ROAD magazine April 2013 : Page 22

follow: @teamchampionsys was referring to was Champion System, a Hong Kong-based Pro Continental team that was captained by Ed Beamon. Ed has been a fi gure in cycling for longer than I have been in the sport. He was the director of the Navigators when I fi rst got started. Th is was a team that I spent the fi rst four years of my career trying to beat. So naturally, Ed had always been the leader of the opposition for me. I knew he could pilot a team to race wins. Th is was something that had frustrated me and my teammates many times over. I guess I was just surprised that out of all the directors out there, he was the one that was interested in my skills. Sport is a funny thing. It means so little, and yet it is so full of emotion that players inevitably become charged with that emotion. Ed had been at the center of everything I had tried to defeat early in my career. And now he was off ering to help usher me back into the sport with a new beginning on a foreign team that had riders from 14 countries. It was like something out of a movie. Normally, I think this opportunity would have been too far outside my comfort zone. However, the recent situation in my career and life had pushed me so far out of that comfort zone already that I was truly excited for the prospect of racing for a team as unique and diverse as Champion System. It really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is a team that represents the globalized future of cycling, and showcases athletes and locales from every corner of the planet. Now, as I sit here writing these words, I have just returned from the Champion System training camp in California. Th is team has the potential to live up to that expectation in the coming years. Th e camp has left me excited at the prospect of racing again. Racing with a group of guys that want to win. Racing in front of fans that are excited to see this beautiful sport pass by their door, many in Asia and North America for the fi rst time. I am excited that there are sponsors involved like Champion System and SpiderTech that believe this is a sport worth growing, investing in, and ushering toward the future. Th ey believe, like I do, that there are many athletes, fans, and participants of cycling that believe in the ability of cycling and sport to change lives, and bring a person up from some of their darkest places. Other sponsors are walking away from the sport because of the actions of those that have forgotten what it is all about. All that does is hurt those of us that believe in what cycling really is. It is the hardest sport in the world, and yet nearly everyone can do it. It can beat you down so much you are forced to look closely at who you are. With all the doping scandals, it is tempting to turn your back on the sport. But I say turn your back on those that have undermined the sport by selfi shly poisoning it with ambitions of personal gain, and not on the sport that has given good people and honest athletes so much. Instead, put your support behind your local clean athletes and sponsors like Champion System and SpiderTech. Cycling and the sponsors involved have paved the road for me to continue to compete in a sport I love. It has given me the strength to fi nd a new direction. I am eager to mix in the sprints and time trials with Champion System on my back, knowing that myself and 22 other riders on the team are charged with showing the world what this sport can do for people if they are willing to treat it with the respect it deserves. I am excited that I have found a place where they believe in my ability to win races and help others win races. It’s a similar story for many of the other clean cyclist in the peloton. Cycling has given each of us the strength to face our greatest challenges. It has opened our eyes to the world. It has the power to unite us across cultures and generations. Anyone who puts that at risk for personal prosperity should forfeit his or her right to be involved. Th ose who support and foster the ideal of cycling should have our collective cheers of support. In the end, that’s why I signed on with Champion System instead of walking away from the sport at my darkest hour. Cycling is off ering me a chance to fi nd the best of myself out of the struggles I have had. With sponsors and athletes like those at SpiderTech and Champion System, I think the sport of cycling has the chance to do the same. I fi nally feel like there is something I can do. nothing I could do. Team SpiderTech had done everything right. We had grown, gained results, and developed as a team to attract more sponsors. But the team operations were going to drastically change. Th ere was nothing I could do. Th en, fi nally, the greatest moment of my life had come. Th e thing I had been preparing for and expecting all year. Th e one thing that if everything else went wrong would at least help me keep my perspective on what was really important. My family was forming, and within seconds of his birth, my son was torn away. I was left a weeping mass at the foot of my wife’s delivery bed, knowing there was nothing I could do. In that moment I was not a two-time Olympian, not a race winner, not even an athlete. I was a man who didn’t even have control over his ability to stand. Th ere was nothing I could do. After a few weeks at my lowest, I decided to ask Kevin Field the question: Was there anything left for me in cycling, or had all the opportunities for me disappeared while I was paralyzed by my own personal struggles? “Yes, there is something,” he told me. “Th ey have been interested and understanding of what is going on with you. When you’re ready, you guys can talk.” Th e team he 22 ROAD Magazine

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