Friday, March 24, 2017

Part 1: Back at it again!

Well, after my long absence from this blog I decided to update y'all on the happenings and some of my plans for the coming year.  The last post I wrote was way back in 2013 after coming back from getting my teeth kicked in at junior track worlds.  Since then quite a lot has changed.  I'm going to separate this story into 3 parts. This first entry is all about my year of "living the dream" with Hagens-Bermans U23.  The next segment will be about my first two years at the University of Minnesota and my decision to stop racing/riding all-together.  The final part will be about the past ~18 months that have seen me go from despising the sport that I grew up with, to falling back in love with it, as well as my plans for the 2017 season.

So, into the time machine we go.  After my last year with Slipstream-Craddock I picked up a contract with Hagens-Berman U23.  I spent the winter/spring of 2014 living in Pacific Grove, California with a teammate of mine on HB-U23, Eamon Lucas.  It was a wonderful 4 month period.  I had graduated from online high school in January (more on that in part 2).  This allowed me to spend almost all of my time training and getting ready for the season.  I was able to get quite fit and I was stoked for the season to begin.  Flash forward to late March 2014 and HB-U23 had our second team camp.  The plan was to spend a week training with the team in Oxnard, California before heading to the Redlands Bicycle Classic the following week.  Unfortunately I caught a wicked stomach bug while at the team camp.  This knocked me out for the first few days of training camp and I was not able to get healthy again during the team camp.  However, I still made the team for Redlands.

Coming into the race I expected it to be no harder than any of the junior races that I had participated in while in Europe.  I could not have been more wrong.  There were a couple of factors working against us from the gun.  First, we had a very young team, with 2 juniors, 2 second year U23's, and the rest being first year U23's like myself.  Also, many of us had picked up the same stomach bug during the camp, leaving us a tad weaker than we'd prefer.  I'm going to avoid going into detail about each stage so I'll just give you a little tidbit about each.

Stage 1:  100K Highland Circuit Race, dropped 20K in, made time cut (barely)!
Stage 2:  12.6K Big Bear TT, made time cut (there's a trend here)! 
Stage 3:  200K Beaumont Road Race, spent a lot of time going back for water/food, dropped with 50K to go, still made time cut!
Stage 4:  60K Crit, First NRC crit, basically 'Days of Thunder' for 60K, pulled after half way.
Stage5:  160K Sunset Loop Circuit Race, dropped on the way to the loop, still made time cut!

So that was my introduction to NRC racing.  Basically, it made the devastating experience of getting 26th in the Individual Pursuit at junior track worlds seem like a gift compared to the results I had at Redlands.  One of the few fond memories I have of Redlands is going back to get bottles for my teammates.  It was awesome to see that even though I was having a garbage week on the bike, I was still able to contribute somewhat to the efforts of the team.

After Redlands I drove up to Seattle in the HB-U23 team van with our mechanic, Tre, and three other teammates.  The drive was your standard 20+ hour jaunt up the west coast.  Typically spent on your phone or staring blankly off into the horizon.  I was really looking forward to getting back into the groove of things in Seattle and getting some training in before doing some local races in the Sea-Tac area.

Once we arrived in Seattle I got all settled into my host house and set about training.  This year with HB-U23 was my first experience with true "host housing".  Basically, to save money, domestic teams like HB-U23 will stay with families that offer their houses for us to stay.  Don't get me wrong, this is an incredibly generous gesture by these families to open their house to us, but it still feels weird staying with strangers.  It's was fairly hard for me to get comfortable at a host-house as I always felt that I was intruding in one way or another.  For instance, the day we arrived it was around dinner time when I rolled in.  My host family was already sitting down for dinner and my arrival interrupted dinner.  In reality, this is only a minor convenience, but it still felt a bit off-putting to me personally that I had to interrupt a family that was opening their door to a 19 year old stranger.

I was able to get three or four solid days of riding in while in Seattle before, sure enough, I got sick again.  This time it was just a cold, but it was the straw that broke the camel's back.  I was slotted to do Joe Martin and Gila in the coming weeks but I sat down with my director and told him there was no way I would be in good enough form, mentally or physically, to race.  Without going into details, my director was not at all pleased with my decision.  Luckily I didn't really care if my director wasn't pleased at this point, so I flew home.

It's worth mentioning that my experience at team camp, Redlands, and Seattle led to my decision to stop "chasing the dream" of riding with a top tier team.  The amount of sacrifice required versus what I thought I could get out of the sport just wasn't worth it.  I decided that after my year with HB-U23 I would go to college and race locally only.

Just to pull the curtain back on what it took to be a mediocre cat 1 and race the NRC.  During my time in Pacific Grove, California my coach at the time was $400 per month, rent was $600 per month (I know that is incredibly low for Pacific Grove).  Right there we have a thousand dollars gone per month, but that's not counting the sacrifice of moving away for 4+ months.  I missed a lot at home when I was gone, the biggest part being the death of the dog I had grown up with, Gulliver.  Some of you may shake your heads at that, but he was a huge part of our family from 2002-2014.  So that is the cost of those 4 months spent in California.  On the bright side, I was getting paid by Hagens-Berman at the time, but it was only $250 per month.  That is almost nothing, especially when you think about how much time was spent on the bike, but I was getting paid to ride my bike, so it was fine by me.  Also, it should be notedthat my whole experience with bike racing, travelling, and racing in far off locations wouldn't have been possible without the unwavering support that came from my family.  Jim, Carla, & Maren never stopped supporting my cycling from the day I started until the day I stopped, and I can't say thanks enough for that.

The next few months went by in a flash.  I raced locally mostly, with my only result of merit being winning the LaCrosse TT up Grandad's Bluff.  I spent most of my time just training in an effort to salvage the last half of my season.  Another highlight of this time was welcoming a new dog into our family, Theodore.  He's a great dog and getting him really livened up things in the Cullen household (even though Carla can't stand him).

Flash-forward to June and the NorthStar Gran Prix is coming up.  I guest rode for Twin-Six along with some other local riders.  I had a very good time trial and ended up 22nd after stage one, and second in the white jersey.  Later that night we had the St. Paul crit.  Upon signing in to the race I noticed an asterisk next to my name, indicating that I had a call-up.  I had no idea why but I gladly took it.  I was the last called up to the front two rows at the start.  Without a doubt I would say riding to the start in front of a home crowd at a race that I had grown up watching is still one of the highlight of my cycling career.  The crit itself went well, finishing in the lead group.  The next day at the Cannon Falls road race the field exploded in the cross-winds.  I was able to make it into the front echelon internally, but after I while I blew up and ended up in the groupetto with a majority of the race.  At the uptown crit I was caught behind a crash, and rather than just take a free lap and I should have, I kept riding in an attempt to chase the field down.  I did not make it back but I was still able to start the Menominee stage the following day.  Menominee was a bad day for me.  I wasn't super fresh and it was raining as well, two factors that set the day off on the wrong foot.  I spent a little over half the stage in the caravan just trying not to get dropped.  However, after a while the elastic snapped and I pulled out of the race in the feed zone.  I still had a great time at NorthStar and I can't wait to race it again.

Next up for me was the Tour of Americas Dairyland.  We were running a light squad for this trip, with just the mechanic, myself, three other riders, and good ol' JimmerC.  I raced 8 days in a row of what my team and I affectionately called "Tour de Crit".  The four of us really meshed together well and we were able to pull of results almost every day.  Personally, I had a really good day at Schlitz Park, finishing second in a 5 man break.  Because we had a string of good results I was able to leave the "Tour de Crit" on a high note and a bit of extra prize money as well.

Nationals in Madison was next.  The road race and TT were nothing to write home about, a non-result in both races.  However, the crit was something special.  We had a very good sprinter on our team in my roommate from California, Eamon Lucas.  The plan was to watch for the break to go, keep it in check, and then mass on the front with 3-5 laps to go.  Eamon and I really knew how to read eachother on the bike so I was tasked with taking him from the bell into 100 meters before the final corner.  Right away on lap 1 crashed with a bunch of guys, went over the bars, and jacked my hand up pretty good.  I ignored my hand and took my free-lap.  A few laps later I was able to get into "the move" with a handful of other riders.  I took my light turns in the break and just tried to keep things moving, knowing that if it comes back together, we have Eamon for the sprint.  Eventually it came back together with about  20 laps left.  At his point we (HB-U23) all try to find one another and find our way to the front.  We were line ourselves out on the front with 3 laps to go just as planned.  The next three laps were like amazing.  We were all riding perfectly and keeping the swarming field at bay.  Coming into 1 to go it was my turn to give it up for Eamon.  I took one last, hard pull for 3/4 of a lap before the sprint started.  Eamon had to start his sprint a bit early but was still able to nab third place.  It was a great day and the perfect way to end road nationals that year.

After nationals I convinced my director to put my on the team for the Cascade Classic in Bend, Oregon.  Cascade was one of the most scenic races I have ever done, with gorgeous views of the Cascade mountains and great racing on top of it.  My results at Cascade were fairly lackluster.  I was able to stay with the peloton for much longer than I was at Redlands or NorthStar, but when the going really got tough, I was unable to stay with the lead group.  I made time cut every day here before abandoning on the final stage.  At the time, I thought this would be the last NRC stage race I would ever do.  On top of that, Bend was the first place where I had a big result, finishing second in the Time Trial and Road Race at junior nationals in 2009.  It was interesting to think that Bend was the place where my "real" racing career had started and where it would end as well.  All-in-all, leaving Bend was bittersweet to say the least.  Once I was home from Cascade I spent the rest of my summer just riding for fun, racing at the track in Blaine, and getting prepared for my first semester of college at the University of Minnesota.

That's it Part 1. I hope the handful of you who read this enjoyed it!  The next part that I'll post some time in the coming weeks will be focused primarily on my first two years of college and the decision to quit racing.  Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Life in Cali

HBU23 Teammates (L-R): Jordan, Adrian, Zeke, Eamon, and Owen.
Just after Christmas, Jordan moved to Pacific Grove, California, to live with Hagens Berman U23 teammate, Eamon Lucas. He is just a short drive from 3 more teammates in Northern California. He attended the first HBU23 team camp in Seattle in early January, which was a great success.

Jordan is now coached by Colby Pearce, and has stepped up his training program, with a weight program, and additional core specific workouts.

He finished up High School a couple weeks ago, and will graduate near the top of his class. Congrats to Jordan! As previously announced, he will attend the University of Minnesota, starting this fall.

The Cherry Pie Criterium, in Napa, CA, was his first race of the 2014 season. HBU23 lined up 5 strong with Eamon Lucas, Owen Gillott, Adrien Costa, Zeke Mostov, and Jordan. The team rode aggressively, and finished 2nd and 3rd with Costa and Lucas, respectively.  Race Report by Owen Gillott. Picture below is complements of Christine Costa.

Jordan driving on the front at Cherry Pie
The HBU23 Spring Training Camp is planned in Oxnard, CA, March 25-April 1. Immediately following the camp, is the first NRC race for the team, the Redlands Bicycle Classic.

Monday, November 4, 2013

New Team for 2014 - Hagens Berman U-23

We are proud to announce Jordan Cullen will be racing for Hagens Berman U-23 Development Team in 2014. The team is new this year, and based out of Seattle, Washington. It is run by Todd Herriott and David Richter, co-owners of Herriott Sports Performance.

After 9 years of racing as a Junior, Jordan has finally graduated to the U23 ranks, and Hagens Berman U-23 is the perfect team for Jordan. The team provides a much needed bridge between the elite and pro ranks for young riders. The roster of 11 riders includes 9 U-23's (ages 19-22), and 2 Juniors (ages 17-18). On top of having a rock star roster, Jordan re-unites with former Slipstream Craddock teammates (and fellow Junior National Champions): 1st year U-23 rider Michael Dessau, and juniors Zeke Mostov, and Adrian Costa. The other riders include 1st year U-23 riders Stephen Bassett (formerly Texas Roadhouse), Daniel Gay (formerly Get Crackin), Owen Gillot (formerly Specialized Juniors), and Veteran U-23 riders Jeff Perrin and Eamon Lucas (both formerly Cal-Giant), Colby Waite-Molyneux (formerly Hagens Berman Elite), and Argentinian Sebastian Trillini.

The team will be racing many of the top USA National Calender events, as well as working in conjunction with the USA National Team, to provide riders with the opportunity to compete in Europe.

Jordan plans to graduate from High School this December, then move to the west cost to train full time. Next fall, he will be attending the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, majoring in Kinesiology, through the College of Education and Human Development. He plans on taking a full load of classes in the fall, and then attend classes on-line in the spring, allowing him to travel for bike racing.

Monday, August 12, 2013

My 2013 Junior Track Worlds Experience

I flew over to Glasgow this past week for the 2013 UCI junior track world championships.  I went into this trip just looking forward to riding an indoor track, as well as racing in my first world championship.

After settling in at the hotel the whole US squad headed over to the track.  Simply walking into the cabins where all bikes are stored was a bit of a shock.  Each country is given their own cabin to store bikes and supplies.  Many countries who are prepping to ride the track have their bikes prepared outside of the cabins, a dozen bikes, all identical to one another, all worth in excess of $10,000 each.  Having raced for many years, there's the obvious "the bike doesn't win the race" that you tell yourself.  Even with that, there's still the sense of awe when you see twelve BT track bikes painted in Aussie colors, for a group of juniors.

The two days before the team pursuit go well.  We get some team pursuit practice in, as well as become familiar with the track.  We wake up the day of the team pursuit and everything's good.  All of our warmups go well, we go up to the start area and ready for the race.  The first 3,000 meters of the race go well, never far off schedule.  Then with 1 kilometer to go we lose a rider, and only I see it.  The next man takes his exchange believing their to be 4 riders, not 3.  This causes him to fall off the back a bit and by then it was too late to recover so we finish in 4:27, 18th place.

During my cool down I watch the Great British, Russian, Kiwi, and Aussie teams ride.  Their rides are executed with such precision that it seems like a video game.  Leaving a space no wider than the width of a deck of cards between one another, all while riding at 35 miles per hour.  These 4 teams were so smooth that they made it look not like a race, but a dance of sorts.  In the gold medal round the Aussies ride a 4:02 to win, a breathtakingly quick time.  Watching these teams ride is one of the highlights of my worlds experience, and something I will remember forever.

The next day is the individual pursuit.  I feel good in my warm up and I am excited to race my last 3K ever.  In the ready area before my race I just think about the splits I am about to run.  Having trained at a pace well above what I was shooting for here I was not too concerned about being able to do it.  Then in the race I am not able to come even close to my splits.  Eventually I am struggling to hit splits more than a second slower than what I am used to.  I roll across the line at a 3:31 for 26th place.  A rush of disappointment floods into me, leaving me almost speechless.  I am not sad or upset with my ride at all. Just disappointed.  I still can not think of any reason that I rode so far off the pace I have been hitting for over a month.  All I can come up with is I had a bad day on the bike.

Aussies qualify 1st and 2nd with a 3:20 taking the top seed.  Watching these two guys ride was interesting as well.  I am used to trying to hold constant splits the entire race.  As anyone who has done a pursuit knows, attempting to ride a constant pace the entire race becomes near impossible in the last kilometer.  The Aussies approach this dilemma in a way that I never even thought of.  Simply ride the first half of the race extremely conservative.  And by conservative I mean outside of the top twenty.  Then in the last 1500 meters they accelerate, well above the pace they have been riding for the previous 6 laps.  And by the end they have made up all the time lost, and then some.

Coming home from this trip I reflected on the trip a bit.  I am not super satisfied with my results, but you can't always ride as fast as you want, so I'll live.  I also take away exactly the experience that I could only gain from coming to Glasgow.  How would I know about this different way to pace pursuits if I had stayed at home instead, I wouldn't have.  In no way do I consider this trip as a whole to be disappointing.  I actually find it extremely motivating, but I've always been someone who is motivated more by failure than success.

I can't express how grateful I am for everyone who helped me experience the 2013 UCI junior track world championships.  Without you guys supporting me I never would have had such an amazing experience as this was!  Thank you so much!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Headed To Jr Track World Championships

Based on his performance at US Jr Track Nationals, Jordan has been selected for the World Championship National Track Team. He will be competing in the 3K Individual Pursuit and 4K Team Pursuit. His Slipstream Craddock teammates Michael Dessau and Jonathon Schilling have also been selected.

The Junior World Track Championships are next week, Aug 7-11, in Glasgow, Scotland. Jordan is qualified for Level 2 funding from USA Cycling, providing half funding of the $4000 trip fee. He still needs to raise $2500 to cover the other half plus baggage fees.

Jordan has setup a gofundme site for family, friends, and fans to donate to his World Championship Campaign. Any help you can offer is greatly appreciated!

Repeat at US Junior Track Nationals

Repeat US Junior National 3K Individual Pursuit Champion

Rolling to a 3:31.333 in the Individual Pursuit

Repeat US Junior National 4K Team Pursuit National Champions

Rolling to a 4:35.015 in the Team Pursuit