Day Two – Riding with Nathan O’Neill

Today was supposed to be the harder of the two days. We were going to be out for about four hours, riding over many of the same climbs that the Tour de Georgia uses. For today’s ride I was aboard the Synapse, which was mercifully equipped with a compact crank. The Synapse is a different animal than the System Six I’d ridden the previous day. The Synapse head and seat angles are the same as the race inspired System Six, but where they differ is the wheelbase and chainstay lengths. The Synapse’s wheelbase and chainstays are longer than the System Six, giving the bike a very stable feel. To me the Synapse SL is the perfect bike for what we were going to do today, long steady miles over all types of terrain. Nathan was as I mentioned in an earlier blog, still in base miles mode, so he was going to continue to ride between 130 to 140 beats per minute. Me, I was just going to hang on with out cratering. Again we had a posse, which let me stay out of the wind and recover as much as possible. The five days prior to this trip Tim and I had been in Greenville covering the professional championships and had not trained at all, unless you call eating fried foods and walks down to the local coffee shop training. Rolling out we started on a steady climb, just enough to get the blood circulating. As we climbed the scenery struck this city boy. Nothing but green in every direction. The hills of Georgia punctuated the skyline in every direction, with clouds covering the tops like icing on a cake. I was beginning to see why this was one of the reasons O’Neill had decided to call this place home. He has climbs of varies steepness and length to train on, sociable people who did not hassle us during our ride and temperate weather most of the year. And let’s not forget the beautiful countryside. It’s scenery like this that takes your mind off the suffering of training.

The scenery keeps you motivated

One of the final climbs of the day was the famous Brasstown Bald stage. Still painted on the ground were the names of riders, including a blast from the past, Mario Cipollini. And with the climbs came the serpentine descents. Nathan, like most pros, knows how to work a bike to get the most out of it. I was in the back of our follow van, with the rear hatch up, getting shots. Nathan would fly around the corners at terminal velocity, bike leaned and knee pointed in the direction he was turning. Meanwhile, I was trying to get the shot and not fall out at 40 miles per hour. At times, when it did seem like I would fall out and into the path of the rapidly descending O’Neill, one of the riders who had called it quit and was in the van with us would grab onto the back of my shirt so I wouldn’t roll out. Rule number one in covering a story or trying to get a good shot: don’t get killed while trying to do it.

I almost fell out of the car trying to get this shot

The sign was not wrong

Riding with a pro and checking out their favorite ride was an educational experience. I got to see first hand how dedicated they are to their profession. While most of us say we are going to stay within a certain training zone, most of us are quickly cajoled into breaking it, a true professional has no ego and stays within their training zone. That is a lesson I took home with me. According to Nathan, if he continues like he is, he will be 10% stronger next year.

Okay, I will. You don’t have to yell!


  1. Charles says:

    Neil, how did you enjoy the roads. I love the magazine. Keep up the great articles. I met you a couple years ago at the TT stage in the TDG. Later

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