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“I am looking for enjoyment each day”

By: Will Barta  April 09, 2020

Will Barta, originally from Boise, Idaho, has quickly risen in the cycling ranks, getting his first pro contract just four years ago with Axeon Hagens Berman. During that time he has raced across the world with his team, and represented Team USA at the 2017 World Championships. Barta, now on UCI WorldTour Team CCC Pro Team, raced his first Grand Tour last year with the Vuelta a España.

***This is one individual's experience and not meant to represent a broader population***

I have a funny feeling sitting here. I should be pushing myself to the limit in an altitude camp in the mountains of the south of France; preparing for my next races with CCC Team. Instead, I am sitting on the sofa of my parent’s house in Boise, Idaho with my dog Boscoe keeping me company. This is the result of Covid-19’s stranglehold on the world at the moment, and the ensuing changes of plans. As a professional cyclist I feel that a strength we as cyclist have is to set goals. We have our goals for the day, such as the prescribed training rides on the bike, the workouts the physios give us, or keeping ourselves on track with our diet. However, speaking for at least myself, this is all due to our larger goal of either winning bike races ourselves or helping our teammates to succeed. Yet, with the cancellation or postponement of the races, many of these goals are gone or feel uncertain.

When the Corona Virus began to spread around the world it seemed to be far away, until suddenly it felt right on our doorstep. When it all began, it felt easy to continue to train and work hard for the goals ahead. But as more and more races were cancelled it almost felt as though the heaviness in my legs was correlated to the magnitude of the virus. I first tried to stick it out in France but the idea of sitting in my apartment alone for months seemed to be too much, so I returned home to Idaho. It was a very quick decision that had to be made, but my roommate in Nice and I made it back to Boise after going through many pairs of gloves and a few bottles of hand sanitizer. We both then did a home quarantine.

It is nice to be home and be with my family in this uncertain time and being around my family really helps me to stay positive. I am lucky that here in Idaho we are still able to ride outside. I feel really fortunate to be able to ride outside, as it is my only opportunity to leave my house and see the world. This is a time of year that I have not been home in since I was probably 17 and it is the most beautiful season in Boise as our foothills are a vibrant green before they turn to brown later in the year. I can’t say that I am not wishing I had a number on my back and that goal to look forward to. But, it is also nice to be riding a bike for the pleasure of riding a bike. This last weekend I was able to go for a ride with my mom which, to be honest, I would usually not have done this time of year because I would be too focused on getting out what I want from the ride.

All in all, I am a lucky guy. I have a supportive family, girlfriend, friends and team, and while it is hard to know where the light at the end of the tunnel is, we just have to support each other and know that it is still there even if clouded from our vision. While I might not be able to be racing at the moment, my problems are nothing compared to those who have lost family members to the virus or have lost their livelihoods and means to support their families. We may not be utilizing all that we achieved through training earlier this year but I can speak for myself and say that I find a lot of happiness and purpose in searching for better fitness that translates to good results. I spent the past year and a half dealing with an injury and feel I finally am to the point where I am able to put that behind me. While I am naturally frustrated to not be able to show all that I have overcome, the process has shown me how much we need to respect our health and help to protect those who are more vulnerable.

I cannot wait to get back out there and be racing my bike, but in the meantime, I am looking for enjoyment each day – whether that be through having a successful day of training, a nice bike ride, or just being with my family. I also know that when we get to bike racing again, we will all be even hungrier for the win, and they will be fantastic races to watch.

About the Contributor

Professional cyclist Will Barta shares some insights into his current routine back in Boise, ID after making the choice to return home early from France in the wake of COVID-19.

Photo credit: Stefano Sirotti