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No matter where you are in the world, if there’s bike racing going on there are great stories to tell. For the girls and guys that race, or have raced at any stage of their lives, the memory of their very first bike race is likely to be a strong one. You personally may have memories of chewing bar tape in your first race or, if you were lucky, getting to raise your hands aloft as you came across the finish line. Each and every story says something about how and why people either continued with racing or decided to call it quits.
We’ve previously harassed a few of the big names in the sport to tell us about their first races. Some were experiences that clearly showed how naturally gifted those riders were; others experiences were just plain comical.
To continue this series we thought we’d ask some of the riders at the Tour of Langkawi about their experiences when it came to their first ever bike race.
Joon Yong Seo – Team KSPO
“My first bike race was a mountain bike race; I was 15 years old. I saw a poster in a bike shop for the event. My parents asked if I wanted to have a go at it. It was at the elementary school level; a long challenging race. I turned up and raced in just a normal pair of training shoes and a T-shirt; no sunglasses or helmet.
In my category there was about 30 guys in total. It was a hard, tough race though in the end I finished sixth. But from that first result I could see that the bicycle was good for me and my future lifestyle. My parents still support and cheer for me.”
Philip Deignan – Team Sky
“It was a selection event for the Ireland team, for the upcoming youth Olympics. I’d done a few events before but you couldn’t really call them proper races, like a few local league events where there’d be maybe 10 guys competing. But this was what I’d call my first proper under 16s race. It was a nice race.
The likes of Nicolas Roche were there, and quite a few familiar faces that I ended up moving through the ranks with. I finished second in the end to a little guy called Paídi O’Brien. It was worth the long trip, from Donegal to Cork [ed. nearly 400km away]. Right up in the north to the very south.”
Lucas Euser – UnitedHealthcare
“I did a mountain bike race in my home town in northern California in Skyline Park. It was kinda part of the mountain bike World Cup series. From 1998-2000 the mountain bike World Cup went through Napa. So I did the beginner category race with my buddy.
I remember it was with the only guy I used to train with, his name was Andrew. We climbed to the top of the first climb and I was in the front. Andrew wasn’t there, I was really concerned so I stopped and waited for him — at the time that made the most sense. When he caught up he started screaming and yelling at me. I then made sure I stuck with him for the rest of the race to make sure he would make it.
In the end I outsprinted him for about 20th place. I was 13 at the time.”
Kiel Reijnen – UnitedHealthcare
“It was a Stuart Park criterium in Seattle. We lived on an island so I took the ferry boat over with my family and we rode our bikes to the crit. It was just a local practice race, so if you got dropped you could just jump back in. I made it half way and then I threw up, got dropped, got back in and then hung on till about the last lap and again got dropped.
This was 2004, so a while ago now.
I suppose what made me continue was the fact that I liked to throw up. There was another time in the same race. They have wild chickens that live in the centre of the loop. Once they came out of the woods causing a massive pile up. Everyone went down, just a big pile up with chickens mixed in. On the bright side though everyone had dinner sorted.”
Amir Mustafa Rusli – NSC T.W.O
“I started mountain biking when I was 13 years old in my home town. The race was really fun; we did some down-hilling and cool corners. You needed some skills to finish.
That was when I was 16. What made me continue was the rides of 200km on the weekend though, doing big loops around the beach area and back.
I just fell in love with the sport.”
Florian Guillou – Bretagne-Seche
“My first race was when I was 10 years old. It was held in a small town close to my parents’ home in Guérande in Brittany.
It was only about 10 or 15km in length. I won it but there was only maybe five or six guys in the peloton. I’d been training with my father before the race too, so that made a difference.
I was very happy winning my first race — it was definitely the beginning of a long experience in cycling. It’s permitted me to do many different races and experience different cultures and countries, such as today here in Langkawi, a race I’m enjoying.”
Michal Kolar -Tinkoff-Saxo
“My first ever race was in Ontario, Canada: Hard Wood Hills. I was seven years old. Because I was so small my dad had to make me a custom bike. He made it from a BMX and turned it into a mountain bike. He had to do it as I was so tiny at the time.
I think I finished second or something like that. Ever since then I’ve been racing. I remember the circuit; it was around a little cottage or some sort of restaurant, something like that. The guy that beat me was I think Jared Stafford; I’m not sure if he races still though.”
John Ebsen – Androni-Venezuela
“It was raining and half snowing; after 5km I was out the back. So I was pretty much out of the race before it even started. I was about seven years old. I was on a bike with the gears on the down tube, old style. It maybe had six gears or something like that. Back then it was my dream bike. A steel frame. Shit, it must have been an easy 20 kilograms.”
Jacques Janse Van Rensburg- MTN-Qhubeka
“It was when I was about 13 years old. It was with our school who hosted a small fun ride. I entered the 15km event. I remember that there were some professionals that came for the day.
I was riding an old mountain bike, just a casual bike, something that you’d buy at the supermarket for about $50. The thing that got me hooked was seeing all the professional African riders with their nice bikes, the kit, shoes, wheels, and their whole set. It was nice. I’d always been into team sports and it was at that first race that I decided I wanted to be a cyclist.”
Sofian Nabil Omar Mohamed Bakr – NSC T.W.O Cycling
“I was 12 years old and I raced it with my friend. I just managed to ride two laps; I’d only been training for just a month.
My mum had sent to me to the race in my region. The laps were only 2km in length. I used a big heavy steel bike that cost about 300 Malaysian ringgit (~AUD $105).
I didn’t even enjoy the two laps I did, in fact I cried after. But my mum always supported me. She motivated me. My dad, he used to race.
My first race was actually the same race that the mechanic on the team won, but he was 17 at the time, older than I was.”
Nicolas Dougall – MTN-Qhubeka
“It was a criterium in the local town where I grew up. I think I raced in like B grade. I finished in the bunch and have been hooked on racing since then. I was 16 or 17 years old.
I can’t really remember everything that went on, it’s all a bit of a blur, it happened so fast but I knew I’d be doing it for a good while.
I was on a BMC SL01 frame, this was back in 2009 or 2008 maybe.
That was my first bike race but I’d done some triathlon before that so I’d had some experience on the road bike.