Transitioning roles on a professional team
Hi it’s Whitney Allison again. I recently wrote about my experience racing some of the Spring Classics for the first time with Colavita-Bianchi. The 2017 season ended up being my best year yet and I ended up having some real GC opportunities this year. While I never quite made the podium, I made huge leaps and bounds forward with several top 10 GCs at some of the toughest stage races we have in the U.S. Professional cycling is complicated, we’re all dealt different cards and no path through it is normal, but here is my journey:
In 2013, I was picked up by Team Colavita to be an important part of the leadout train for sprinters Jen Purcell and legend Tina Pic as Colavita pursued the National Criterium Calendar. There are few things as satisfying as being able to support a team objective and have my efforts get us closer to our collective goal. I continued on that path through the 2014, 2015, and 2016 seasons with Team Colavita, each year stronger and stronger than the year before and every year with Source Endurance.
How do you measure success as a domestique? This is tricky. I spent years where I learned not to look at results whatsoever and focused on my job. My jobs have included ensuring a field sprint at countless criteriums, hauling a sprinter up climbs at North Star in pursuit of a sprinter’s jersey, grabbing countless bottles, ice and snacks from the team car, stopping with the team GC rider who flatted and hauling them back on to my own demise, and leading out climbers into steep climbs knowing I’m going to blow up and crawl to the finish alone.
In some ways, I’ve measured success with numbers. Power numbers can show and an increasing ability. Adam has also done a lot of work with me on my deficiencies in which some have since become my strengths. Being able to do my job or exceed my job expectations means success. Struggle less and deliver more. More often than not, success has been intangible on paper and I have had to leave races finishing 42nd but knowing that I did everything I could to deliver the rest of the leadout train to the last half lap.
It’s not been without struggle. I spent a few years really struggling with positioning and not having the confidence that I belonged there. That is an exhausting fight to overcome but if you keep pushing, one day you won’t have to fight anymore. I still have to focus hard on descending but I am fighting. For me, it’s not been about doing the training, it’s been my mind.
2017 became a year of surprises when I started to have GC opportunities. After years of not looking at results whatsoever, I had to start looking, to start scheming, and to learn patience in a new way. While some of the races didn’t pan out in the end, like Redlands or the final day at North Star, I kept pushing and started to get the hang of it for Cascade and Colorado Classic, finishing Top 10 GC on both days.
One of the biggest realizations is that while I know that I’m strong, I didn’t realize how that strength could be applied at the finish if you arrive pretty fresh. That might sound like a no-brainer, but as a domestique, I was always so tired for the finish and didn’t have the opportunity to arrive like that and see. It gave me a new appreciation for the domestique role (which is so essential!) and a new appreciation for my entire cycling career.
It amazes me that in cycling you learn so much year-after-year and this year was no different.