First…what an impactful power word. Full of meaning, significance almost always gets your attention. It raises eyebrows and invites a “tell me more” expression on your face, when some someone says, “I was the first.”
First to fly, to fly across the Atlantic. First man in space, to orbit the earth and to step on the moon. First to break the four minute mile. First African-American to play major league baseball, first man to break the sound barrier.
Being first is so much more and meaningful than crossing a line. It can signal and represent the breaking down of barriers and opening a door into a new and better new world.
The biggest firsts can change the world. Sometimes they are matters of national pride but most often they are private treasured firsts that are deeply personal. Your first day of school, your first bicycle, car, date and kiss.
First Use of Areobars
Firsts are historical “stakes” in the ground. They become unalterable FACTS of history.
On Sunday July 23, 1989 Jose De Cauwer LeMond’s team director sportif walked up to a UCI judge and showed him the bike Greg Lemond would be riding in the individual time trial from Versailles to Paris on the final stage of the Tour de France. There was no problem with the bike except a funny horseshoe shaped set of aerobars. “LeMond wants to use these bars.” The judge glanced “Okay you can use it no problem”. Jose continued, “LeMond, he has a back issue they help him.” Irritated the judge interrupted, “I said no problem.”
LeMond was 50 seconds behind Laurent Fignon. He told the crew, no updates in my ears. Greg had been testing aerobars that were growing in popularity with ultra-cyclists like RAAM riders and with Triathletes. The roadies were loath to touch them. Greg and his team had done their homework. It started with some research and then they listened.
When you’re planning for the tour the stakes of every decision are high. Nothing passes through the process without careful deliberation and testing. Anything “new” is viewed first as a risk.
Cyclists at the time [and not much has changed] were not known for being forward thinking but Greg and his team weren’t afraid to experiment and then to take the risk. It was definitely new and the risk while real was calculated.
The risk was rewarded. LeMond gained 58 seconds on Fignon and won the ’89 Tour by the closest margin in history eight seconds. And the barrier to aerobar sales to roadies came tumbling down. Pascal Ducrot then vice president at Scott [the ski company and the company that made LeMond’s aerobars] said, “In 1990 we sold 100,000,’ says Ducrot. ‘Overall they were a huge success, and I believe showed Boone Lennon, Charley French and Greg LeMond to be pioneers.’
In June 2015 I sat down with Evan Huffman for lunch at Sellands, a local deli in El Dorado Hills California. About two weeks before I had contacted Evan through Facebook. It was an absolute “shot in the dark” cold call. I had recently read an article about him in the Sacramento Bee describing his return to the US after a two year stint riding for Astana in Europe.
The purpose and pitch was simple. Would you be willing to “experiment” with a new device that allows you to stay about 20 degrees cooler when riding in the heat? The first look on his face a single squinting eye and a half smile that bordered on a grimace, said it all. “I don’t know” Evan politely replied. We chatted a bit more about the science and physiology behind our idea. Slowly, very slowly he started to listen. I “twisted” his arm a bit more. Finally framing the question in the context of his previously “experimenting” with hydration and nutrition products. Yes he admitted having done that. “Well why not experiment with this?” I said.
Evan is a very nice young man and I honestly think it was only because of that he consented. We finished lunch and walked outside. Evan had his bike in the back of the car and I fitted a Black – Blue Spruzza onto his black and blue Neil Pryde training bike. The squint and grimace came back a bit but he did offer a conciliatory “Actually doesn’t look too bad.” I shook his hand and quickly thanked him for being willing to try something new and left before he could change his mind.
Two weeks went by before I reached out to Evan. It was only because we were heading to Los Angles for a SHARK TANK audition that I decided to check in for a follow up meeting. I figured getting his feedback might help us with the pitch.
We met the second time at Starbucks. I arrived a few minutes before Evan and the minute he spotted me in the back of the store his face lit up. No squint no grimace just a big genuine “trademark” Evan Huffman smile. Even better the first thing Evan said as I stood up to shake his hand was, “You don’t want this back do you?” I couldn’t stop laughing.
Like LeMond, Evan’s risk had been rewarded. He had been using Spruzza the last two weeks during his hot summer training in the Sacramento valley and Sierra foothills. He went on to tell us that “I’ve been training harder, longer with less fatigue and faster recovery by using this to stay cooler.” His 2016 racing season with RALLY CYCLING is already proven to his best ever, capturing the KOM polka dot jersey at the Amgen Tour of California and winning the North Star Grand Prix.
Whatever happens with Spruzza and our vision to improve every facet of the cycling experience in hot weather, Evan has his place in history as the FIRST professional cyclist to use and train with Spruzza, “A Cooler Way to Ride.” It is a FACT of history now.
Since then Evan and I have shared several of our personal stories. The latest Evan shared with me was his goal to become more of a leader for RALLY CYCLING or any other pro team he rides for. I think he’ll do just that because one fundamental characteristic of a LEADER is the willingness to try something new, to push the envelope and take the personal risk to be FIRST.
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