Mixing a dedication to road racing with a Zen-like outlook
Travis Samuel is improving. He feels an overall win in a stage race is becoming more of a possibility. Early this year, he was 12th in the final classification at the Redlands Bicycle Classic and fifth at Grand Prix Cycliste de Saguenay. As he continues with H&R Block Pro Cycling for a third season, competition in Europe – where he lived and raced for a stint in 2014 – and Asia are in the works. Here he discusses new skills, motivation and a secret mentor. What’s one thing you’re doing differently at races this year? As an under-23 rider, sometimes you don’t really think with your head during a race. You get really anxious and burn matches here and there when you should have been saving them. This year, I’ve been really aware of where I spend my matches. It seems like things have been coming together.
Your preparation for this year was a little unconventional. It was my first year of university. I’m going to Trent University, taking a joint major in business and economics. I’m full-time: I did nine classes. Plus, I managed the kitchen at the Ceilie, the on-campus bar.
Some people were saying, “Your cycling is done. You’re going to school and you’re managing a pub and you’re going to try to train? There’s no way you’re going to be ready.” It really made me plan ahead. If I had two hours in the morning, I’d make the most of those two hours. If I came home at 10 p.m., I’d ride until midnight.
I had a really strong winter. I took two 10-day trips, one to California and one to North Carolina. I got huge base miles there. Then I did intensity on the trainer.
What’s been one of your best rides this season? One of the best race days would be the Sunset road race, the last stage of Redlands. It’s famous in North America and always hard. It was sweet to make the front group. Unfortunately, I got a flat with 2 km to go. I was fighting for a podium, but finished 16th and 12th overall.
What is something you have improved upon? This winter I got a mountain bike. It’s the first winter I got to rip on the trails. There was a lot of learning and crashing. I wish I had picked up a mountain bike a few years ago. I think everyone needs to improve on the technical side. For me, it helped at Winston-salem, which is pretty technical: all downtown with 15 turns on the roughly 10-km circuit. You go up and down, and left and right. There’s road furniture, too, so having good technical skills gives you an advantage.
Wheelie or skid? I’d like to be able to do a wheelie. I think that’s way better than a skid, but I can only do a skid.
What time of year is your enthusiasm for racing at its highest? Probably spring.
And at its lowest? Definitely at the end of the year. When you hit the end of August or the start of September, you’re always struggling for some motivation.
I understand you have a secret mentor on another team. Ryan Roth and I were teammates on Jet Fuel for about half a year. We’re friends, but probably don’t talk as much as we should. I think he knows that at some races, I just follow him around. He’s so good at sagging on climbs or being chill when you need to be. He also knows when to be at the back or at the front.
Is there anything about bike racing that you find frustrating? Not too much. I’ve actually been trying to enjoy it as much as I can. I’ve realized that this is not the lifestyle I’m going to be able to live for the rest of my life. So, I want to enjoy every moment, even if it’s frustrating, like a 14-hour car ride after a race. I think a lot of guys nitpick a lot of things. A big goal for me is not to nitpick and go with flow. Whatever happens, happens. I’m just going to enjoy riding and bike racing.— MP