I have two major passions in life (ok, three, but the third is a given ;)) - cycling and teaching.
For years, I have been involved in the education/training field. I started in high school on a co-op assignment, teaching English and Math (yes, me) at an elementary French School. I moved to substitute teaching for language teachers at my high school, a lab TA for Computer Science (yes, me!) in university/college and then into corporate education where I still sit today. Why is this a passion? Ever explained something to someone and seen a lightbulb go off? That's the point - sharing knowledge with others, and seeing them grasp the understanding of what you are teaching. You can literally see their facial expression change when they finally "get it".
What does this have to do with cycling you ask? One of the ways that I "give back" to the sport I love is to volunteer at NEBC's Spring Racing Clinic. This is the third year I have participated as an instructor (after first being a graduate!). The clinic pairs my passion for teaching with my passion for cycling, and for 4 weeks in April, I get to watch new cyclists/racers embrace the sport I love. It is so satisfying to watch people who at the beginning of April don't know how to ride in a paceline, progress so that at the end of the month they are riding smooth pacelines, sprinting, cornering and displaying confidence in handling their bikes.
Sunday was the graduation exercise for this year's racing clinic at BRC's Wells Ave training crit, and I went to do a "ride along", coaching them through their first race experience. We managed to ensure that everyone had numbers pinned correctly (none upside down or on the wrong side!), seatbags were taken off the bikes, the course was previewed, warmups were complete and even a flat tire was changed. I could see and feel the nerves as they lined up to race.
I literally rode alongside the group coaching them on when to move up, when to pull off and sometimes, when to shift ;). A few laps in, the prime bell rang. I encouraged Joy to get on my wheel to provide her a leadout for the sprint, practing skills from the clinic. I picked up the pace and launched Joy and Kate (from Quad Cycles) to the line, with Joy taking the first prime. Kate, with a bit more race experience, realized that they now had a gap. The two worked together to increase their lead, and were off.
I drifted back to the chase group, happy to see that they were using their newly learned skills. I coached a Quad teammate not to chase down the break (and why) - she did a fantastic job of blocking, and the chase group was never able to close down the gap, despite sustaining a 20 mph pace. Race tactics wasn't something we really discussed as part of the clinic, but I did address it with the group in our post-race debrief.
After spending 3 laps chasing down the break myself, I caught them with only 4 laps left in the race, encouraging them to make the most of the gap they had, and to continue working together. In the end, I provided the final lead out, and Joy took her first racing win, wearing the NEBC colors! It was so fun to see everyone SO EXCITED about their racing experience. They were all talking about going back to the next Wells Ave D race in June!
Too bad we can't require all racers to go through our clinic. In the combined A/B field it appeared that someone didn't know how to corner in turn 1, grabbed some brake, and caused a signifcant crash in front of me, with about 7 or 8 riders going down, bikes and riders being ridden over and damaged in the process. After already having been put into a curb earlier, seeing teammates crash put me out of the racing mood and I decided I'd had enough.
I hope some of our clinic grads go on to do well in the local race scene. I know Joy, for sure, has the racing bug already, and is registered for Sterling next weekend!
(all pictures from S. Peter Mosgofian)