Riding Musings with... NCVC's Tom Godfrey

Two years in a row he’s won MABRA Best All-Around Rider (BAR) jerseys in the Masters 45+ age group. In parallel, you’ll find him racing Category 1/2/3 events as a cool-down. In between his own training sessions, he coaches the NCVC Juniors team. Though I am probably offending him saying he’s one of our wise old men, for the past few years, Tom Godfrey has been a mentor to a number of racers on NCVC, on and off the bike, including me. Though Tom is a professional in something other than pedaling, he reflects the best characteristics of a pro on the bike: execution, level-headedness, and accountability. There are few people I enjoy riding and racing with more, for the tactfully frank and friendly conversation as much as the thigh-burning lead-outs.  Here's an insight into those conversations. I hope you enjoy.

Bert Garcia, Road Director, NCVC

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Let's start with the 2014 Masters Best All-Around Rider (BAR) competition, which came to photo finish, per se, at the Dawg Days Circuit Race a few weeks ago. You went into the race in contention again, while defending a jersey from 2013. Now that the Mid-Atlantic road racing season is coming to an end for the year, what can you share regarding that race?

Given the very close competition for the Masters Men’s 45+ BAR (my age group) all season long (which was not finalized prior to that last race), the points race for that title was certainly a topic for our pre-race planning discussion at Dawg Days. Fortunately, my team-mate Curt Southern had already locked down a win in the Masters Men’s 55+ BAR competition prior to this event and since the 45+ and 55+ masters men were racing together at Dawg Days we had a few more options re race strategy, execution, and results.

Going into the last weekend of local racing (also including the MABRA time-trial championship the day before Dawg Days), there was a very close points race for the cumulative series including Mike Stearns (SEAVS/Haymarket p/b Van Dessel), Mario Zometa (Annapolis Bicycle Racing Team), and me. Before the time-trial (on August 16), Mario was in the lead Masters Men’s 45+ BAR competition, I was in second place, and Mike was in third place. There were enough points available through that final weekend that any one of the three of us could win our BAR competition and determine who would place second and third in that 2014 series too. Thus, I was motivated to finish the season off as strong as possible by racing through the weekend.

That sets the tone, but what was "the plan" for the Master Men’s Dawg Days race?

Well, honestly, we had several objectives for the race – I can’t give away everything you know. Since the Men’s 45+ BAR competition was so close we had a plan for that as well as trying to get one or more NCVC masters (not me) in a break-away to go down the road and stay away for the win. The race was aggressive and reasonably safe – my priority was to stay away from any crashes and try to avoid getting a flat tire – since there was no free-lap in this circuit race; either of those scenarios would likely have made it impossible for me to win the BAR competition. In the end, the field came together with several laps to go in race. My team-mates kept the pace moving on the last few laps and, at the bell signaling the start of the last lap, four NCVC racers were lined up, with me as the caboose, as a fantastic lead out train for the final sprint. In the end, there was a 5-person drag race for the finish line and I ended up tied for second place in the Dawg Days race; that was enough to give me the win in the Men’s 45+ BAR series for the year.

Let’s step back in time. How and when did you first get into bike racing?

Wow, this question makes me feel old! I still remember my first race – the Fair Oaks Criterium, 1984. 

So you’ve been racing for 30 years?

Yeah, I actually got hooked on the sport when I was in high school. I was a somewhat competitive distance runner at that time, in the half-mile and other events up to 10K races, but was a generally a bigger guy than most of the distance runners at that point. Several of my high school friends started riding bicycles for fun (in the early 1980’s), pulled me in, and we did some local training races during the summer in Northern California (where I grew up) and I was hooked. 

I started taking the racing a bit more seriously through my college years (1986-1990) and upgraded to the Men’s Category 2 level in 1990, a few months after I graduated from college. Over the next 10-20 years, I continued racing but was generally more focused on graduate school and my career, so bike racing became less of a focus for me. Seems like I returned to the sport when I reached the masters age level and have spent quite a bit of time over the past 10 years actively racing in Masters groups, with the occasional Men’s Pro/1/2/3 race thrown in for more distance, speed, and intensity. (Ed. – Tom almost always doubles up for the 1/2/3 race at local criteriums and circuit races, and we can't thank him enough for the extra pair of legs.) 

It is fun to look back on those years/experiences on the bike and to reflect on being a part of teams with more than a handful of guys that have moved on and had very successful professional cycling careers. Been a great journey and have made friends all across the country (and several other countries too!) through traveling and bicycle racing over several decades.

You're one of the coaches for our juniors program. What general advice would you  give to novice racers?

A couple of points, paraphrasing Jens Voigt (one of my heroes).  First, there are no shortcuts – dedication and discipline are required. Next, have confidence (not arrogance) in your abilities – if you’ve done the work/training required, then you’re ready to get out and have success on race day. Lastly, remember the people who helped you get where you are and do what you can to help others achieve their full potential too.

Here’s the, ahem, most important question. What bike are you riding? 

OK, there’s a back-story here. In the late 1990’s the team I was co-managing at that time, Napa Valley Velo, was able to secure a grass-roots sponsorship from the Trek Bicycle Company. That company was very good to us and I started riding/racing their bikes at that point in time. By analogy to finding a comfortable pair of shoes, I just seemed to fit on a Trek bike and have continued racing on one since then through this past season. The current racing machine is a Trek 7 Series Madone with Shimano DuraAce components and Zipp Wheels. On balance, I did have a nice group ride recently with several friends from FreshBikes who shared that I needed to get on a Cannondale for next season, so I’m keeping an open mind and certainly appreciate what our current team partners are doing to provide access to great equipment and service from a variety of other manufacturers/providers too. (Ed. – In legal blog disclosure, NCVC has a great sponsor partnership with FreshBikes, a Cannondale dealer.)

Tech talk aside, though, what’s next for you?

I’m still going to do a couple more races this season. I’ll be competing in the Masters World Cycling Federation World Championship Road Race (in Austria on 8/30) and the USA Cycling Masters National Criterium Championship (in Utah on 9/6). I have teammates racing in other categories in both of those events so I’m looking forward to the travels, more racing, and doing what I can to help out the other NCVC racers in those National and World Championship events. I’m pretty stoked about going back to Worlds this year – and then meeting Mary Breed and Curtis Southern in Utah for Masters Nationals the first week in September. Plenty of work and good stuff still to come this season on the bike!

Wow, so you’ve had a long season with big events and big results. Any plans for the off-season? Do you have an off-season?

I’m planning for some time off the bike this fall, more training rides/planning activities,  and another great season of road racing in 2015 with my NCVC team-mates. Looking forward, irrespective of what happens in the next couple of races, this has been a fantastic year of bike racing. Our NCVC masters racers have finished the season stronger and closer as a team than we started – both on and off the bikes – that makes me very proud to continue be part of this team. More great things to come for all, I’m sure!

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