Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Off Go the Training Wheels

 European Youth Tour TT in Assen, Netherlands
I remember the day we took Liam’s training wheels off.  It was an October day in California many years ago.  Liam had a little red Schwinn bike.  It was his first bike.  He loved that bike, and whenever he got the chance he used to ride it around a local park next to our house.  I think Liam was around 4 years old when the time had come for the training wheels to come off. 

Liam in the mountains in yellow (Tour de Var)
The big difference between riding with training wheels and riding without is the way you have to lean in order to stay upright on the bike.   In the case of a bike with training wheels, you use the support wheels by leaning on to them to stay upright and balanced on the bike. If the bike starts to fall to one side you lean on the support wheel of that side of the bike to keep you upright.  Once the training wheels come off, the dynamics of the bike change.  Instead of leaning into the fall and relying on the support, you lean the opposite direction that you are falling and balance the bike on your own.  It is a little awkward to make the transition, but once you get it – it’s like magic – “it’s just like riding a bike!”

A win at the GP Mandelieu (Tour de Cote d'Azur)
 I remember taking the training wheels off the bike.  Liam was standing in the park fully concentrated on the effort he was about to make.  He was excited, but at the same time he was calm and focused.  During the first attempt Liam was a little unsteady, the bike started to wobble, he leaned the wrong way and fell over in the grass.  He got back up brushed himself off, and with a look of determination in his eyes was ready to give it another go.  For the second attempt we started on a section of grass with a slight downhill.  I started out running beside the bike holding on until he got up to speed, and then I let go. There was a brief wobble, which quickly straightened out, and then he was off zooming around the corner and out of sight.  It was a proud moment, but also one as a parent that causes a little apprehension.  You just have to hope and trust that, with this new found freedom and speed, your child will be able to avoid all the potential dangers in the form of bumps, trees, and cars that might come in their way.  It’s not easy to let go.

On the front at the Tour de Vauclause

I guess the job of a parent is like that of a good pair of training wheels.  You are there to be leaned on, and, if needed, to provide support for life’s potential stumbles and falls; but there comes a time when your child starts to lean away - finding their own equilibrium.  Unlike the training wheels, as a parent you are never completely out of the picture. You are there quietly on the sidelines – just in case.

Since the day that the training wheels came off many years ago, Liam continues to do great things on a bike.  Until the other day, I had never done a season results tally for a particular year. Liam raced 31 times last year in France and all over Europe.  These were fairly big events with anywhere from 40 to 90 riders participating. Out of those 31 races Liam was on the podium (1st, 2nd or 3rd) 21 times.  He has come into his own.   All this success hasn’t gone unnoticed. He has been selected by the French Cycling Federation to ride on a team which will compete at both the regional and national level for next season.  He will have some amazing coaches, be able to participate in some wonderful training camps, and have talented teammates to motivate, challenge and encourage each other in training and racing throughout the year. 

Win with a breakaway at the GP Saint Roch
The adventure continues --- off go the training wheels!

Live Strong, Train Safe, and Live Well!

This is Bill and Liam signing out.