Last week I got to experience something that I have been dreaming about since I began cycling, winning my first yellow jersey. Not only did a huge dream of mine come true, I also got to experience it with all four of my incredible parents there watching. That final stage on the sunset loop is a day I'll never forget. That moment has made me think a lot about family, both my biological family and my bike family (which is made up of all my amazing teammates, staff, and people like Dave Towle, Alex & Cathy Kim, Brian Hodes, Kelsey (superfit), the entire Bradley family, my favorite training buddies Scott, Markham, Craigers, Ali Tetrick and many others whose smiles, hugs, and cheers at races mean everything to me). Family is the number one reason I am able to chase these crazy dreams, and from the bottom of my heart I'm grateful for each and every person who has every believed in me.
When I first started cycling most of my family thought I was a little bit nutty. I can't say I blame them, I went from being a type A pre-med student who spent most of my days studying in the library to a crazy person in borrowed spandex. I mowed lawns with my Dads landscaping business for nearly an entire summer to save up for my first bike. Of course mowing lawns will only get you so far, and my Mom was right there to help me with the balance $ of my heavy HOT pink triple crank road bike! My Mom never questioned the crazy love I had for this new sport, she was always there, in the middle of nowhere, standing around for hours, cheering for me for the one split second where the pack passed by. I don't think I could ever put into words what that unconditional support meant to me, and I can say without a doubt I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for my Mom and her belief in me from day one. If money grew on trees I'm certain my Mom would be at every single race I ever competed in no matter how far. I always dreamt of the day I'd win my first yellow jersey and give it to my Mom and I was finally able to make that a reality, and give my Mom a small piece of what she has given me.
Most people in the US cycling bubble know the infamous Rick Wiles ;) My Dad was a little unsure at first of this new hobby I picked up, but all it took was one race. He came to watch me race for the first time at Valley of the Sun in 2010 and from then on he was hooked! Now he comes to every single race possible, driving for hours and hours. To give you a little idea of just how dedicated he is, he drove to San Dimas this year, drove home Sunday night after the crit and then flew back to California for Redlands just a few days later! When he can't make it to races (unfortunately he can't drive to Europe or else I'm certain he'd try) he's always present, sending me motivational texts and little bits of Daddy daughter advice. I've always had a pretty special relationship with my Dad, and cycling has brought us even closer.
I'm also lucky enough to have two of the very best step parents out there, so I get double the love and support. Ernie (my step Dad whose name is actually Wes, but for some reason I dubbed him Ernie and it has stuck) has been by my Moms side cheering from the beginning. He also has had a few "premonitions" or visions of my cycling future that he says have all come true so far, so I'll definitely keep him around to keep on dreaming up some dreams for me!:) My step Mom Cortney might be the sweetest person on this earth. Last year when I was in Europe (and slightly homesick) she sent me home videos almost every day...singing songs, making up raps, dance parties with her sister Meg, you name it, all just to make me smile! She wrote a special song just for Redlands that included some of my teammates...even Ina's dog sophy made the cut (This video is attached below for your viewing pleasure:) She also sends me rocky style pump up texts before each race, which both make me laugh and pump me up!:)
I think one of my biggest supporters is my incredible big sister Lindsey! She follows every race on twitter and hunts down any live feed she can possibly find! She watched the last stage of Redlands on her phone while shopping at Costco and cried when I crossed the line. Her daughter Ava (my very first niece and the cutest little girl ever) even has designated Specialized lululemon outfits that she wears on race days!:) Again if money grew on trees I'm certain my Sister would be at every single race with my little mascot Ava! (Who by the way learned how to say my name last week! Tay-Tay!)
The beautiful thing about family is that when you find your soul mate, they become your family. My girlfriend Olivia is one of the most important people in my life and we get to share our passion for cycling together. There is nothing better then getting to train with your best friend almost every single day. She has always pushed me in training and early on instilled a belief in myself that I didn't have before I met her. I began cycling because of the incredible Matt Bradley, whose passion for the sport was contagious. He was the first person in this world to truly believe in my dreams. When he passed away I was afraid that piece of my soul would never recover. Olivia helped pick me up, took over that belief that he had in me, and helped turn my grief into motivation, the motivation to race each an every race in the memory of Matt.
On the road my team is my family, and I couldn't ask for a better one. I've never been a part of a group quite like the Specialized lululemon crew. At Redlands were were lucky enough to have the legend herself Ina-Yoko Tuetenberg be our Director. I learned more from her in one week than I could ever put into words. She talks about racing and strategy with such passion and confidence that it is contagious, and we all soaked it in. Our mechanic James is like the big brother I never had and adds both comic relief and complete piece of mind and reassurance that our bikes will go fast :) We all sit around the table each night for dinner like a family, laugh like a family, and support each other like a family both on and off the bike.
Each and every one of my teammates raced their hearts out to help me win that yellow. From the outside people often have a hard time understanding just how much of a team sport cycling is. Only one person stands on that podium at the end of the day but it takes the blood sweat and tears of the entire team to get there. I'm humbled by what my teammates sacrificed for me last week, and I will never EVER forget the moment I crossed that line and jumped into their arms. As professional athletes we are all dreamers, and we fight hard for each other dreams, sacrifice for each others dreams, and feel pride in each others dreams, and that is what makes cycling so beautiful.
To my family, my teammates, and all those people who have ever believed in me, thank you from the very bottom of my heart. This yellow jersey is for you.