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In first kilometer of the 20-kilometer team time trial we found what we needed to win: speed and fluidity.
Riding together prior to today’s opening team time trial we knew what we were capable of doing as a team but we also knew that if the race wasn’t ridden prudently the team would come undone within meters. A corner taken poorly, acceleration at the wrong moment, or heroic selfishness would break the rhythm. The machine we were creating needed to have the pace of a metronome.
“If we lose and we did the best ride we could as a team, it doesn’t matter. But, if we lose and we didn’t get the most of ourselves we will all be disappointed. We will have failed.”
A million words were spoken in our team meetings but those sentences left the biggest impact. They were reiterated a few times by different riders in different ways but the essence was the same and cemented the team and the objective.
Being the first team to start the race could be perceived as a disadvantage. To us it made no difference. We knew that to win we would have to ride to our limit but never over. To us, time references over the radios plugged into our ears couldn’t change a thing. Our race was against ourselves and we set out to simply do the best ride we could as a group. One of the biggest errors in sport is to gauge performance off of your rivals.
In the past two years we have bonded as a team. During our training camps, victories and defeats we have discovered each other’s strengths and weaknesses. A good group of people with a common goal, we have become friends. The mutual respect sobers us and also allows us to achieve as a team. A group can practice as much as they want but without a mutual respect they can’t win.
Meters after we crossed the line, we stopped, we gathered together and caught our breath. As we grabbed arms to congratulate each other on a solid effort Michael Rogers said, “That was the best team time trial I have ridden in the nine seasons I have been a professional.”
Michael has ridden for the best teams in the world but had never felt the synchronicity we achieved in Venice.
After we finished, we waited for hours, nervously, sweating, snacking and sipping water and soda. Teams rode through the time checks and we breathed gasps of relief as our time stood at the top. Some people from the team believed we couldn’t be beaten while others hedged their bets. We had ridden fast but we all wondered if it was going to be fast enough.
The two hours anxiously waiting were tedious. The seconds that ticked by as teams rode in towards the finish seemed eternal. Exhilaration overwhelmed us as the last team in the race crossed the line and our time stood as the fastest.
Cycling is a team sport but in virtually every race only one rider will celebrate that victory in front of the public even though the team and dozens of staff have contributed.
Some tears were shed as we embraced when we knew we had won. The bus bounced as we leapt from our seats in triumph. It was a rare moment and one I will not soon forget.
Together we suffer; together we triumph.
Editor’s note: Michael Barry is a member of the Columbia-Highroad pro team and the author of Inside the Postal Bus and Fitness Cycling. He is a regular contributor to VeloNews.com; his previous diary entries can be seen here.