I started racing endurance sports well before my nephew @landon.brown27 was in diapers. I chased podiums and paychecks on the professional triathlon circuit and worked @cyclinghouse trips in the winter months. I had epic battles with rivals, pushed my limits, and traveled North America. All Landon knew was that I rode bikes a lot!
Fast forward 15 years, and I got to work alongside Landon on @cyclinghouse Montana summer trips for the past two seasons. Sharing my passion and creating unforgettable guest experiences with him filled my heart! Watching him out-guiding, growing, interacting with guests and loving what he was doing was rad. I was a proud Uncle, co-worker, and teammate.
Occasionally during trips we had time to get out for a rip together or race up a hill. Until recently, I held the upper hand. On our Glacier-to-Yellowstone trip, we got up early because we were both driving support over Going to the Sun and did a sunrise ride up Looking Glass Pass. Well, I was properly dropped by Landon and knew the tides were turning.
For the second year in a row, Landon and I lined up @thelastbestride gravel race in our hometown of Whitefish, Montana. In 2021, I got him by 30 minutes, but to be honest, this year I was worried. That didn’t prevent me from talking smack and making wagers with the “young back,” aka Landon.
The race started somewhat civilized, and it wasn’t until the first gravel climb that things got spicy. I found myself getting dropped from the front group, and while gasping for air, I caught a glimpse of Landon up the road ahead of me. I thought to myself, “It’s a long race, he’ll blow up, and I’ll reel him in. After all, the race is 90 miles and +8,000’ of climbing.” After 20 miles, we found ourselves together, me feeling good and Landon looking tired. I checked in on him to ensure he was eating and drinking, but he looked pooped. I thought I had him on the ropes.
Boy, was I mistaken!
Our group started working together, and @stellalou2 joined us after an untimely flat left her chasing for several miles. Once again, things got spicy as Stella went to the front, I found myself fading off the back, and Landon was again up the road leaving his Uncle in the dust. I took inventory, stopped for a pee break, refueled nutrition, and then kept trucking.
Ever since falling off a 40-foot cliff 10+ years ago (a story for later), I’ve struggled with lower back pain, which is not surprising but frustrating. I knew the Werner Peak climb would be a challenge – the steep grades and bumpy terrain did a number on my back last year. I dug deep and kept pushing onwards and upwards. I caught a glimpse of Landon near the aid station at Werner Peak. I knew @drew_w_peterson @hannahluzz and my nephew Carver (Landon’s little brother) were all there, and they expected a gun show. The photos say it all: Landon was smiling, and I grimaced. I caught him just before the aid station, and he accelerated, arriving there first. He made a quick stop and was off. I needed more – I was cramping like crazy, especially after Drew squeezed my quads. I pounded a Coke and set off on the chase. I caught him a couple of times, and each time he attacked. He was charging, and I was hanging on by a thread!
The final push to the summit of @skiwhitefish hurt. I couldn’t imagine a more challenging hike on a bike in a gravel race. Landon looked over his shoulder and outpaced me to the top. Friends who knew us were egging on the unfolding battle and loving it! If I missed him at the summit, it would be hard to make up any ground in the final miles back to Whitefish.
We had a long descent off the mountain, and long-time friend @alibeemt and I paired up. We gave chase to the finish line, but it wasn’t enough; he got me by 2 minutes. The smile on his face said it all, Landon took me down, and I was a proud Uncle! I’ve probably had more difficult battles, but I’ll remember this one forever. Riding bikes with friends, family, and @cyclinghouse guests is a huge part of my life, and a moment like this is icing on the cake.
Next year I’ll train harder, and the wager will be greater. I can’t wait for more adventures with this kid!
Photos Credit: @drewsilversphoto @montemphoto @aidancroskrey