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Day 31 and 32: "Rest Days"

Updated: Aug 30, 2022

Having just come off of my most significant day of climbing ever, and also having been riding pretty hard for several weeks, my goal was to rest as much as possible before my race in just two days. Unfortunately, I had several things I needed to get done before then. Bill, my host, lived about 7.5 miles from Winter Park itself, so at a bare minimum I would need to ride 15 miles just to go into town and back everyday. But I would be riding more than on my "rest days" because I also hoped to pre-ride the race course. Pre-riding is essential if you want do well in a race as it allows you to pace yourself better, know where obstacles are, and when to pass other riders. But before I could even pre-ride, I needed to find a bike that I could use to race. My bike, having no suspension and being a gravel bike, would not only be unsuitable for the race, but also not legal to race on. While there were several bike shops in town with rentals, bike shops generally don't allow rental bikes to be raced because racing makes it far more likely that riders crash and then damage the rental bikes. It would turn out that bike shops in the area also had a policy of not allowing their bikes to be taken to the Winter Park resort (where the races were held) because the trails there were more difficult and likely to damage the bikes... After I learned this, I was a little worried about my chances of finding a bike...

Talking to Bill about bike rentals, as he cooked up some eggs, fresh greens, and vegetables from his garden, he said that he knew some of the people at Christy's Sports, a chain bike/ski shop depending on the season. Bill said on the way to work he could drop by briefly and explain my situation and hopefully they would be able to rent me a bike when I would show up a little after Bill.

I set off after Bill's car and made it to Christy's where I was told to look for another Bill, of which there were two that worked for Christy's. When I arrived and walked in, sure enough they not only knew who I was, but were enthusiastic about my trip! And not just Bill, but Jim, the manager of the store. Which was lucky for me because it would be his approval that would ultimately be needed if I was to be able to rent a bike to race and then bring it to the resort against policy. I didn't have super high hopes having heard that Christy's was a chain, but the guys in Winter Park didn't have an issue with me racing one of their bikes! The shop was entirely full suspension, heavier bikes not made for racing, but ideal for casual riding, but we found the bike that would suit me best from their selection, the Santa Cruz Tallboy C. The MSRP of the bike is $5,700 and is by far the most expensive bike I have ever ridden. I did not want to crash it...

I was anticipating a very expensive time in Winter Park, and it was, but far less than it could have been all thanks to the guys at Christy's! They wanted to give me the best shot at a successful race, so Bill said after work he would take the Tallboy back home with him where I could meet him and we would then go up to Winter Park and pre-ride the course and I could trial the bike. This would be at no cost to me! I jumped on that opportunity and after work, I met up with Bill, and we biked up to the course I would soon be racing.

The organization of the event was pretty abysmal, and after struggling for some time trying to figure out the right course to ride, we were off. This ride would serve not only to get me accustomed to the course, but also allow the guys at the shop to better fit the Tallboy to me. We did one lap. The course itself was pretty suited to my style of riding, with a good amount of climbing and the descents were all fairly smooth, except for one brutal rock garden that would get covered in mud making every line treacherous with slick rock.

By the time we finished the first lap, it was getting pretty dark, but we fit in another lap before it was completely dark. We then headed back to Bill's place and did some adjustments on the bike and had dinner. Bill is a ton of fun to talk to and I would find myself hanging out with him for a good part of my time in Winter Park! We planned to do the same ride the next day after work, again at no charge to me. It was well past dark at this point and it was time to head back to the other Bill's house, my Warmshowers host. I didn't have my flashlight on my bike, so it was a very dark and sketchy ride back home with no streetlights for miles. I would end up hitting a wooden plank in the dark and nearly crashing, but made it home alright that night. Bill, my Warmshowers host, works evenings, so he was up late as well when I got back, and I got to talk with him some more.

Bill is a true cycling enthusiast. He used to race himself and even offered to let me race his bike if I couldn't find one at Christy's, but he has now transitioned into more of a cycle tourist. He has travelled all over Europe on bike, but says France is his favorite country to tour through. Bucket list item maybe? He also rides regularly, often with the Bill from Christy's, and is simply an incredibly active guy. It was really fun to compare our different setups for touring. And speaking of "touring," the Tour de France was going on every day while I was in Winter Park. One of only four American riders in the race is Sean Bennet, a rider who went to my high school and we were on the same team for a year or maybe two. Sean wouldn't actually race with the high school team much since he was always on a national stage and the races we did were more of a state stage, but I remember he was basically a legend on the team and it was a lot of fun to follow him in the tour! Ultimately, my "rest day" would be over 25 miles, which felt like a rest day for me at that point having usually done around 100, but in actuality was a fairly sizable ride on a normal day...

The next day I rode into town for more of the same! I stopped by Christy's to say hi to the guys and then explored around town. I found a great coffee shop, which I would visit nearly every day from then on, Moon Frog Café. The owner and staff were super friendly, but I hadn't met a single person who wasn't in Winter Park! I went to go find some food after my coffee and made it to a lunch place that was just about to close. They took my order for a couple donuts though, and then kept giving me more donuts when they heard about my trip.

With my extra donuts, I returned to Christy's and gave it to the guys there while I waited for them to close up. This is basically how every normal day in Winter Park would go with me hanging out at Christy's and talking to the guys there until they closed and then head out the back with them to do some more riding. Since we had adjusted the Santa Cruz Tallboy for me the previous day, they hadn't even rented it out so all my settings would be the same for my race the next day! You just couldn't ask for a more supportive and friendly bunch. After another pre-ride and relaxing few hours at Bill's (from Christy's), while we figured out the logistics of my race, qualifying, and costs, I headed home to Bill's (from Warmshowers) and slept, excited for my next day of racing!

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