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All alone out in front: a point-of-view Will Massey has become accustomed to on the Virginia Tech Cycling Team. He is set to race in the USAC Collegiate Cyclocross Nationals this weekend in Madison, Wisc. Adam Stewart photo.

Three years ago, Will Massey woke up on a dreary winter morning in Virginia Beach — the kind of day that most people concede defeat to the elements after one glace out of the window.

But Will is wired differently than most people. Besides, the call had already been made the night before by Surf & Adventure Co. owner Rob Lindauer and team rider Eric Coulson that Will would take his first true cycling ride — a 15-mile loop through southeastern Virginia Beach.

“Halfway through the ride I had accepted the fact that my toes were probably going to be gone,” said Will. “But a painful shower later and I was hooked.”

Nowadays, 15 miles is a rather light day of riding for Will, who has rapidly ascended through the ranks of collegiate cycling on the Virginia Tech Cycling Team. His specialty is cyclocross: a hybrid style of road/mountain biking with obstacles and extreme terrain thrown in for good measure. “Imagine steeplechase on bikes with beer gardens, sand pits, and heckling encouraged from the fans.”

Sparked by that rather uncomfortable introduction to the sport, the former motocross racer and S&A manager found his new passion — and unlocked a hidden talent in the process. Through tireless hard work, placing second overall individually and first on the team side of collegiate cyclocross in 2012; Will joins three other Hokies at the USA Cycling Collegiate Cyclocross National Championships in Madison, Wisc. Will is set race both in the Under-23 and Elite divisions on Saturday, Jan. 12 and Sunday, Jan. 13, respectively. Should he win the U23 division, Will would take one of the most coveted prizes in cycling: the right to wear the USA Cycling Stars & Stripes jersey. Wins in either of the races qualifies Will for 2013 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, Ky. Feb. 1-3. Check out an overview for the race here: http://www.usacycling.org/cyclo-cross-nationals-return-to-madison-on-january-9.htm

We caught up with Will for some Q&A as he makes his final preparations for Nationals this week in Blacksburg. Forward and questions by John Streit.

S&A: When did you first realize that you wanted to join the competitive ranks?

Will: I think it was collegiate cycling that really got me wanting to try my hand at racing.  For the longest time I always thought cycling was a individual sport, but once hitting the collegiate ranks and actually experiencing teamwork and camaraderie among the team on the race weekends, it really blew my mind on how fun it could be. A lot of people compare cycling to a game of chess, and for me combining a super rad physical sport with tactics and teamwork was the icing on the cake.


Kay Comer photo.

S&A: You experienced success right out of the gate. What is it about cycling that clicked with you?

Will: I really think it was the dedication and commitment that cycling takes that clicked with me right off the bat. The funny thing that most people don’t know about me is that in my first race I was dropped — I wasn’t able to keep up with the field — within about two miles of the start. From then on, I knew that you really couldn’t fake fitness and while my ego was bruised, I kept riding. A couple races later, I was hanging in and doing much better. Once I found cyclocross, then I was really hooked!


Adam Stewart photo.

S&A: Describe your normal training routine. How does that change before a race?

Will: A lot of people do a lot of different things in their training with the hopes of getting that advantage that no one else has discovered. For me, a lot of riding is my main training. In the months leading up to Nationals, the main focus was getting a lot of distance and time on the bike while mixing in some core work along with skills practice. As we got to mid-December, I started to switch to shorter but more intense workouts simulating race situations. This past week I’ve been taking a lot of shorter rides with just a little bit of intensity to keep the juices flowing while not tiring myself out too much.  The day before the race, I’ll go out for about an hour and do some start practices then get some good dinner, good sleep and hope for the best!

S&A: When did you first realize that you could hang with the elite guys?

Will: About last year I jumped into a higher category race for experience and found myself able to hang with most of the guys. While I wasn’t able to hold the pace the whole time, I knew at that point that if I put in the work for next year I could be at that level.  The first race I did in the collegiate A category, I came in second after a tough-fought race. Once that happened, I knew the hard work had paid off.


Kay Comer photo.

S&A: What drives you to compete?

Will: Competing for me has always been something that I’ve enjoyed.  I used to race motocross when I was younger and was trying to get better, but going off to college and trying to keep motocross bikes in good running order got a little too expensive. When I found cycling, it provided that outlet for me to compete while keeping costs down and being just as fun. While I love riding no matter what, being able to hang in a fast, tough race is what I think of when getting the training in. 

S&A: What does having qualified for Nationals mean to you?

Will: Qualifying and actually competing in nationals is something I have wanted to do ever since I started the sport, so it is still a little surreal for me. Not to be to cliche, but it does kind of prove the old “hard work pays off” method works, haha!  I don’t think it will really set in until I am actually lined up on Saturday and Sunday with some of the best in the nation surrounding me. The fact that everyone on that starting grid has a chance to win and wear the Stars & Stripes jersey is kinda crazy to me, but super exciting at the same time.

S&A: How far do you think your cycling career can go?

Will: I think this year and next year will really determine how far cycling will go. I think I will always ride and race, but as far as taking it to the next level, how I do this year and next year at nationals will determine if I continue to pursue cycling as something more than a recreational hobby. I don’t really see myself trying to go the Tour de France route and race professionally on one of the continental pro teams, but I would love to race overseas at least a couple of times. For me, if I was able to get on a professional team that races mostly in the states with a couple trips across the pond I would be stoked. Cyclocross is where I want to really pursue a future but I love road racing and a little bit of mountain biking as well.


Kay Comer photo.

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