cyclist. This September, I did not really need a break physically, but mentally I had pushed myself very hard during the recovery from my wrist, so I was happy to have a short break. The off season for me is typically more of a mental break. I am competitive, so when I am off my bike, I am running through the woods or spending time playing hockey. It is akin to rest days, rest doesn’t mean low activity but it does mean low intensity.
I really kicked off the preparation for my season in the beginning of November with Iceman. I usually enjoy starting training with Iceman even though it is after not riding for a few weeks. It is a punch, yet fun awakening to shock my system into hard training. My average heart rate this year was 193bpm for over an hour! Every year is more intense.
This year the big change has been a lot more longer rides, being that the races have some longer days of 200 km+, that is the big step that I have to make. The team understands progression and their trainers have been great in keeping the pressure low during my first season. I know what I want to do with my career and that pushes me to my intensity. Cycling is a team sport, and you don’t want to be the guy that lets his teammates down.
You’ve been with the team for a few weeks now. What were your first few days like? With whom did you make quick friends?
I met most of the team for the first time at a testing session and then at the team presentation in mid-January. It was a busy and packed first couple of days in Europe for me. I arrived and a couple days later I had VO2, lactate testing and EKG screening and more. Everybody was speaking Dutch, and I was introduced to many new faces. When I got to Girona, (Where I am living this year), I quickly made friends with Dennis Van Winden and Robert Gesink who live here also. They helped me find my way around town and have quickly become my best Dutch friends! I also roomed with Wilco Kelderman at team camp, so I made friends with him quickly.
What sort of activities did they do at camp to ‘mix’ the new riders with the established guys?
There were no big events to ‘mix’ riders, although earlier in December the team had a military boot camp for bonding. It didn’t make sense to for me to fly over in December just weeks before my official move, but it is clear the team understands the importance of strong personal connections. They have offered me Dutch tutoring to help me ‘mix’ in with the team more easily. At the pre-season training camp, I had a week and a half to meet and talk to everyone. For the most part, everyone is relaxed, and I was able to chat and start to make genuine introductions and see different personalities.
You mentioned that you feel good about honoring your family name by going to a Dutch team. Explain what that means.
I grew up in a Dutch-American home. I put my shoes out for Sinta Klaas on December 5th eve (Dutch Christmas) and ate large flat pancakes (pannekoken) and boercole. It’s the small things that connect you to your heritage that you don’t know are different from your school friends. My opa (grandfather) raced in Holland, and he gave me his books and trophies, and I identified bike racing through him. He would give me his old racing magazines, and we would talk about racers and strategy. He rode 70km every day, and it seemed the perfect lifestyle. As I have climbed the ladder of my career, I have always felt he is with me. So there is a big feeling of pride to really go back to my Dutch roots, especially where I don’t have to explain how to spell Vermeulen every time someone asks for my name.
What goals did your team set for you for 2016?
I am goal oriented, but the team is not pushing me too much this year with performance goals. I have some hard races on schedule which will push me to test the World Tour learning curve. That said, I would be happy to race to a top ten in the Tour of California and finish the 21 days of Vuelta a Espana (tour of Spain) in August. I would see that as a successful Neo pro season to create a solid foundation to set goals for 2017.
What events have they charted out for you? And how will successes be measured?
Right now my schedule stands as follows: although it is very likely to change based on how I am feeling and what happens throughout the season.
- Volta a al Comunitat Valenciana –UCI Europe Tour; 5 days, and I finished 62nd in the general classification
- Le Samyn – UCI Europe Tour; One day in Belgium
- Driedaagse van (Three days of) West-Vlaanderen (Flanders) – UCI 2.1 Europe tour; 3 days
- Catalunya – World Tour Race
- Pais Vasco – Very Hard World Tour race
- Fleshe Wallone – World Tour
- Tour of Romandie – World Tour
- Tour of California - 8 days starts in the San Diego and Finishes in Sacremento
- US Pro Nationals –
- Criterium Dauphine - World tour
- Tour of Poland -
- Vuelta Espana – World Tour
Success will be measured by how well I complete the tasks that I am given in the races, whether that is pulling on the front, getting bottles or having a go for it. The goal is to learn the way of life in the pro peloton and have some fun along the way!
When will it “suddenly get real” for you?
I think the “oh shit” moment will come at Catalunya. This will be my first World Tour race ever, and the riders will be world class from every team. The best of the best will be on the start line, and there is no better way to make the cut.
Your tweets indicate that you're able to stop-and-smell-the-roses at times. I mean, most people rush through life and only realize what they’ve done after they do it. What are some of those moments that you really soak in?
Training and racing are both a physical and a mental battle. I love the bike, but like most things you love, it makes you suffer to earn the love and commitment. I post the sweet spots, but there is a lot of sweat in between. I can always train better when I am happy and enjoying life, and the best way to do that is to take some time to savor the Cappuccino or take a rest day trip to the sea. Spain has provided beautiful moments that I have really loved; I am enjoying the roads and scenery. I am also a foodie, so I always enjoy trying new, unique and elaborate foods whenever I get the chance. I also love the traveling, which can get exhausting, but at the end of the day when I look back, there is almost always a good memory from everywhere that I have gone. That is what will matter the most in 30 years.
Tell us about your family’s support. What are some of the things they did that made it possible for you to pursue your goals?
Everyone says this, but I really could not be where I am right now without my family. From my parents and brothers, to my Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and Grandparents, Oom (uncle) Lambert and Tante (aunt) Mia, my Dutch relatives who follow every race, and are always writing inspiring messages. My grandparents, Deeda and grandpa as well as Great Aunt Bitsy have traveled to many of my bigger races over the past years – Green Mountain to Nationals and Worlds. Everyone has played a part in where I am regardless of their understanding of the journey. It really makes the journey that much more special to share it with family and friends. The support comes in so many ways, but in the end it was the countless times I worked on crazy tactics with my dad, raced around the local trails with my brothers and was consoled by close losses by my loving mother. The support has been unending, always at my side when I have needed an extra voice or hand. I love them so much, and I think one of the hardest parts about signing this contract is that I cannot bring them along on the journey any longer. Now it is time to repay all of the support and make them proud!
Finally, let’s talk about Michigan cycling, and what it did for your development. What benchmarks or events can you look back on as “good education” in the development of Alexey Vermeulen?
I first think of people, and then I think about key races or training situations. Guys like Mark Lovejoy and Joe Christy, who continued to manage the Ann Arbor Velo club junior program after their boys were no longer racing, were critical in the early years of my riding. We had a good group with James Anderson and Eddie Kelly which was so much fun. I recall, in 2008, Mark Lovejoy encouraging me to go to Nationals in Pennsylvania. Registration was already closed, and I only had a few races under my belt, but he knew it would be a great experience. Paul Alman, race promoter, was never short of wisdom and encouragement. My family would hang out at the Spring Training Series all day, and I would jump onto the back of race after race. Then there is Ray, the grandfather of Michigan cycling. I never raced for the famous Wolverines, but I enjoyed racing against them. Ray’s love of bike racing is amazing, and he continues to mentor racers of all ages.
Another person who has played a major role in my career has been Lucas Wall. From the beginning of my career, he has been more than just a coach; helping me to balance my schedule between different sports and has supported me on and off the bike. Ascension in the world of cycling is not only about training as hard as you can, but about understanding what else you need to do to be successful. Lucas has been there every step of the way, and I look forward to continuing to work with him.
Then the Michigan races…I think some of my favorites included Tour of Kensington, West Branch, Cherry Roubaix and Waterford. Tour of Kensington gave me the first feeling of finding my perfect rhythm on a climb, and it wasn’t much of a climb at all. West Branch gave me the feeling of some of my biggest wins, first with the road race and then the race where I attacked from the gun in the cat. 3 crit. Cherry Roubaix allowed me to first start to understand what a stage race was like. I fell in love with what it took off the bike to compete better on the bike. And Waterford…I have messed up time and time again on that race track. I have learned so much tactically and had so much fun over the years with the people with whom I grew up racing and with whom I raced against. I am a stronger athlete thanks to so many people from the Mitten. Whenever I succeed, I have always felt a swell in my heart when I come back and line up for a race in MI, the place it all began, on the race track of Waterford worlds and on the trails of the Potowatami. Michigan will always be my home.
Big thanks to Alexey for taking the time to provide those responses. You can follow Alexey on twitter @alexeyvermeulen He posts a lot of lifestyle observations as well as behind the scenes stuff from Europe.
I'm working on similar interviews with Larry Warbasse, Allie Dragoo, and more Michigan originals. Stay tuned.
As the Michigan Bicycle Racing Association, our mission is to promote amateur bicycle racing in Michigan! This comes down to eight key objectives:
1. Coordinate and establish a balanced race calendar with minimal overlap between events.
2. Encourage USAC clubs in close geographical proximity to work together to host full weekends of events, rather than weekends made up of single racesin different locales
3. . Develop a standardized category system to facilitate points series
5. Encourage promoters to provide races that meet the category specific USAC time or distance requirements for rider upgrades
6. Provide for effective communications between racers, clubs and promoters by encouraging a spirit of cooperation and volunteerism
7. Serve as a unified body that will best represent amateur Michigan bicycle racers in discussions, regarding their needs and desires, with their governing bodies
8. Create a supportive network and environment that enables race organizers to exchange ideas and support each other.