I’m sitting at the dining room table of professional cyclist Evan Hyde. The 26-year-old Park City resident curves his rounded rider’s shoulders around Eddie, a mutt with an old-man beard, as if he’s holding a baby. Evan kisses Eddie’s head, and the dog’s arms and legs go lax. “What can I say?” says Evan when I giggle at the display of man-dog love, “He’s Eddie.”
In my lap lies little Nitro, a Jack-A-Bee who will continue to lick my blue jeans until slobber soaks through to my left thigh. Riley, a purebred Boxer owned by Kelsey Withrow, a professional triathlete and Evan’s live-in girlfriend, is resting her red head on my right knee. In five minutes, I’ve become a part of the pack.
The mood of Evan and his motley canid crew is so chill I scarcely believe I’m in the home of a professional road biker. These are the guys and gals who measure their food intake to the nearest calorie and who get stoked on shaving a few grams of weight from their racing bikes. When I inquire about his sedateness, Evan deadpans, “I save my energy for when I need it. Like the middle of a race.” The dogs, too, seem to understand the significance of relaxation.
Evan, an Anchorage, AK native who started calling Park City home about two years ago, is part of another pack, the 13-member Realcyclist.com Pro Cycling Team. In its inaugural year, the Park City-based team has a boat load of talent, including captain Francisco “Paco” Mancebo, the Spanish rider who was first overall in 2009 and second in 2010 at the Tour of Utah, and who rode to fourth place at the 2005 Tour de France. The Realcyclist.com team is proving how real they are this year. Since April, these boys have raced Paco to overall wins at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, the Sea Otter Classic, and the Tour of the Gila.
Evan’s a team domestique, which translates to common-speak as a jack-of-all-trades. “I don’t excel at anything, but I can be helpful in almost any situation the team encounters.” Elaborates Evan, “In races, I get water bottles. I drop back to the team car for messages from our director. I block the wind, cover breakaways, and execute lead outs. I do what needs to be done.”
Evan, thus, spends his racing days grunting it out in the peloton with a tangle of sweaty men, working with his teammates toward the goal of launching Paco onto the podium. Of his personal results this year, he says, “They’re terrible. I burn out all of my matches helping my teammates before the finish line.”
I ask him how he feels about this labor of love, of sacrificing himself for the team. “In a way, it’s frustrating,” he begins. “But, when you ride for a team, you know this going in. I could ride these races independently or with an amateur team and ride for myself every day. When you go in with a professional team, it’s different. A casual observer may have no idea how I helped Paco win. But the other riders and managers, they do. I get their recognition.”
Evan trails off, fixing his gaze on the open space visible through the living room window, and I can tell that he has more to say. Nitro adjusts his position on my lap and Riley licks her square-jawed chops, looking at me with the same anticipation I feel. I wait for Evan to continue, unsure if he’s choosing his words carefully or annoyed that I’m asking him to compare his individual goals with those of the team.
When Evan does speak, it’s clear that, while he harbors his own dreams, he also possesses an unwavering team commitment. “Paco is almost 10 years older than me. I’m sure he had to do the same things I’m doing now. Maybe someday I’ll be the one for whom the young guys are riding. Right now, I’m paying my dues, waiting for my time to shine.”
I can’t help but think that, with the way the Realcyclist.com team is dominating races around the country, Evan must already be shining in his role of delivering the team to success. After racing around the country, the team is now turning their eye to a local prize, victory in August’s Tour of Utah. On this June day, Evan is recovering and resting from the early-season fitness peak he made for the Tour of the Gila. He spends his time eating well, sleeping a lot, cross training, and getting ready for the upcoming block of training that will lead him into the Tour of Utah.
I’ve been told to use care when asking professional cyclists about food. Careers’ worth of calorie counting and other diet modification leave some riders with bad tastes in their mouths about food. When I broach the topic, Evan gets jazzed and calls his diet unorthodox. “Basically, I eat fruits and vegetables.” After a pause, he adds, “Only.”
Call him the Smoothie King because this is what he’s been living off of since he started this diet at the beginning of the year. He grabs a 64-ounce blender and says, “I fill this thing up three times per day, get maybe 4-5,000 calories out of smoothies from it.” I ask him what goes into one of those meals, “Dates. Frozen berries. Bananas, maybe 10 or 12 of them.” His diet is, indeed, unusual.
Evan walks me through a day of this coming July, one of his big Tour of Utah training days, and he says it won’t start until about 8 a.m. As he speaks, I think about athletes among my cadre of friends, folks who rouse themselves hours before dawn for multi-hour workouts that will finish before Evan wakes. When he says, “Sleep is so important. How can I ride without it?” I remember his distinct difference: this guy is a professional.
“Before breakfast, I’ll probably do some core exercises on my BOSU Balance Trainer, then take the dogs on a short mountain bike ride out there.” Evan nods toward the sagebrush-studded hills out the window, Park City’s Glenwild area, which hosts a couple dozen miles of trails. “After that, I’d eat a fruit smoothie with maybe 1-2,000 calories. By 10 or 11 a.m., I’ll be riding the roads, three to four hours in the hills around Park City. I’ll take 1,000 calories with me, a bottle containing 300 calories worth of fruit smoothie and couple locally-made vegan bars.”
Evan will return home in time for, you guessed it, another smoothie and some rest on the couch before heading down to Salt Lake City for an evening criterium at Rocky Mountain Raceway. To get there, he’ll park at the top of Emigration Canyon, ride to the crit, then return to his car. I ask him if any of this, six or so hours in the saddle with loads of climbing and a training race included gets hard. “I’ll be tired. This is a big day. But I need it for the Tour of Utah’s long stages.”
Evan has promised me a trip to his cross-training grounds. His dogs know the drill because they jig around the house as he preps gear. Riley’s the biggest dog, and according to Evan, the most focused on the task of forward movement. So Evan hooks leashes from Riley to both Eddie and Nitro, and the three dogs run together while Evan rides. The set-up is hysterical, especially because Riley, in her efforts to keep my pedestrian self a part of the group, clotheslines me across the shins over and over again.
Together we travel the lowest reaches of Glenwild’s Stealth Trail. When we’re through, Evan and I handshake a good-bye and I pat each of his three dogs on the head. Evan goes one way, I go the other, and the three dogs stand still in the middle. Minor panic ensues as the dogs can’t decide where to go. In the end, Evan and his dogs have to walk me back to my car before they seem content with letting me disentangle from the group.
I’m learning that pack mentality runs deep here. It’s the mindset that prods Evan through the regimen that is the professional cyclist’s life. It’s also the sentiment the Realcyclist.com Pro Cycling Team will use to drive Paco to a Tour of Utah victory. I look forward to seeing the team race this August with the same cohesion I’ve felt in Evan’s world today. If I catch a glimpse of Evan in the thick of the race, I’ll remember his words about this time of his life, “This is the funnest thing I’m ever going to do.”