By Daniel Holmdahl
I want to share some episodes with you from my experience as the scholarship recipient for the Cycling House’s scholarship program.
As any cyclist who aspires to race well but who also has a job or an academic commitment knows, time is the major constraint to how much training you can fit in your life. Add several inches of snow; temperatures well below zero, an eight week sick-period due to a compressed vertebra, and you have a good estimate of the starting point for my pre-season training block.
I am the president of the Dartmouth College Cycling Team. This is my last year of collegiate racing, and my fourth year racing on a bike. I applied for the Cycling House (TCH) scholarship, not to get ahead of my competition, but to be on par with the other racers in the men’s A category, once the season gets rolling in March. Having just returned from a hard ride on familiar New England roads and Strava segments, I have reason to believe my visit to the Cycling House in Tucson did the trick.
My time at TCH was in one word, fabulous. I’ve never felt more pro in my life. I woke up every morning to an espresso machine ready to caffeinate me until steam started seeping from my ears, homemade granola made with love, a washed and folded kit, a tuned bike, and a planned route for the day. What is not to love?
During the rides with TCH there was something for everyone. Although I was among the faster ones in the group, the staff did a great job keeping the group together or providing alternative routes for faster and slower riders. Despite a wide spectrum of abilities there was a strong sense of community during and after the rides. This community feeling was further enhanced by the accommodations in the house. By sharing a house and eating together I got to know other campers and the staff in a very informal and relaxed way. This was a great way to exchange experiences and grow as a cyclist also while off the bike.
My favorite ride (yes, Mt. Lemmon was great, too) was probably this little loop inside Saguaro National Park. The staff described it as MTB for a road bike, and it is nothing less. An amazingly twisty and rolling loop with one-way traffic where you can speed by cactuses at 30+ mph. I’m sure this will do me well during the many criterium races this spring.
Although the rides were beautiful and the weather was everything I could have hoped for, two things that really stood out to me were the staff and the food. Never have I ever met such a friendly group of people that are 100% committed to make my time as great as possible and to let me to focus on nothing but my training. They even took out my plate after dinner! And what dinners! Zander was the cook in charge while I visited, and with each and every meal he hit the bulls eye of my taste buds. Everything was made from scratch and tasted of heaven.
Now that I’m back in the New Hampshire cold with only dull campus food to fuel my engine it is hard not to let the mind wander back to the sunny days in Tucson. If I ever get the chance again, I will not only let my mind wander back but take my body and bike with me, because this is something worth coming back for!
Before signing off, I would like to thank the Cycling House for giving me this opportunity. Second to time and weather, money is a major limitation to the training and racing of collegiate cyclists. Few schools provide economic support for cycling, as it remains a club sport in most places. My team and I are working hard to lower the financial barrier to the sport through solicitation letters and sponsorship deals. If it weren’t for the generosity of the American cycling community I would not be where I am today. Thank you, all of you! – Dartmouth Daniel