photo by BikeReg.comphoto by Jack Miltonphoto by JS McElveryphoto by JS McElveryphoto by JS McElvery


Mark McCormack’s 2004 Race Diary

 Diary EntriesApril 2, 2004 – Where to Begin?

    Where to begin? This is my first ever public journal posting.

    I must admit that I am not sure where this adventure will take me and whether my writing will interest those who choose to read it. Regardless, I will attempt to add insight that should have some entertainment value and possibly even a hint of useful information to those that want to learn more about the inner workings of professional racing here in the United States.

    Who am I and where did I come from? My name is Mark McCormack and I am getting old(er). I grew up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and lived there until I got married and moved to North Easton, Massachusetts, a small town about 30 miles away. I have been fortunate to have lived in two amazing places for bike riding. Plymouth was the perfect place for me to get acquainted with the sport of cycling. It was there that I became a member of the Mass Bay Road Club and had the good fortune of being surrounded by great people who helped me to progress in the sport. I was only 13 years old when it all began.

    Twenty one years later and after an eight-year tenure with the Saturn Cycling Team I am now racing on the Colavita Olive Oil Cycling Team presented by Bolla Wines.

    Back in December the Americans on my new team had a chance to meet up for a mini-camp (without bikes) in Boston, MA, centered around the Tyler Hamilton Foundation kick-off event. It was a great opportunity for us to get to know each other before ever riding in a race together. Being a resident of the Bay State I did my best to give the guys an adventurous time. The weather was nasty! The high temps were in the single digits and the wind was blowing hard. We had a great dinner one night in the North End, went to a Celtics game at the Fleet Center, enjoyed the Tyler Hamilton reception, did plenty of running (to stay warm between the T stops and our destinations), and had a few hot chocolates at the local Dunkin Donuts.

    Team Camp: Tucson, AZ
    The entire team got together in February for our official team camp. I arrived in Arizona in the evening after a long day of airline travel and settled in to the team hotel. I was very excited to learn that our hotel had wireless high speed internet available.

    photo by Richard Bryne
    In the morning we all had a chance to meet up at the team trailer and get our new Felt bicycles. The bikes looked stealth: monotone black and very fast. We are fortunate to have Jim Felt on board as he is providing us each with two road bikes and a time trial bike. This will allow for me to keep a bike at home to train on and do the local races with while having my race bike at all the big events so that I do not have to travel on the planes with a bike. For those that wish to know the bikes are built up with the following:

    Felt SC1 Frame
    Reynolds Carbon Fork
    Mavic Ksyrium Wheels, WinTech wireless computers, and brake calipers
    Maxxis clincher tires
    FSA Bars and Stems
    Shimano Dura-Ace 10 speed
    Speedplay Pedals
    Velo Saddles

    We are all using Diadora racing shoes and Giordana clothing – nice stuff! I am psyched to still be sponsored by Oakley (eyewear and watches) after using them for the past eight years. And I am finally lucky to be able to call Clif Bar and Clif Shot my energy bar/gel sponsor. These are awesome!

    The weather in Tucson was amazing: 70-85 degrees and blue sky every day. The roads on the other hand were very limiting. I think there are about 5 rides to do in Tucson. Coming from Massachusetts I had to smile about the weather but frown about the riding. By the end of camp I had ridden 53 hours in 13 days, including a 3 day stage race called Valley of the Sun in Phoenix in the middle of camp.

    My new team looks great. I really enjoyed getting to know everyone and am looking forward to building on our relationships as teammates and friends throughout the season.

    Home again
    I returned home to perfect weather: 45-50 degrees and sun. I managed to continue with my training for almost two weeks before winter returned and my turbo trainer re-entered my training regime. Fortunately for me I only had three days of bad weather before heading west again for the first big races of 2004.

    While I was home my wife Suzanne and I signed the agreement to sell our house. After more than 7 years in our house we have decided to sell it in favor of finding something a little bigger for our growing family. We will be moving out at the end of April. Hopefully we can find another house that meets our needs to replace the one we are selling. In the meantime, we’ll be returning to Plymouth while we search.

    California Swing
    I flew into San Francisco a few days before the first NRC race in Merced, CA, (McLane Pacific race weekend) to attend the Colavita team announcement at the Clif Bar headquarters. This event was awesome. About 225 cycling fans attended the event, which helped raise money for the Nor-Cal High School Mountain Bike League and served as the official launch of my new team. It all started with a pizza and beer party and silent auction and was followed by a well-produced team intro.

    After a late night we were up at 5am for a drive down to Merced, CA, so that we could attend a press breakfast for the McLane Pacific race weekend. Most of the teams had representatives at the event and I was able to catch up with a few of my teammates from last year.

    12 races in 15 days! Two host houses and one hotel. The following is what I had to look forward to. Two days at McLane Pacific: a 43 mile city center criterium with 6 corners per lap and a 120 mile road race on rolling country roads. One day sitting in a car driving from Merced to San Dimas, CA, (remember Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure?) Two days of training. Four days of racing at the Pomona Valley Stage Race: a 90 minute hilly circuit race, a 4.7 mile mountain time trial, a 93 mile rolling road race, and a 40 mile city center criterium with 6 corners. One day off to travel to Riverside, CA, and train on the prologue course. Six days of racing at the Redlands Bicycle Classic: a 3.1 mile prologue time trial, a 98 mile road race with a mountain top finish, a 108 mile road race with a mountain top finish, a 62 mile very hill circuit race, a 90 minute city center criterium with 8 corners, and an 87 mile circuit race on a hilly course and finish circuit on the criterium course at the end. And when that is all over I get to jump on a plane from LA to Boston. This is what I call heaven.

    Highlights from the CA swing
    I finished the 120 mile road race at McLane with a sharp pain on the outside of my right knee and road the 20 miles back to our host house at a very easy pace hoping to ease the pain. The pain didn’t go away so I spent the next morning at a physical therapy office getting some attention on the area including deep tissue massage to my IT band, E-Stim, ultrasound, ice, and heat therapy. I was a nervous wreck. There was still 10 days of racing to go on this trip and I was having serious pain in my knee. I followed the therapist’s suggestions very closely: lots of ice, very easy riding for three days before Pomona started up, and ibuprofen to help reduce any inflammation. It all worked and I managed to get rid of the pain and make it through the racing without any recurring pain.

    The men decided to neutralize the opening circuit race at Pomona over concerns of safety. Personally I disagreed with the decision but it was too late to voice my opinion. It seemed to me that it was more a problem with the riders not respecting the course’s technical features. There were plenty of hay bales, no moving vehicles, no other categories racing at the same time, etc.

    I managed to avoid crashing in the criterium at Pomona when my rear tire went flat as I went into a high speed right hand turn.

    I spent 80 miles in a break with 6 others on the first road stage at Redlands only to be caught one mile from the summit of the finish climb. I then lost three minutes to the stage winner. My teammate Todd crashed hard and apparently could see his elbow bone through his wound. He still managed to finish the stage and the rest of Redlands.

    I finally made it up Oak Glen (the 2nd mountain top stage at Redlands) without blowing. I climbed it in the big ring (55 tooth) and in my 21 and 23 cogs. 15th place. I think I was the first rider to the top that weighed more than 170 pounds.

    My teammate Ivan won the first circuit race at Redlands. This was our team’s first big win in 2004.

    My teammates Juan Jose (aka JJ) and Ivan finished 2nd and 3rd in the criterium at Redlands. This was the day that Gord was DQ’d and removed from his 3rd place, after he apparently took my former teammate Charles Dionne to the fence.

    I failed miserably in my attempt to jump across the 1 minute 30 second gap to the break in the final stage at Redlands. I was 12 seconds behind the break when someone up there decided to attack so that I wouldn’t make it. I was caught by the field and eventually so was that break.

    Charles took the win the day after being “fenced”. Nice work.

    Home again
    After spending an entire day traveling across the county I am finally home and resting up. I took three days off the bike to let my legs heal. My son Collin is getting so big and the things he can do amaze me. My wife looks like she has a basketball under her shirt. She can’t wait until mid May rolls around so that her 10 month adventure can be over and we can get started on our new lives. Hard to believe Collin will be a big brother very soon.

    Next stop: Tour de Georgia.

    Until next time.


photos by Jonathan McElvery, Jack Milton, and

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