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Guest Article: Willem’s Experience

Guest Article: Willem’s Experience

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This guest post was sent to us from Frank’s sister about her son Willem. When I read the post I was thinking Frank’s sister had written it and that all Stracks have the same dreamy cyclo-centric writing style, damn them all. But, as usual, I was wrong. Frank’s sister did write this:

This was written by my friend Dan, who took Willem with him on the Rough Ride in Washington, VA …

I had the pleasure of meeting Willem and his dad in NYC during the book signing at Rapha. They were in the city for the Five Boroughs of New York City ride the following day. Willem is a fourteen year old bike racer now.  At dinner he wolfed down his pasta and loaded up on bread. He was loading the guns (if fourteen year olds are allowed to have guns). 

Many of us wished we had discovered bicycle racing earlier in our lives, so I was thrilled to meet a funny, smart, bike obsessed  fourteen year old who is, of course, a Velominatus. 

Yours in Cycling, Gianni.

As I sit and the warmth begins to re-enter my extremities, I reflect on the day’s ride. It was cold, it was wet and it was everything that makes cycling so great. Emotions are fluid when you are on a bike. They move from high to low for a myriad of reasons, or for no reason at all. Rarely do we ever see this fluid within ourselves when on the bike. We are too taken by the excitement or brought down by our bodies failing us when we need them the most. Today I was able to see from the outside the emotional journey of a young rider as he rode through and conquered his first competitive ride.

As Willem mounted his bike and the start was moments off, I saw the butterflies trying to escape from deep in his belly. He was wide-eyed and nervous as the race started. He settled into his saddle and got comfy with the peloton and I asked if the butterflies were gone yet. His grin said ‘yes’ but his words said ‘no.’ Ah, the conflict between his body and mind had begun and Willem was yet to realize it.

Malfunctions of any kind can take even the most seasoned rider out. Willem discovered this as he battled with his Road ID, which refused to stay cinched. Finally calling out in frustration, we stopped and he secured it in his jersey pocket…all he could muster was “We have to make up this time.” I smiled as we rode off.

Elation filled him as we passed a more seasoned cyclist. This was Willem’s race and so it was his pace. We knocked along at a good clip, along some rollers and descents. He was riding high as the rain came down. His face was clear…nothing was going to stop him! Then the climbs hit us. Willem was about to meet the Man with the Hammer. It’s crushing, the first introduction, because it seems to not be when you expect him. Along a cat-4 climb I saw The Man riding side-by-side with Willem, ready to strike and seemingly pulling at his bike back down from where we rode. At the top it was clear; elation was an emotion that Willem would not see again for a long time.

Another cat-4 climb and a turn that was either never there, or missed by his navigator, had this fine young man on a tight rope. Everything in his body said that he had enough, but he trekked on, following unquestioningly the person he trusted to know the way. Again I say “not marked” but when you’re on the side of the road and feel lost, blame is irrelevant.

Soon enough the correct route was discovered and the final emotion of the day, the best emotion of the day, was revealed. Willem experienced it crossing the finish line. All the climbs, all the pain was instantly gone. Nothing but pure pride in knowing he did something that most can’t or refuse to try. I joked with him after the race; years from now the seven extra miles will become a century. I hope that I am around to hear the story first hand. I am humbled to have been allowed to experience this with a true cyclist during his initiation into the world of racing, and the worlds of pain, frustration and satisfaction they can bring.

// Guest Article

  1. Super.  

    This morning my 7 year old asked me to go for a ride with him this weekend.  Some of the time we’ll tool around, but I’ll make sure to also make it challenging enough.

  2. Thank you so much Dan. that first race was amazing. You will definitely be there on my first century. There is nothing that can come close to repaying you for all of the blood, time, sweat, and money you have put in to make me a better rider. I will try my best to fill the debt. Thank you so much!

  3. Wow, Great effort Willem! Chapeau to you both. Dan I envy your commitment and skill because you will one day be the honored guest at the finish line of a grande dame of cycling watching your protege toast the field!

  4. @Willem

    I will try my best to fill the debt. 

    It is fantastic to see such spirit in the next generation.  Merckx willing, my sons will become Cyclists as you have.  (Note:  you are clearly a Cyclist, not merely a rider.)  In any event, I hope to instill this attitude in them, in whatever passions they pursue.  May the bicycle bring you a lifetime of fun.

  5. Chapeau Willem! Excellent job and welcome to the brotherhood. Load up on the miles now, it’ll pay off in spades when you’re older.

  6. This is all kinds of awesome. I can only hope that my kids (4 y/o & 2 y/o) will be bitten by the same bug we’ve all been felled by & take to loving this glorious sport as much as their Daddy. Very cool guest article!

  7. Dan, what a fantastic story; I’m so glad you took the time to write it. And a little annoyed you wrote it so well as to make me question why I write at all.

    @Willem – I can’t tell you how proud it makes me to see you so totally stoked about Cycling. Our conversation in New York about your Junior gears and laboring over what components are worth the cost and which are not was a highlight for the book signing tour. And let me tell you: LeMond bitched about junior gears just like you do. Good start.

    I’m proud to have you as a Pedalwan.

    Oh, and raise your saddle about 2-3 cm.

  8. @frank

    Dan, what a fantastic story; I’m so glad you took the time to write it. And a little annoyed you wrote it so well as to make me question why I write at all.

    @Willem – I can’t tell you how proud it makes me to see you so totally stoked about Cycling. Our conversation in New York about your Junior gears and laboring over what components are worth the cost and which are not was a highlight for the book signing tour. And let me tell you: LeMond bitched about junior gears just like you do. Good start.

    I’m proud to have you as a Pedalwan.

    Oh, and raise your saddle about 2-3 cm.

    I know this is an overrun cliché here, but looking at your bike, Frank, the comment about the seat post is advice you would give to most!

    Awesome stuff otherwise- my only intro to cycling was riding around country roads with friends on cheapo hybrid bikes fighting the ever present Oklahoma wind.

  9. Chapeau, both.  A great read – and sounds like, navigational issues aside, it was a great race.

  10. I have a 16 year old pedalwan in the form of a stepson. I dragged him out for a ride, then decked out on bike #2. We rode some more. I made the fatal error of brashly stating in front of the bunch, après velo, that I would buy him a new steed of his choosing should he beat me in a fair fight. That took 2 months. 5 months later and the kid is now officially “batshit fast”, 12 kg lighter, rides with the a-group (we have very loose roles regarding this but I ain’t there, because I am too fat to climb) and now he is working out what next needs replacing on his new carbon Guerciotti rig. 

    God help me, what have I done? Actually I know what I have done, and I am filthy-proud to say so. 

  11. Such a great read! As others have already said, chapeau to young Willems determination and writing!

    I grew up outside of a small rural farming town where the “real men (kids)” played typical ‘Murican sports: football, baseball, basketball and perhaps wrestling. I was on the oft ridiculed football sideshow cross country team. I really knew nothing of cycling except some friends that had/ raced BMX.

    I truly wish that I’d been exposed to our sport at Willems age. I know, hindsight being 20/20, that I would have immersed myself in it.

    Keep it up, and we’ll be seeing you on the famed cobbles and col’s in Europe in just a few years!

  12. A couple summers ago I was riding 100k around the lake and crossed paths with three riders. The father and daughter were upright on mountain bikes. In the middle was a skinny kid barely 10 years old on a classic road bike, climbing the hill intently in the drops.

    I hope I see that kid again sometime but if not, Merckxspeed young one. It sounds like you’ve already found the right path.

  13. @Willem Great story and a great ride. Well done.

    My youngest, 9 today, is just about to take delivery of his fist road bike (also first with gears). I’s like to think he’ll get into it as much as you have.

  14. I happen to have 2 Pedalwan as well.   As i have found with every other sport they have done (xc skiing, lacrosse, hockey etc) it is best to wade in before arranging the introduction to the Man With the Hammer.  They will meet soon enough.  Any cycling insights from you guys on how to take the velominis through the 8-10 year through to teens is appreciated.

    Slideshow:

    Fullscreen:

  15. Great read and well done Willem! Here’s to another 40+ years in the saddle

  16. This is a topic w/which for me is one of those highlights of life. My daughter’s been racing the local bike club TT’s past couple of years and has raced her first crit this year. We have an upcoming XC race and then an Omnium this summer. I swear the young lady loves cool bikes as much as I do. And she might not know it but I see it, she has twice the competitive drive. She can go deeper in the cave than I can. Plus, we’re talking about giving N+1 a whole new meaning when it includes bikes for our kids that want to race! BTW: She’s clipped in now. She was pissed when the girls she was racing were clipped in and on full size bikes. We chose some ol’ Look Deltas with lowest release tension set to eliminate any strain on the knees when twisting. Bikes and Kids ! Cheers all. RC

  17. @GogglesPizano I can’t say I have any idea what I did to help spur my daughter’s interest other than just give her the opportunity. And she’s run with it from there. But I do want to keep her in good gear that works and fits. I’m guessing too many kiddos get intro’d to the big box store’s 35 lb mtn bikes w/steel frames and coil over shock springs that are a size too big, haver finicky shifting and end up not much excited to ride out the driveway. The world would probably be a better place if every kid would have a little single speed BMX bike to ride around their neighborhood. The challenge I’m finding right now is sorting out the right bike for next size up. I’m guessing we’ll be looking at a 47″ or 48″ bike frame plus we’ll have to sort out the Jr’s gearing for roll out. Though from what I’ve read in most Jr’s races you can simply block the higher gears with the limit screws. I’m more partial to finding the right crank and cog set. Anyways, sorting out the next N+1 is a project to completely over obsess about and part of the fun.

  18. @Willem – good stuff!  Best of luck in the future on the many beautiful rides that await.

  19. @Willem  buddy I’m glad to be brought along on the ride. You may not realize but you are paying it and then some already! Just keep riding :)

    Dan

  20. @frank  thanks Frank that is high praise coming from you. I appreciate you posting it for the Velominati to enjoy.

    Dan

  21. @wilburrox

    @GogglesPizano I can’t say I have any idea what I did to help spur my daughter’s interest other than just give her the opportunity. And she’s run with it from there. But I do want to keep her in good gear that works and fits. I’m guessing too many kiddos get intro’d to the big box store’s 35 lb mtn bikes w/steel frames and coil over shock springs that are a size too big, haver finicky shifting and end up not much excited to ride out the driveway. The world would probably be a better place if every kid would have a little single speed BMX bike to ride around their neighborhood. The challenge I’m finding right now is sorting out the right bike for next size up. I’m guessing we’ll be looking at a 47″³ or 48″³ bike frame plus we’ll have to sort out the Jr’s gearing for roll out. Though from what I’ve read in most Jr’s races you can simply block the higher gears with the limit screws. I’m more partial to finding the right crank and cog set. Anyways, sorting out the next N+1 is a project to completely over obsess about and part of the fun.

    Is that the 24″ Pinarello she is riding?  If so there are a few 650c bikes out there which would be great step up.  I just got a Felt F95JR.  It is a perfect step between the 24″ and a 47cm 700c frame.  That is what my oldest is riding in the pic.  We went out again today on some paved pathways.  The little guys are a bit competitive so riding each other off the pathway is still an acceptable strategy in their minds. Focused now on shifting and getting used to the hoods and drops while keeping it all fun and learning some etiquette.  We will see where it goes from here.  Based on stature and behaviours to date one is going to be a fairly dramatic and high maintenance grimpeur and the other more likely a sprinter/rouleur basically a true hardman .  I pray to Merckx that they catch the bug and into their teens we can go out on the bikes have at it when there is too much testosterone in the house ….

  22. @GogglesPizano yep, A 24″. And as the young lady likes to say, “I’m gonna stake a spinerello on my Pinerello”. And I hear ya on the 650. We have a young college student here in Tuscaloosa that’ll jump in to rides with our local club whose father built her up a cool Orbea bike with 650b wheel set and it looks to fit her like a glove. It is a good sol’n. But temporary in my case. No more or less than a 47″ frame set would be.

    So I’d also like to get my daughter and I in to same wheel sets quickly. As for the Jr gearing I understand that 52/14 is largest for a 26′ roll out. Is that with 23mm or 25mm tires? Beats me but is what our local Jr racer was using.  A 52? and a 14? Huh? I’d like to match something up with a 12 and I’m looking at Wickwerks 44/34 chainrings that can marry up with a 12-25 11 sp cassette. Can run full gear range w/o blocking out and she and I can swap wheel sets.

    Do I intro the young lady to Di2 asap??? I’m awfully tempted.

    Anyways, sure sounds to me like we’re lucky guys to have our kiddos interested in same things we are. Cheers, RC

  23. @GogglesPizano I race juniors and the junior gear set is a pain. I just ordered a new cassette for my 700c wheels. I run a 53 tooth chainring and I slightly go over the 26′ line. The cassette is 14-25 and I think that it will still be a little over. I am debating whether or not changing my chainring to a 52. I have no clue why USAC has a junior gearing rule and it is going to cost me a bit of money to get to the “perfect” set up. (I wouldn’t give her Di2, she might crash and I would be too jealous)

  24. @Willem From what I gather a 53×14 with 700c x 23 wheel / tires will get ya calculated rollout to 26′ 3″. So a little over the roll out and what you are seeing.

    The downside it seams to me with running a 52 ring, or even the 53, on a 14-x cassette is that we’d be blocking out gears on the strd 11-x and 12-x cassettes. The 45×12 has calculated roll out right at 26′. And provides opportunity to run w/11 sp 12-25 cassette using the entire gear range.

    The 52×14 calculates to 25′ 9″.

    Best of Luck with the racing ! And major props for tackling the challenges. What great experience.

    Cheers, RC

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