CBR Interview: Andrew Zens
For those with the time, means and legs to do so, a stage race or series can be an unforgettable experience. In the Midwest we're blessed with two such series: The 10-day Tour of America's Dairyland, which closed Sunday, and the 17-day Superweek, which starts next Friday in Beverly.A handful of Chicago riders went all-in for the 2010 ToAD, including 27-year-old accountant Andrew Zens (Spidermonkey Cycling). Just two years after taking up racing
What on earth possessed you to race 10 days in a row? At first it was the quest for upgrade points, but as the season progressed I wanted to do something that I had never done before. In your first season there are tons of firsts, but in the second season it's hard to find something that you haven't tried or really challenges you.
Prior to this, what was your most intense stretch of racing? Gateway Cup was four days.
Was there a moment where you were like, "What have I gotten myself into?" Day One. It was a race in my hometown and I`I tried to do a little of everything. This was the best learning experience a racer can have.’ didn't sniff the front of the field, nor the middle of the field for that matter, and I thought, "Is it going to be 10 days of this?"
Racing in Illinois, we get to know each other pretty well. But what was it like racing against a bunch of cheeseheads you didn't know, plus riders from out of the area? At first it was really hard, not only because I had no idea who had a good wheel to follow but it made bike racing less social in general. However, as the week went on I started to make new friends in the field. That was even more important after Day Four when my teammate Bryan Witry, who was to travel with me, broke his arm.
What happened there? At Road America he was jockeying for position coming into the uphill finish when a cheesehead rode under his bars and crashed him. Quoting Bryan, "It sucked that guy didn't have Randy Warren's voice in his head saying stay calm." The Warren safety clinic saves me weekly.
Did that make for a long day? It really did. The worst part was that on Day Four I finally started racing well after being called out by a Chicago racing friend. Jannette Rho (Chicago Cuttin' Crew) had told me after the third day, "You need to be more aggressive."
Did Bryan's crash affect how you rode the rest of the series? Probably. I got more aggressive and tried to really enjoy the races the hardest part was traveling by myself every day. It took some of the fun out of the midweek part of ToAD.
What were you doing more aggressively? Getting in breaks? Defending position up front? And how did it work out? I tried to do a little of everything. This was the best learning experience a racer can have. One day I attacked and attacked and attacked,`When I crossed the line I was empty, and that's all you can ask of yourself.’ then I cracked. One day I sat on the strongest rider's wheel. One day I went for every prime. I read on a Web site somewhere that you have to race for a year in your category before you can expect to do well in it. So I thought I could get my year in in a week with 10 races.
What was the best moment of the week? The Greenbush Road Race. It was the first 4's race where I competed in a sprint finish. And the course was so much fun, flying through the woods. When I crossed the line I was empty, and that's all you can ask of yourself.
Where did you stay all week? I grew up within two hours of every race, so I stayed with my parents. They still have my Bob Marley posters from high school on my walls. On Saturday night it was the Chicago host house with six racers from four different chicago teams (XXX, Chicago Cuttin' Crew, Iron Cycles, Spidermonkey).
If you were to do this again, what would you do differently? What advice do you have for others? Unless something changes I plan on doing this series again next summer, and I will realize how much mental stress is involved with racing day after day. I would say remember to have fun. The first day I really worried about results and I sucked. When I made sure to have fun and try things, the results improved. I mean, if it's not fun then you are just riding in circles.
Two days removed, how are your legs feeling? Actually they feel great. I will be heading down to matteson later this evening, and I would expect to see me on the Turin ride tomorrow. Then it's a break for a couple days.
Do you wish you'd taken any rest days? Not at all. I would have wondered, What did I miss?
How was watching the P/1/2 races? It was amazing. The Rahsaan Bahati (Bahati Foundation) show at Grafton was something to see. Great question from Bahati after Greenbush: "You don't need anything bigger than a 21, right?" Me: "Well, I rocked a 26 but we got different legs."
Heh. That's like Tiger Woods asking you which wedge to use. Exactly. I also enjoyed rubbing shoulders with team directors like Verizon u25's Mike Ebert. It's always good to find him toward the finish. He knows where to stand for a good view.
I always loved lingering near the directors and eavesdropping as they yelled into the radios. Well, without the radios they have time to talk to you a little more.
How much Superweek are you going to do? Not many. Maybe four. This past week and a half I've seen how a stage race should be run. It was so organized and professional. `When I made sure to have fun and try things, the results improved. I mean, if it's not fun then you are just riding in circles.’The directors and promotors were amazing. They are even crediting Bryan six races for next year. I was blown away. I don't really want to go back to the Superweek disorganization. However, the road races are looking pretty fun, especially Willow Springs.
Do you have any goals for the rest of the season? I want to figure out how to make the jump from being a top 20 finisher to a top 10 finisher. I am really looking forward to Glencoe and Gateway. The Gateway crowds are unmatched, which makes the weekend.
Have you figured how many upgrade points you ended up with last week? Zero! And that's the best part. I don't even care and I still had a blast each and every day.
That's the spirit! You've grown wise, grasshopper. Now that you have freed yourself from desire, I'm sure the points will come. I am sure they will. I would like come back as a really strong Cat 4 for ToAD next year.