Chapters EP:1 The Still Point

When people ask me why I do what I do, or why I started racing when I was 5, I don’t know how to give a simple answer. The simplest one I can give is to say I do it for the full spectrum of emotions that come from racing bikes… because there’s sure a lot to it.

It’s quite fitting and maybe a bit ironic that I’m just now sharing a video about the off-season while I’m flying to the first World Cup of the year in Brazil. I racked up $350 of baggage fees on my way here, as I’ve got all the stuff I’ll carry with me through the next 5 months of travel. I guess that’s how it tends to go… the events on the horizon always come quicker than you think, and without fail, last season reliably fades into just another story to tell. In the world of competitive sport, our edges are all sharpened, and you go through the full spectrum of emotions. But I’m realizing that each moment, regardless of where it takes place, is happening right in the heart of it all.

It’s hard to remain fully settled during a long season. In a way, last year felt like one constant chase to get somewhere. The circus of MTB racing has a lot of movement to it. I love the fact that my job is to globetrot racing my bike, but at times, a sense of home feels elusive. Last season began early and ended late, and when I flew back to the States in October, I was ready to stay still in one place for a lot longer than a week or two. I emptied my stuff out of a storage unit in San Luis Obispo, where I lived for the last six years, and moved into a new place in Santa Cruz. For the month of time I spent off the bike, SC was a playground. I surfed every day until my elbows hurt from over-paddling, got excited about buying houseplants, and got that boost of energy I typically feel once I take two weeks off. The time away from training ended with singlespeed cyclocross worlds in town. Hands down the most preposterous bike race I’ve found myself doing. It was a reminder that you can ride your bike any number of ways, and it’s not only the elite / serious side of it that I love. No race winner’s tattoo for me, but one of the most fun weekends of my year.

A short 4 weeks off, and then back to it. At the start of structured training, I went to a meditation retreat center that has become one of the most important places in my life. This place is a representation of how I want to orient myself in this sport, and life in general. I could say a lot about mindfulness and what it means to me on and off the bike. But in a way, it’s all very simple and direct. Meditation has given me tools to realize that home is wherever I am. True home is a sense of presence, a feeling of groundedness, the still point in the middle of the turning world. It's what I feel on the best of bike rides, and it's available anywhere, from a duplex in Santa Cruz close to surfing, to a loud airport in São Paulo, to the call-up boxes at the Olympics.

As I step into the storm of the season now, that’s what I want to take with me. 2024 is a year defined by the dream of the Olympics, which strains everything unimportant out of it. For the next few months, it's what life revolves around for me, and it's a gift to be able to have that singular focus. It's intense and vulnerable, but in the middle of that difficulty, this sport and this life can be lighthearted and fun too.