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Guest Writer: CCF athlete Tamia Santiago on discovering what it takes to be a real cyclist

By Tamia Santiago
Tamia is going into 10th grade at Mastery Charter School: Pickett Campus

Tamia Santiago

Tamia Santiago

After watching multiple cycling events, I simply couldn’t believe that it was a sport— they were just riding bikes. Yet crowds flocked to the courses, waving portraits of their favorite cyclists and cheering enthusiastically. The circuits were repetitive and the only thing that distinguished the pros from the others, in my eyes, were their gear. I thought to myself that I could easily accomplish what pros took years to do and I’m only in high school.

Therefore, in March, I attended an interest meeting for cycling at my school, in which the Cadence program gave us a synopsis of the journey ahead and all of the preliminary paperwork. I remember going through the disclaimer section of the packets and thinking what possible tragedy could happen while riding a bike. In April, when temperatures finally began to rise, we started actual outdoor practices. It was my first year but the gear I was wearing made me feel like a pro; it made me feel prepared for anything. That is, until we started hills. The first hill we practiced on was located on Harvey Street in Germantown. And although it was nothing compared to the Manayunk Wall, I struggled as my teammates soared past me. As I desperately tried to catch up, my face numbed while my muscles burned and shook. My sweaty palms could barely grip onto the handlebars and the top of the hill seemed so far away. In disbelief of actually being challenged, I made the excuse that my body was warming up to unfamiliar workouts. However, after a few more practices I began to notice that I wasn’t ready, cycling was more than simply riding a bike. My confidence began to sink as I realized that I was far from the pros, and even my teammates. I was wrong: cycling was deeper than what an audience sees. Cycling is a sport and it takes dedication to get better.

It didn’t take long before cycling became a passion of mine. By May, I started looking forward to practices, taking them more seriously. Everywhere that I went I wanted to ride a bike to get there. I enjoyed the challenge of hills and endurance. I faced the fact that I was new to the sport and had a lot to learn but it didn’t bother me because I wanted to learn. I opened up more and asked more questions. I learned more about my bike and became more comfortable with it. Additionally, I took advantage of criticism and advice. I wanted to improve, and getting help from coaches/experts was a start, but I still needed the most the vital component in becoming a better cyclist—intrinsic motivation. It was hard staying intrinsically motivated with so many distractions. I was too worried about catching up with others rather than improving my own riding skills. It was when I started focusing on myself that I began to make more progress. Specifically, the hill that I struggled going up in the beginning I was now able to go up three times continuously without stopping.

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But, along with my skill, my confidence and comfort in the sport also began to rise. Little did I know that I was focusing on all the wrong things; I was focusing on strengthening my thighs, calves, etc., but the main muscle that I needed to strengthen was my mind. I needed tolerance and discipline. Once I got that, everything fell in line.

It’s July now and I’ve accomplished so much: completing in the Philadelphia Velothon, and staying consistent with both school and All-star practices. With great dedication and determination I got where I am today. I am a young cyclist and I’ve been working hard throughout these few months. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve overcome a lot. But my journey has only just begun.

Ed. note: The young athletes on our CCF All-Star team pick different summer projects related to, but outside of, the act of cycling. Several of them chose to work on their writing skills and write blog posts and essays. Their writing will appear both in our Cyclegram newsletter and here, on the Most Prestigious Bicycling Blog Since FDR’s Wartime Fireside Bicycle Blog.

If this editor wrote in high school like Tamia does now, the other content on this blog would be way, way most informational and clearly.

Topics: Cadence Youth Cycling, Featured

One comment on “Guest Writer: CCF athlete Tamia Santiago on discovering what it takes to be a real cyclist

  1. Andrew J. Besold

    Awesome Tamia! Keep up the good work. You’ve learned one of the most critical lessons in cycling and that is, it’s the hills that make you stronger!

    And never give up on a long, hard climb. The longer it takes, the bigger the downhill reward! 🙂

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