Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The 2nd step...

...of the podium
2nd - Nature Valley GC
2nd - USPro TT
3rd - Fitchburg-Longsjo GC
2nd - Redlands Classic GC
7th - Tour of California St. 5 TT
2nd - Tour de San Luis st. 3 TT
3rd - Tour of Elk Grove GC
2nd - Tour of the Gila st.3 TT
2nd - KOM at Philly
10th - Tour of Utah Prologue

It was difficult to write down these results and it's difficult to look at them. My top 10 failures and shortcomings racing this year are there for everyone to see. The top 3 particularly evoke a sick feeling in my stomach just looking at them. After each one of those first 3 results listed, I remember thinking how teaching high school chemistry or working in a research lab wouldn't (COULDN'T) possibly be as painful as what I was feeling at the time. All that I knew is that I never wanted to feel like that again - and the safest way (so the logic in my head goes) is to find a new line of work. Of course, it doesn't take long to come to my senses and remember that I'm living my dream job and there's no way that I could willingly give it up. So the only choice is to work harder, learn from my mistakes, and make sure it doesn't happen again....but it will. I will always have soul-crushing disappointments in this sport as long as I'm racing at this level. The trick is to let them go. This year has been a lesson in recovering from failures. People may look at my season and see the (apparent) Individual NRC title, all the TT wins, all the GC podiums and say it was a dream season. I will look back at this season and remember how I let my team down by losing the GC lead on the last day in dramatic fashion in both the Nature Valley GP and the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic. I'll remember how it wasn't me pulling on the stars and stripes jersey on the podium after the USPro TT. I'll remember how I had to ship off 8-10 leader's jerseys to different family, friends, and sponsors because I couldn't stand the sight of them and didn't want them in my house as none of them were from the last day of the race.
This is not to say that I dwell on the negative. I'll certainly remember the moments on the top step as well. I'll keep in mind that since turning pro, my final NRC placings have been: 2006 - 47th, 2007 - 104th, 2008 - 54th. And looking back, I'll be proud of how Bissell came together throughout the year and scrapped for every point possible to earn the Individual NRC title by a mere 7 points! Because let's be honest, what is more indicative of a "Team" title? Is it the Teams classification where you score the most points by placing 3rd, 5th, and 6th rather than just 1st? Or is it the individual standings where the entire team sacrifices their races for 1 person's placing? I believe it's the latter. That's why I am so happy that Bissell was rewarded with the #1 spot in the Individual NRC standings. I time trialed well, but the team slayed themselves for my podium finishes. Without that commitment and sacrifice, I'd currently be 3rd at best in the standings. I believe that WE (the riders, staff, and sponsors) deserve that title.
So, I'm planning on using all these rollercoaster experiences to help me keep an even keel during next year's adventures and challenges. Because some may think the stakes go up next year racing at a higher level, but I don't believe that to be true. You can be just as exhilerated (or devastated) by a small local race with 18 starters and a few parents and girlfriends watching as you can by a prestigious NRC race with deafening crowd noise. It all depends on INTERNAL drive, motivation, and goal setting and has very little to do with the number of fans present, prize money, or number of countries providing live video streaming.
BUT FIRST!!! We have unfinished business at the Tour of Missouri next week where last year I learned some valuble lessons about being a pro. In last year's edition, I was so cracked mentally and physically from the season that my attitude was a joke and when I found myself as the only GC guy on the team after getting in the decisive break, I fell apart in the last 3 stages and went from 6th to like 15th because of stupid mistakes and general unprofessionalism. Moral of the story: SUCK IT UP PANSY-BOY!!! And ride like you're capable no matter how much you hate your bike at the time.
FTR: I do not currently hate my bike and am looking forward to smashing some stinky Euro-trash next week. :)
Sorry for the length (of course it's your choice to read my heartfelt ramblings, not mine) but it's an emotional day for me. I've already had 20 or so congratulatory emails, calls, and texts today. Oh, and I peed in a cup for some USADA reps this morning too after we watched the end of the Vuelta stage. They come over to visit so often that we're on a first name basis. All this before noon - Big day!


Anonymous said...

Ahhhhh... 2nd place. Nothing is more painful, but nothing is more motivating. I built a "shrine to second place" in my living room. Great for keeping the winter training going.
Nice work all year Z. Finish it off in the show-me state.

Kenny said...

Hey Tommy! One more little Debbie Snack Cake would have taken you over the top! When Missouri is over and done with us pay us an all-expenses paid trip to Salida!

bgthompson24 said...

Zirby...don't let Kenny's nutrition advice fool you. Everybody knows if you want to take it to the top, it takes a nutty bar! And I would offer an all expense paid visit to ioway...Baldwin visited last night. It's like a reunion, one b-tard at a time!

Anonymous said...

Tom - Congratz on the new signing. All of North Iowa is VERY happy for you. Just sorry to see you go to a team that prob wont let you work to much with Steve Hed (the Zippies may frown on that). Good luck at MO.
Eric, Mason City

Andrew said...

On the one hand, a string of 2nds is a string of not-1sts. On the other, it's a rather accomplished CV to build upon. Next year with Garmin certainly points to more building.

btw, what were you doing with chem before leaving grad school? Did you end up with a Masters?

Anonymous said...

When you tire of riding a bike you can always come back to Iowa and help me with the dogs and fill my mind with the places you've been and the sights you've seen. Second place always hurts but it makes the rare firsts so much sweeter.

Don H.

BMW said...

You are having a year that most of us will never come close to. I was just thrilled to see you blogged twice in 8 days or so! (not a month like the last one) Go kick some ass in MO big guy. Hope to have a couple beers with you afterwards like last year!

Ian Stanford said...

Damn Tom, remember when We piled bikes into your insurance supplied rental car and drove to the Gila? Look at how far you have come. Nothing 2nd's that. Enjoy the ride!

North Iowa SPIN said...


Can't wait to see you punish the Cobblestone roads this spring! Enjoy the ride!


Matt Schneider said...

You still haven't yet autographed my breast! Congrats to your and all your team's efforts this year. You are more a man than I (i think twice the man if measuring by mass or volume). Looking forward to following you on the tele next year with the euros.

Matt (the PT from michigan)

Scott said...

Even with all those seconds you somehow finished first overall. I look at your last year as a major accomplishment, but glad your eyes are set on what lies ahead. Congrats for making us proud here in California more than just a few times (more like every time), and can't wait for the next year. Garmin wont be disappointed.

Carson said...

Congrats on the signing and also winning the NRC Tom!! Your a big inspiration to us larger guys (6'3, 180) for racing.

Come back and race in Iowa again sometime!!!

The Bad Character said...

congrats on all of it zirbeast! Make us locals proud next year

thek2 said...

good to know I'm not the only one who rambles ;-) stick to the Internal motivators... and keep livin' your passions.