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Our favorite rider journals of 2016

With 2016 winding down, it seemed like a good time to look back at our favorite rider journals from the past season. We’re fortunate to have a host of interesting personalities filing dispatches from the pro peloton, like Chad Haga, as well as not-so-pro pelotons, like Neal Karlinsky, who came onboard at the start of the year. Here are our five favorite stories.

Kiel Reijnen Journal: “Don’t kill your father”

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A pro for Trek – Segafredo, Kiel Reijnen was a new addition to our group of pro bloggers in 2016. We followed him through his first career grand tour in the Vuelta, but our favorite story from his season has to be the epic tale of the 200-mile Seattle to Portland ride he did with his dad and cousin:

This time though, I had gotten him into this mess. Maybe I had been overly ambitious. My dad doesn’t look a day over 50, and it’s easy for me to forget that he is 62. I knew he would keep gutting it out as long as he had a pulse, but I also knew that he wouldn’t know when enough was enough. We were already four hours from home, and I had no back-up plan.

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Chad Haga Journal: A lot to be thankful for

Chad Haga and his Giant-Alpecin teammates suffered a major crash while training in Spain, caused by a driver in the wrong lane of the road. Photo: Chad Haga
Chad Haga and his Giant-Alpecin teammates suffered a major crash while training in Spain, caused by a driver in the wrong lane of the road. Photo: Chad Haga

Even in this journal, Chad Haga admitted that he might be ready to walk away from racing after a devastating crash in January with his Giant – Alpecin team. Instead, he stuck with it, recovered from his injuries, and along the way, he penned this inspiring blog about the emotional days following the incident.

I also decided that I am not done racing. Far from it, in fact. That driver has already had more influence on my career than she was due, but she doesn’t get the final say.

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Shifting Gears #8: Happy warriors

Changren Yong and Neal Karlinsky. Photo: Yee Feng | Feng Images
Changren Yong and Neal Karlinsky. Photo: Yee Feng | Feng Images

We’ve got a lot of pro racers who have told their stories on VeloNews, but this season we added a new voice to the site, a rider who is not-so-pro. Despite a busy day job that sees him flying around the country to cover breaking news, Neal Karlinsky found time to mix it up in the local races, and like all of us, he enjoys the curious blend of people that cycling attracts.

Amateur bike racers are a funny bunch. A lot of egos and aggression — that I already knew from my time road racing in the 80s. I’ve seen one guy in the pack recently, screaming angrily at racers on other teams to chase or do this or that — acting like the “padrone” of the Cat 4s. My inner tween just wants to #SMH. But what I’ve learned during the races I’ve thrashed around in this year is that there are way more — by far the majority — who are just good guys. Happy warriors.

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Decker goes acoustic in Sea Otter e-bike race

Carl Decker felt compelled to race Sea Otter's e-bike race "unplugged." Photo: Carl Decker
Carl Decker felt compelled to race Sea Otter’s e-bike race “unplugged.” Photo: Carl Decker

Admit it — you’ve wondered how much faster e-bikes really are. So did Carl Decker, so he decided to embark on a Quixotic mission: to race the first-ever Sea Otter e-bike race on a non-e-bike … You know, a bike.

As soon as I read that there was to be an e-bike race at Sea Otter this year, I knew that I wanted to race it, and race it Unplugged — acoustic, if you will — on a normal Giant Anthem XC bike. Not having ridden e-bikes, but for a couple miles around town, I was excited to see what the dynamic would be. Where would they be faster? Where would I find an advantage? Could I possibly be competitive?

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Gaimon Journal: Roubaix’s adventure and pain

... And my jersey after Roubaix. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com
… And my jersey after Roubaix. Photo: Phil Gaimon | VeloNews.com

We’re sad to see Phil Gaimon retire and leave us as a regular rider journal contributor. Throughout the years, he’s been a fount of wisdom and humor. It’s practically impossible to pick a favorite journal of his, but one of our most memorable was his reflection on Paris-Roubaix, a race he was not expecting to be in, one that didn’t suit his strengths, but still, a race he enjoyed thoroughly with his usual aplomb and wit.

Let’s not pretend that riding two hours on a training ride would make me any more prepared to race them with the best in the world, who’ve been doing it for years. For this, recon would only spoil the surprise. I went in expecting adventure and pain, hoping for a chance to enjoy the spectacle, and like every other delusional bike racer, secretly dreaming of winning.

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