Back in early September one of the athletes that I work with won his third UCI Para Cycling World Time Trial Championship.  Some people will make a big deal about this, say “it’s amazing,” and think that it needs to be overly celebrated in some way.
In reality though, it is simply the culmination of work done not done by one person, two people but by dozens of people whose work products all fit together to finish a puzzle on one day in a small Dutch town.

Aaron and I have been working together as coach and athlete since late 2012 and our initial project was more simple, win the 2013 C2 World TT Championship.  The work was straightforward and the limitations appeared well defined.

Aaron is husband, father of three, and a chiropractor who owns and operates his own clinic in the Seattle area.  In this we have an athlete with limited time, limited energy (both physical and mental/emotional), and limited budget.  The work canvas thought was also well defined, we have 8 hrs a week to train, Aaron has been cycling for quite some time, so skills and aerobic engine are in place, and the knowledge that in competition, Aaron can go much deeper than his quiet, unassuming demeanor would communicate to the outside world.

With only a power meter and an off the shelf Felt B2, Aaron and I were successful in winning the C2 World TT Championship at UCI Para Cycling Road World Championships in 2013, in Baie-Comeau, Quebec.

In 2014, Aaron defended his rainbow jersey, on the same bike, with the same aero helmet, in  what would be considered a less technical skinsuit in Greenville, South Carolina.  What changed from 2013 to 2014?  1).  Clothing sponsorship:  the team moved to a company that provided clothing that was less technical than the previous year.  2)  Improved nutritional support.  Both at home and at competition, Aaron now had access to the team’s part time dietician.  Along with the dietician, the team coaching staff also invested significant time in nutrition and cooling strategies for the race environment.

In 2015, the other competitors in Aaron’s class caught up and surpassed Aaron…
Additionally, as time passed and Aaron got older, accessory injuries began to make it more difficult for Aaron to recover and function.  Specifically, a nerve in his neck, became impinged and over time the function in his hands began to be reduced.

Over the next three years he would begin to petition the UCI to be reclassified from a C2 to a C1.  The process was slow and though the training was pushing the limit of what he could recover from and still perform at his maximal capacity, his results declined during these years.  With the declining results motivation also waned, but through talking with me and the process of figuring out what was needed, Aaron made it through the low points we decided to make a big push in 2019.

I made at plan that was more aggressive than in the past and we got confirmation that Aaron’s classification appeal would be granted and he would be seen by a classification panel at Road World Championships.
The review of his classification was quick as the panel read his medical documentation and confirmed the data with a physical examination.  After the exam, it took only a few minutes for the panel to confirm that Aaron was now a C1 and no longer a C2.

When Time Trial day rolled around 48 hrs later, Aaron’s motivation was high, and I was very confident in his fitness but we remained reserved as the C1 class is still highly competitive.  Unlike 2013 & 2014, I was unable to drive the follow car for Aaron as my driving skills were required for another rider but I sent him to the line with a fist bump and confidence in my colleague who was driving for Aaron.

Thirty five minutes later, Aaron crossed the line and the radio in my car crackled to life with the news that Aaron had won and regained the coveted Rainbow Jersey.  On the same bike that he won with in 2013 & 2014.  And now, we are already focusing forward on the 2020 World Championships in Ostende, Belgium and the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
So what did it take to reach this goal.

Patience
Discipline
Trust
Vulnerability
Humility
Commitment
The Ability to Listen and then provide a slow thoughtful response.

These things were required not just of Aaron, but also of me, Aaron’s family, the other Para Cycling Staff members, Aaron’s employees and coworkers.  So even though this looks like an individual sport with only one person putting out the effort, it is in fact a team sport with many of the team members contributing silently and some simply being traits that we can easily ignore.

– Coach Mike