There's a kid inside every pro. The realities of life as a professional are often harsh but the spark lit by that first bike ride burns bright in most of them; they still love their bikes. Last week I photographed both ends of the spectrum, spending a day with members of the St. Louis-based Vera Bradley Womens Team and a fun Saturday morning with a bunch of kids riding and playing on the Coyote Creek Trail.
The Vera Bradley Foundation has been raising funds to battle breast cancer since 1994. The eleven female riders, managers, mechanics and soigneurs that comprise Team Vera Bradley Foundation, are out to help those fund raising efforts, win bike races and make cycling more accessible for women. The newest members of the team spent the morning at Specialized's Bicycle Components University, getting a complete bio-mechanical analysis and BGFit on their new S-Works Amira race bikes. Positions were changed (along with some strongly-held beliefs), components swapped, insoles trimmed and cleats shimmed. They left... dialed in and ready for a rainy training ride back to Santa Cruz over the hill.
The hill in this case was a fantastic climb up Mt. Madonna Road. The narrow ascent winds steeply through a grove of Redwoods, reminding me of Tunitas Creek with a twist... a mile-and-a-half from the summit the road turns to dirt. The girls took this in stride, in fact they made it look ridiculously easy and while I shot them in the misty gloom beneath that ancient canopy, I wondered how far back I'd be laboring on those pitches.
We said goodbye to the rarefied heights of professional cycling and returned to the beginning... to kids and their bikes. Jaci, Gabi, Lulu, Amelia, Max, Gunnar, and Lukas reminded us what it's all about. Fun.
They spun about a playground, alternating between bikes, swings and the basketball net. They traded bikes, rode them into the sand of the volleyball pit, through piles of wood chips and with mildly concerned parents looking on, down a steep little gravel hill repeatedly. Willy Nevin's girls Jaci and Gabi raced cross last year, holding their lines amidst the 55+ men. Their confidence and energy hinted that they may complete the circle and end up knocking at Vera Bradley's door one day. And wouldn't that make their dad proud.