Photo: Dr. Rhea adjusting Dale Parker, Photo by Glenn Kasin. Full Photo Story on Trek Livestrong Website
48 hours in and I am sitting in the passenger seat of the follow car next to director Axel Merckx. I have just asked him an obvious question to anyone in cycling, “so, you probably have some kind of Olympic medal don’t you?”. Humble and entirely un-offended by my lack of knowledge on his awesome history in the sport he smiles and says “yes, a bronze.” I begin to ask him more about what it must have been like to experience the Olympics when suddenly the field of riders in front of us seems to land on the asphalt at once and then just as quickly emerges upright and onward revealing Trek Livestrong rider Dale Parker standing, injured, in the road while the rest of the convoy of follow cars zooms past and the medics jump out to respond. My heart sinks as I see the swelling in his knee and wonder if this is it for the season for him or if it is a minor injury. Two other riders are already out of the race and there will be a fourth to come. Its several feet of road rash between them and something subtle has occurred within me as I realize, that’s it, I’m hooked, I am officially emotionally invested in the success of these young riders. I am not alone: every staff member feels the same way. Each one of these young riders with their unique personality share a common dream on the bike, with a diverse set of inspirations and reasons for wanting to make it to every pro-cyclists dream: The Tour de France.
I had arrived the afternoon before the start of the Redlands Classic after having spent the flight reviewing the details of the riders I would be working with. I had printouts of each ones photographs, list of past race achievements and Q&A’s from their Trek Livestrong profiles. Highlighter in hand I’d begun to get to know their unique drives and in so doing hope to provide them with fine tuned care while I was there. I worked on each rider night one and learned about them while the others glanced at my paperwork and started joking right away about the “goals” I was asking them to set for their work with me: physically, mentally, for the race and in life. I wasn’t messing around.
By mid-race I was both invested in these guy’s lives as well as invested in the idea of continuing to work with them. The team and staff were all awesome in embracing what I was there to offer and at the same time great about showing me the ropes as the obvious novice to cycling. At one point while trying to recover from the abdominal workout that is laughter induced from comedian/head soigneur Reed McCalvin I managed to actually deliver one water bottle in the “feed zone” to one of the riders without causing a feed zone melt down/accident or leaving a rider high and dry. I can fully admit that I feel far more confident in handling the delicate balance around the rider’s spinal chords than trying to make sure they are hydrated and fed safely during a race. I had to chuckle at one point as I was putting one of the riders into a position to adjust them while trying to avoid road rash along the entire side of his body: oh, the things they don’t teach you in school. Luckily, with international service, I have seen a lot to prepare me for this. In fact, before jumping in the follow car I voiced that I was wondering what would be crazier: a follow car in a race or a car in India. So far India wins, but we will see as the season progresses when I jump in one of the cars on a longer and more intense tour.
My race novice might have been illustrated best when over dinner I asked rider Joe Lewis if the crit that day was his first one. He looked at me sympathetically with a kind of “what are we going to do with you?” glance. I have my work cut out for me to learn more and more of the cycling world ins and outs, as well as the Australian & Kiwi lingo that much of this team slings about. I am also glad I could add a little bit of my own brand of fun into the mix. New to things means I arrive fresh “out of the box” with what I bring to the game, and I am glad to be offering my variety of chiropractic/whole person care to the team. I definitely enjoyed seeing the victories of progress that each one of the riders made in mind game and physical strength as the race progressed and they continuously put what they learned each day into the next getting stronger by the day. I also love that the tone of this team is in development and that the celebration is as much in how they do in races, as it is in how they grow as riders and as people.
At the final team dinner I was asked by one of the host families why I want to do this. My own mission is to assist people to connect to their health, vitality, gifts, purpose and passion. To work with a group that is already so well on their way at such a young age to the depth of that connection, and to find some small part of the puzzle that can assist them even deeper, is a joy and my own challenge of growth and mastery within my own personal purpose and passion. I love that these young riders are already leaders in their fields, set up to be inspiring and positively influential to thousands of people. In fact, as I began writing this, the team was spending their final day in Redlands making a visit to a children’s hospital as a part of the Livestrong aspect of what they stand for. I can also say that as much as I went down to give, I received enormously from their energy, determination, incredible riding, will to get up dust off move on and keep going,……and great laughs.
By the final day the injured riders of the bunch were already well on their way in healing and jumping back on their bikes. One was already out on a training ride. In fact, within it all, I was just as much hoping to create miraculous healing results comparable to those I had achieved in 2010 working with Andrew Talansky following his fall (covered in a previous blog entry) as the guys were hoping to be “this year’s Talansky” in terms of “coming out of nowhere” results that blow everyone away and lead to a great next level contract. It would seem we are all in this together in terms of desires to excel at the top of our game aka pull a “Talansky.”
All in all it seems that director Axel Merckx has a knack for choosing a similar quality in his staff and riders: people who excel at their jobs and have a good time while doing it. I am happy to celebrate my own job well done by counting myself a part of the Trek Livestrong U23 team culture since being asked me if I’d take part in some of the tougher tours later in the season.
When Joe Lewis got finished laughing at my novice crit questions he declared in his classic Australian confident style that “you are going to miss us aren’t you.” Yes Joe, I will definitely miss you guys and look forward to when we meet up again as the stakes of the game get higher further in to the season. I am hooked, I’ll be there.
Thank You to Glenn Kasin & Maeve Sloane for posting the photo story on the Trek Livestrong U23 website of my work with the guys, and thanks to Axel for putting up with my questions and propensity to nickname everyone in sight.