Tim Speciale - January 9, 2020
Often misattributed as "hello and goodbye", its real multifaceted meaning is of love, compassion respect and harmony; it is more than a salutation. The following entries on this blog are my attempt to express these feelings to this amazing sport. This is more than just a goodbye.
In one of the countless stories mourning the untimely death of Steve Tilford, I read an article where someone suggested reading Steve’s entire blog from start to finish. I haven’t completed this yet – there is a ton of content – but I have made a pretty substantial dent. The writing, while not always elegant or full of depth, is nonetheless compelling. Steve’s blog was often nothing more than a diary that he shared with the world but in its entirety it is so much more. His blog serves as unique first-hand view of a life and of a sport. I’m grateful that he was willing to share and now, for reasons I’ll explain in the coming words, I feel compelled to do the same.
To say that I was a different person when I first started racing bikes is an understatement. To attribute all of the change to aging is to downplay the impact that cycling and the people I’ve met while doing it have made on me.
As I stepped into my 20’s I basically had no goals or direction. Whatever goals I might have mustered up, I had no idea how to work towards achieving them. It was cycling and some characters along the way that helped me hone these things – goal setting & execution and leveraging pain and failure into positives. It was primarily cycling that would shepard me through those awkward years in life where you’re no longer a child but haven’t quite figured out how to find real purpose (at least many of us).
The sense of being lost and searching for purpose is what drove me to train as a cyclist. I was lost and insecure and the drive to prove to people and myself that I could succeed at this became a positive feedback loop. The more I trained, the more I succeeded. The more I succeeded, the more I proved “them” wrong. My early years in cycling were fueled primarily on an insecurity – and it worked…for a while at least.
As my life played itself out, my relationship with cycling changed. As I became a more secure individual, I no longer really cared about proving people wrong and I had risen to a level of competition where you cannot dip your toe in the water. You’re either in or you’re out. I didn’t realize it until very recently but I began to actually fall out of love with cycling. Not just racing but cycling in general. Getting on the bike wasn’t an activity I enjoyed, it was a requirement to fulfill the things I was telling the world I wanted to do.
All around me, people in my life – non-racers – began to wonder why the hell I would throw so much into this. It’s always been hard to articulate to people. I now realize this is largely because I never really took the time to understand it myself.
Much has changed in my life and I feel like I’ve gotten out of cycling everything that I can and everything that I need. I have new goals and aspirations that don’t involve spending 10….12…15 or more hours a week by myself on a bike in January, freezing my nuts off and occasionally wondering if I’m going to lose a toe to the cold.
Most of my successes, aspirations, and plans I have in my life I owe very largely to the sport. I feel extremely in debt to it and many of the people around it as well as the lessons it has taught me (directly and indirectly) in the last 10 years. My purpose with this website is to pay the sport and the people back. This is my story.
My Bell Lap
For the uninitiated, USA Crits is calls itself “the premier racing series in America” with a focus on criteriums. This series is the highest level of competition that my skill set will allow me to race – especially at this point in my life (and to be clear, I’m not expecting much). There are few things in my life that I’ve found as exhilarating as racing in front of thousands of screaming fans, often in the dark.
If I turned this opportunity down and if I left the sport in a state where I wasn’t enjoying it as much as when I first started, I would regret it for the rest of my life. In 2020, I’m all in. This is my bell lap.