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Nick Legan: Putting the “Y” back into cycling

  • By Nick Legan
  • Published Aug. 2, 2011
  • Updated Aug. 2, 2011 at 8:34 AM EDT

The group splintered on the 14-mile dirt climb of Cottonwood Pass. The solitude of dirt road riding is like no other. Knowing that the others are ahead, waiting, is good motivation. Photo: Jake Stengel/Rapha

Editor’s Note: Last month VeloNews partnered with the Rapha Continental squad to ride the stages of the upcoming USA Cycling Pro Cycling Challenge and produce video previews of the stages. Tech editor Nick Legan rode with the team. We’ll be sharing the videos over the next few days. Today’s video, below, focuses on the USAPCC’s prologue in Colorado Springs.

I moved to Colorado ten years ago, but it took five guys from Portland (OK, one of them lives in New York City, but he’s originally from PDX) riding black and pink bikes to get me out to explore my adopted home state by bicycle.

I have what many describe as a dream job, and most of the time I agree. But there are times when riding seems like a chore, seems like work. I stopped racing seven years ago because (I wasn’t very good and … ) I started to dread getting on my bicycle. Then I spent time working as a pro mechanic where I touched bikes every day, but rarely had a chance to ride one. During that period I dreamt of long rides in the mountains, even in the cold and rain. So, now that’s what I do. I ride as often and as long as my schedule permits.

Instead of viewing myself as a bike racer, I am now a bike rider, an adventurer on two wheels. This take on cycling has changed my world for the better. Not to bag on racing and racers, but there’s a time and a place for all things. And right now I’m singularly focused on enjoying my time on bicycles, not just going faster than those around me.

The Rapha Continental team shares a similar set of values when it comes to pedaling a bicycle. The personalities on the crew change with the locale, but the spirit is the same. In June I joined them to ride the USA Pro Cycling Challenge route.

I couldn’t be happier about my time with the Rapha Continental. I came into the ride a bit cooked after a big 200-mile gravel ride in Kansas. And I paid for that effort in spades once I suited up with my new cycling brethren. There was no taking it easy on the new guy (and I respect that).

The Continental is not a race, but it certainly isn’t a relaxed tour either. It was a constant struggle, but a struggle that came with a smile on my face. The mountains of Colorado are breathtaking in more ways than one.

Days started early. We would kit up and roll out in the direction of a coffee shop most mornings. The early light in Colorado is beautiful and long miles ridden slowly (especially in my case) require time. In Salida, the need for caffeine and carbs brought me to Café Dawn. There I bumped into a man, Phillip Benningfield, who had routinely pulled shots of espresso for me in Boulder long before I was a pro mechanic. Seeing him again was a happy reward for getting out and exploring Colorado.

As the days progressed and the accumulated miles took their toll, the playing field leveled a bit. I recovered from my efforts and the altitude started to wear on the sea-level residents of the Rapha crew.

Don’t misconstrue this statement. I was no miraculous Superman. In fact, the guys still kicked my ass, but I was able to hang a little longer, especially on the day from Steamboat Springs to Breckenridge.

But it is shared suffering that breeds camaraderie. And when one of our comrades, Ryan, fell descending Independence Pass, time stopped.

County Road 742 from Almont to Taylor Park Reservoir acts as a nice warm up for Cottonwood Pass. Photo: Jake Stengel/Rapha

After help arrived, I sat in silence for some time staring at the road. The sound of the stream running next to the road stands out for some reason. My eyes could pick out the individual stones in the pavement but my brain couldn’t focus on what had just happened. I was exhausted from the ride and emotionally drained by the unexpected drama.

Once Ryan was taken away in the ambulance, Jeremy by his side, we packed up the van and drove into Aspen. We found food and soon word came that Ryan would be OK. His scapula (and much of his bike) was broken but he would heal. The plan evolved and we skipped two stages of the race route, heading straight to Steamboat Springs the next day.

I tuned out a bit once we arrived at our accommodation, the Moots factory. I did some work, performed some bike maintenance. I took a short ride into town to clear my head while the rest of the crew explored some local dirt roads. After washing out some clothes, I headed into town for dinner with the crew. Ryan was with us, though he ordered soft foods and drank through a straw thanks to his busted lip.

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Nick Legan

Nick Legan

After graduating from Indiana University with honors and a degree in French and journalism, Nick Legan jumped straight into wrenching at Pro Peloton bike shop in Boulder for a few years. Then, he began a seven-year stint in the professional ranks, most recently serving for RadioShack at the Tour de France and the Amgen Tour of California. He also worked for Garmin-Slipstream, CSC, Toyota-United, Health Net and Ofoto. Legan served as the VeloNews tech editor 2010-2012 before sliding across the line into public relations.

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