Author Topic: An open letter to... well, anyone that cares really. slash, a reflection...  (Read 2442 times)

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Offline Plantains

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While I would urge people interested in the intended message to read this entire reflection... if you are so inclined to wonder what it is all about, you can scroll down to the mob smiley and read on from there to get the meat of the message. But the article is indeed a crescendo.

When I first arrived at UND in the Fall of 2007, I had been completely off of my bicycle since July 2005 after suffering successive clavicle fractures. That summer (2007) I began thinking to myself, maybe I should get back into "cycling shape" in case there's something big there. I had hopes of trying out for some big shot cycling team, and what I got was "a tractor flipped over into a ditch" or as some of you all know it... collegiate cycling. Allow me to elaborate.

When I arrived that fall, there were obviously some key people working VERY hard to keep UND Cycling's head above water. Let me also say, without the people that were here before me, and before them, my experiences would've been considerably different in the sense that... well... there simply would have been no club. As it was, I was actively seeking this club out and they proved to be more elusive than I had hoped. I was scheduled for a run day but decided to skip and take a nap. I had ridden (foolishly) some odd routes in my first few weeks, typically ending up on highway 2 (which sucked btw). This day in question though, since I had skipped my run, as I rode out to what became the "airport road" I forced myself to head south (as a punishment). As I was riding along heading south, there appeared to be a tractor flipped over into a ditch quite a ways down the road. I figured I'd at least make sure things were alright. It turns out in fact, that that tractor, was the UND Cycling Club out on a group ride. I of course stopped and introduced myself, but was a little shocked (no offense to those guys) at the casual nature of the group. So that that doesn't come across as an insult, I should mention that I was full well expecting some form of professionally organized, sponsored cycling organization. These people were not that. There was CERTAINLY nothing wrong with what they were, I was just expecting something different, nothing more, nothing less.

I began chatting with Tiff (because I was single LOL) and she sort of pointed out who the people to get involved with were. I said to Chad, listen, I'm new, but I want you to know that I'll do anything to help this organization. He seemed excited and notified me of when the next meeting was through the listserv (oh God the damn listserv). At this meeting, again I was expecting to see some of the 15 or so riders out on the ride that day. There were four people. Chad, Mario, Charles Black, and myself. Slowly I began to realize that this wasn't exactly a group of people that were offering me my next pro cycling contract. We talked about different things, and decided that Chad would be the President, Charles, VP, me the Race/Event Coordinator, and Mario was the Treasurer or something, which didn't even matter because as I understood it, we had no money?

Between the 4 of us, which became the 3 of us (Charles was really becoming a fantastic artist and needed to focus on that) we found ourselves facing quite the uphill battle. I went to the bike shop after checking USAC's website and found an "Andrew Yost" listed as someone who had raced for UND 2 years ago. Ultimately, I found this Andrew Yost (if that IS his real name) and learned some alarming things about the area scene in general. Again, I say alarming because it was just such a stark contrast to what I assumed was normal. There was no local racing scene, there were no racing teams, sponsorship was largely unheard of, and competing at the collegiate level was happening on an inconsistent basis.

That season, after begging the bike shop fellas (Yost and Nathan) to come back and be involved (I had to use beer) we fielded an incredible team/club. Chad, Yost, Mario and I trained with essentially the idea that we would just "do it" and we started early. We were lucky enough to get outdoors for about a week and ran some criterium practices in the Ralph. We had our Team Time Trial organized to ridiculous levels, and we had some basic tactics set. We showed up for the first race of the season, which was in Kansas. We didn't know anyone, we weren't even sure what to expect. We stayed with one of the Kansas guys (Josh Stamper for those keeping score) and he sort of filled us in.

In the road race (our first race ever as a "team") there was a crash roughly 2 miles in, right before the climbs. It took down our entire team. Chad and Mario were able to make it back into the peloton after a hard chase. Yost's derailleur fell off, and I hung back waiting for him so that we could maybe salvage something.

I felt horrible. Here I was this jerk that showed up from NY and was just like "you guys don't race collegiate??!?!?!" and then I get these guys to sacrifice LOTS of time, invest their trust in me (for some unknown reason) when I say that we should probably be racing, and we get there and all die in a fire within 5 minutes, and it wasn't even because we were slow! I knew I was going to be apologizing the whole 13hours back to Grand Forks!

Yost (being the team mechanic) got his derailleur back on and working through most gears within like 3 minutes (somehow? All I know is that it was EPICly fast). Him and I began to cruise. He would pull up the hills, I would pull down the hills. By the time we turned tailwind, we had eaten up a HUGE chunk of time and 9 riders. Yost clearly had more in the tank than I did, so I told him to pull and if I could keep up, fine, if not... just go. He went. And that was our first race. That was MY first race in collegiate and it was ridiculous.

Later that day, we drove to the TTT course and started prepping. Larry Martin was officiating iirc and was endlessly making fun of us in his Larry Martin way. NONE of us had ever done a TTT, and we just weren't sure what to expect. We stood at the start line watching how the other teams were going about it and one thing became instantly clear. We were FAR better prepared than most teams. We toe'd the line and got the green light. With a quick start and a bunch of "SET!" and "CLEARS!" we were flying. I glanced down at my computer for a quick second and I remember being confused thinking I had put my computer in kilometers! Then, as was planned... I dropped off after a sprint pull, because goddamnit I'm AWFUL at time trialing.

The lads came screaming back in, and for those of you that know the guys (Mario, Chad and Yost) can only imagine what the time was. But of course, we had no idea what was fast. Some of the teams had dedicated TT bikes with discs, and bars and helmets, and the whole gamut. When Larry told us our placing at the end of the day we were shocked to learn that we had finished 2nd (I think it was second... ) only finishing behind one (or 2?) other schools and they were both A teams. (We were D by the way).

The last thing I remember about that weekend was Mario doing really well in the crit and coming up to me after the race and saying "Dave, if we hadn't done that crit practice with you, I would've died" it made me laugh so hard in my head, I'll probably never forget that. The weekend seemed pretty successful, and I was relieved that no one was trying to kill me.

The rest of that season is blurred amongst squabbles amongst the team and snowstorms. It was inevitable that the group was going to go through some serious growing pains, but it sure sucked at the time.

The important thing to note though, is what the events of that season have effectively done. The club has become something bigger than I would've ever thought having gone through it all at the time. The next season we began hosting nightlife events and were able to get Sanders to wander in. Hooked him after like 2 years or something (what a slacker). Beek was writing for the Dakota Student and happened to hear about us somehow, and wrote an article about getting hit by cars. He obviously called to interview me and we met at Tabula as it was called then (Archives). The interview was nothing abnormal, but at the end when I was like well thanks, do you have any other questions? And he says "Yeah, when can I come and ride with you". But we had all been through this before. We were ALL shamelessly self promoting to get ANYONE with a bike to join, and were met with relatively little interest. We clung to our older members and guilt tripped them into riding with us just to keep things alive. Ha! Well, much to my total shock, Matt (as he was then known) shows up on this GORGEOUS Trek 5500 (?) with the USPS paint. I just remember thinking, holy crap... this kid must do some riding. Turns out, he HAD done riding, and wanted desperately to do more. Now that poor bastard is our Race/Event Coordinator and one of our most dedicated members.

I ended up going back home for the next fall semester and recalled hearing tales of Sanders and Logan "showing up pretty regularly". Logan, as I'm told was spotted by Dr. Berenstein riding a unicycle around campus. 1. I had no idea who Dr. B was, and 2. Who in the HELL uses a unicycle to commute? Either way, both of those guys were still there in the spring when I showed up. I doubt they were happy to meet me, but after awhile I think we all acclimated to each other. Those two are now our President and Treasurer respectively, and also make up the core of the club.

Alright... so why am I writing this!?  :mob:

I've watched this club grow from an overturned tractor in a field into a sponsored, 2x NCCCC Champion cycling team. This club not ONLY has an epic team, we have a fantastic group of people that make up our club. There are too many names to list in both of these categories, but if you're reading this, you know damn well who you are. This club brings something to this community (both the campus and the city) that few other organizations are able to bring. We bring a successful and organized means for people to do anything. Be empowered, get better gas mileage, have some fun, socialize, race, WIN, and get general advice. This club is so much more diverse than one can even possibly fathom. Just tonight at my last meeting ever with these blokes, Logan was talking about hosting a film festival! We've made connections with clubs that have previously had a wall up to our area because they considered it a lost cause, and are planning events that will be regional instead of just local. We're drawing people in from hundreds of miles away for our events, we're getting people writing to us from across the ENTIRE COUNTRY to buy our jerseys. This is on top of showing Grand Forks that it IS cool to ride your bike, and Andy Hampsten and Lance Armstrong aren't the only cyclists that can be famous here.

There will always be times when you're sitting there asking yourself what the endless hammering of stakes into the grass in the dark and cold, or standing in the rain to watch 10 cyclists go by, or sitting in the meetings listening to us bicker is all for. There will be times when you face immeasurable adversity, both with this club and in life, and there will be times when you just want to scream, and tell everyone else to just go to hell and do it themselves. But before you throw in the towel and walk away, look back on not only what you're a part of, but what you're helping to create. Consider how much your involvement no matter how brief is helping people do things that they never would've had the opportunity to do without this club. When it's all said and done, I can tell you all (ask Emily) that I've said countless times that I was done, that I would never ride with UND again, and that it just wasn't worth the heartache... but let me just say, as someone sitting on this side of the coin, ALL of it was worth it. The friendships I've made, the things I've learned about myself, the things I've learned about cycling and that...

No matter how small or inferior you feel your participation's effect is, no matter how insurmountable the task may seem... if you believe in something, TRULY believe in it, it's worth pursuing with all your effort and might. Nothing will ever take these experiences away from me. NOTHING. I will never forget the life lessons I've learned in North Dakota over these past few years, ever. While the friendships will inevitably fade, and the shared experiences will cease, none of you should ever feel that I would never be there for you for any reason at any time.

I leave here with more respect for my teammates than you all can possibly imagine. I may not make that known all the time... but I mean it.

Thank You UND Cycling. I will never forget what you've done for me.
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Offline Mario

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Oh, man this is all so true! Oh, wait I think it's ...yup, a tear in my eye... My last 3.5 years at UND CYCLING just flashed in front of my while I was reading this. TO ALL OF YOU, READ THE WHOLE THING, PLEASE. Thanks Dave for putting this letter together. It could have not been said any better... So true, so true...
The minimum number of bikes one should own is three.  The correct number is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned.  This equation may also be re-written as s-1, where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

Offline sanders

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I just want to say thanks Dave for everything that you have done with helping build this club, we will miss you being around, as we miss mario, tiff but everything comes to a close at some point  :(. I just want to say thanks for saying whats up, to some freshman dink (me) walking past at the wellness center, as the memories I have with the cycling club have been some of the best/most fun experiences I've had. It has been fun watching the club progress and watching the cycling community slowly(sloowly) but surely grow in GF, and hopefully continue to grow.
Alone you are an athlete but on a bike you are a rocket


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