I have three people to thank for "guiding" me into a career change at an early age. These three folks have absolutely no idea that they helped me with my "career makeover". I am sure that everyone has had some version of the sudden career change at some point or another. Mine just happened to hit me half way up Felton Empire Grade in a 39 x 17 in 1994.
Bob (Cadex) Simpson and I would often train together during the 93' and 94' racing season. We would basically go out and punish each other all day long (Bob doing most of the punishing). We could not have been anymore different on the bikes. He had so much power it was scary. I had to use my spin and smaller gears to stay with him. He would stand all day long on the bike and I would rarely get out of the saddle.
One day Bob and I wondered up Felton Empire Grade. As you know, you can't "ride" this grade you typicly end up pushing the limits and usually that comes early for me on this climb. We either just finished the Redlands Classic or we were headed south for it- I don't remember. All I know is that I had some serious fitness and was not afraid of anyone or any road in the county.
Reality Check 1 - Check 2 is this thing on?
I started up Felton Empire as a full time bicycle racer and I finished the climb as a future firefighter cadet. It was amazingly liberating. It was one of those rare moments when you know exactly what your doing and it actually makes sense. I kept rehearsing how I was going to break the news to my cycling coach and living legend Rob Parsons. It was a long ride home that day.
Here are the numbers that pushed me to become a "Jake" (generic fireman nickname):
I had to go deep into the archives (1994 training diary) for these stats. For you folks out there that ride with all the fancy electronic gadgets and doohickeys here are some numbers to wrap your mind or Garmin around. After you double check your math on the average speed calculation, feel rest assured that these numbers are totally 100% correct because I know what a 3 min gap looks like on Felton Empire Grade especially when you are the one that got gaped. Please note that Bob did not use wattage calculations, nor did he have a fancy carbon wheel set or even any carbon on his bike with the exception of his kestrel fork.
Bob Simpson (without pro-contract) pedaled his tigwelded Rocklobster that day up Felton Empire Grade in 17 mins and 50 secs. When I rolled up three mins later I was a changed man. His acceleration on this climb was absolutely world class! Up until that point I had only witnest accelerations like like from Bobby J (Redlands Circuit) and Paul Wilerton (Freemont Peak). All three of those guys happen to be 5' 10" 150 lbs - the textbook build for a road racer. I owe him one for that reality check at the age of 20. Bob - thank you for that, I still love to ride my bike and go to work.
Cezary Zamana and Miguel Aroyo where the other two folks that "encouraged" me to seek other employment. While Team Wheelsmith was scouting out the climb on Oak Glen Road Race, Subaru Montgomery's Miguel Aroyo went by us and simply said,"53 x 19" in his broken English. I was thinking more along the lines of a 39 x what else did the mechanic have to offer in Shimano 8sp.
Felton-Empire Road -additional names:
(also known as: Felton Empire Road, Felton-Empire Grade, Felton-Bonny Doon Road, Bonny Doon-Felton Road, Bonny Doon to Felton Road, Felton and Ben Lomond Road, Bennett Street, Felton Grade, and Bonny Doon Road.)
Miguel went on to do the TdF, San Sabastian, and some top 5 finishes at the Daphine.