Events: Hosting a Cycling Team
(2016) On March 4, 1765 (a long, long time ago) far, far away from here, England passed the Quartering Act. It was a law that ordered regular citizens to put up English soldiers if the barracks were too populated to accommodate all of the Red Coats, then it was demanded the locals put them up for a stay. Inns, houses, barns, and public houses were made to receive the influx of soldiers. Things seemed agreeable until in 1767 New York was specifically revoked of the ability to pass laws saying the Quartering Act was stupid (my words, not theirs). Things really went downhill in 1770’s Boston Massacre. As you can guess, things didn’t get any better from that point forward for the British. There’s no word on how suitable their sleep was after 1770.
Nearly 250 years later, north of where Washington crossed the Delaware, and a large group of people were looking for quarter. Only this time, it was consented, even encouraged. It’s one of the greatest experiences we’ve done here at the offices of creakybottombracket.com; there was hardly an issue to be had.
Two years ago on a social media page for the Bucks County Classic, a missive went out asking people to open their homes to cycling teams coming from afar. We put our name on the list, explained our advantageous proximity to the Saturday road racecourse, mentioned our bike stand and tools, and recorded the amount of space we had. We then waited to see what would come of it.
We were given three male riders from the St. Louis-based team, Gateway Harley-Davidson/ Trek U25 team. We were given a time as to when to expect them. I raced home from work to find a monster truck pulling up to our house with bikes on the roof and giant Harley-Davidson decals on its flanks. "This must be them," I thought, thinking the obvious. I had gotten home just in time. The team director, Jim, met us and introduced us to three riders: Cole, Dennis, and Carson. Two of them would stay with us; Cole, a guest to the team for the race, would stay at his girlfriend’s house in Bethlehem, PA.
Jim gave us his wild itinerary, stating this was his second trip from the Philadelphia airport (a one-hour commute one way in ideal traffic conditions), and that he was going back down for the final trip. Riders were coming in at all different times. It was going to be a long day for him, so I offered him some coffee.
Jim left to fetch his last couple riders and deliver them to their guesthouse. The three guys prepared to do a discovery lap of Saturday's road course circuit. Around dark, after returning, Cole headed home with his girlfriend. Dennis and Carson were given a tour of the house followed by the guy-thing of calling which bed. (We hadn’t had the air mattress delivered yet, so one called the bed to avoid the floor.) Once they moved in and reported to be comfortable, they departed for a team meeting in town. We would see them a bit later in the night, but not long enough to get to know them. Every time they wanted something, they asked. The Missus and I couldn’t get over how nice these guys were.
Saturday, the day of the road race, and we had breakfast ideas waiting for them. Knowing they may have had a planned breakfast, we hesitated to make them anything until they accepted. When they said they would like breakfast, we made them eggs, bacon, and oatmeal. Coffee was dished out to my nervousness that Dennis is Colombian. The monster truck van reported to our driveway and the process began of loading it up with the bikes and bags. They then headed to Doylestown to start a race that would end in New Hope, PA. It was forecasted to rain heavily.
We then geared up and headed to the brutal climb just outside of Carversville, Wismer Road. The race would climb it more than ten times. We had parked the car on Fleecydale Road, walked past the façade of Carversville Inn, made the right to ascend the initial blunt ramp of the climb where we were caught by the race’s first lap. Then I found something happening – I was specifically looking for the guys staying with us. The race had become a personal experience now that we were more than just clapping at a group of professional and elite amateur riders. Once the race had passed, we climbed higher to where the large collection of spectators was gathered.
At this location we watched the peloton climb about five more times. Each time the race got slimmer. We met up with friends and our conversations had changed, too. “Which ones are the guys you’re hosting?” “How many do you have?” “What time did they get in yesterday?” The camaraderie of the peloton had spilled over into the hosting households who enjoyed talking - even bragging - about their guests. Each lap we pointed out whom we hosted and learned whom our friends were hosting. Reluctantly we eventually evacuated our spot on the hill to return home. The race would end in a downpour with fewer than thirty riders crossing the line.
We knew the guys would be beat when they were dropped off at our house. Towels were left out so they could shower. The pantry had been stocked. And wouldn’t you know the sun had come out? I got my bike stand out knowing they would want to clean their bikes. Carson and Dennis fell in line with what we predicted. Carson gave his bike a thorough cleaning while Dennis reminded us what it’s like to be young and doing laundry, upending his whole bag in the washer. He didn’t bother to sort it. I was confused for a moment.
We asked them what they wanted for dinner and noticed they were being modest. We implored them to let us feed them instead of their resorting to eating out of their travel bags. When we left them at our house to shower up and relax (we trusted them that much) we hoped they would take us up on making our house theirs.
Upon our returning home, Carson was watching my recorded Paris-Roubaix video. He was sitting on the couch with our dog that looked at us as if his being on the couch was a normal thing. They had taken advantage of the porch. Dennis had made some phone calls. As the night progressed, food was cooked and served up. Carson called his girlfriend back in Texas and stated our dog was helping him with his missing his dog. Dennis was on the couch looking up race stats and telling us about his thoughts for the criterium the next day in Doylestown. The conversations were picking up. I stated I would make pumpkin granola for the next day. Carson came downstairs from his phone conversation to say the granola was making him hungry.
We explored their lives. I was curious as to their worst hosting situation. While I won’t go into detail, it involved being given a porch and an appalled reaction when they asked to use the shower. They stated they pooled their money together to get a hotel for the second night. I was sad the time was winding down. Carson had found a new best friend in our dog who sold out to us and never left his side.
Morning saw Dennis head out early to town. He rode to the criterium course from our house, which is mostly downhill. Carson rode with the Missus and me. We got to briefly show him what our roads are like compared to his in Texas. Sadly we had to cut it short. The race was drawing near. Their bags were loaded onto the monster van along with Carson, and we made our itinerary for the day at Doylestown’s Arts Festival where the Bucks County Classic’s criterium race would occur.
For a second day it was fascinating to watch a race with people we knew. My parents were at the race, having hosted many riders from another team. They all had requested the chance to have a cheesesteak after the race. When in Philly. Corner after corner we scanned the blur of riders for the black, orange, and white of Gateway Harley-Davidson/ Trek. It was made a bit more difficult by a similar themed kit and helmets. But it was eventually easy to spot Cole who, in the last 250 meters kicked his way onto the podium.
In the rush of people and vendors and the course being broken down we were unable to give a proper farewell to our guys. They found us via social media, and last year I caught up with Dennis briefly before the start of the criterium race. He stated Carson wasn’t racing in 2015. Once again we found ourselves cheering him on. This year will be no different after he messaged us again saying he would be racing the criterium for 2016.
I believe my point is obvious by now: hosting riders is an extremely rewarding experience for all involved. Teams save money on hotels while the host homes get to know riders and invite them to see our slice of the world. Host families I’ve talked to express shock to learn many of the riders hold down full time jobs far away and race on weekends. They also find it incredible to learn of riders’ schedules and how this race is most likely the last race for the team that year. In many cases it’s the last time that particular team is together.
I cannot imagine the sentiment colonists expressed when being told by Parliament an ocean away that they must open their doors to soldiers. The reason I can’t understand that is we voluntarily opened our home. Furthermore the guys we hosted were the most polite people we had ever met. My parents concurred regarding their guests. Friends on Wismer Road’s hill also echoed those comments in the following weeks after the Bucks County Classic. All because we volunteered to help out a team for short forty-eight hours.