Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 139 - Alex Stieda - Change is Inevitable

I took it upon myself to go visit some bike shops wherever I raced in, you know, in North America and showed them the bike and let them ride it and and the soft ride folks noticed that and said, Well, why don’t you stop racing and be our sales manager? 
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 139 - Alex Stieda - Change is Inevitable

[00:00:00] I took it upon myself to go visit some bike shops wherever I raced in, you know, in North America and showed them the bike and let them ride it and and the soft ride folks noticed that and said, Well, why don’t you stop racing and be our sales manager? So, you know, I didn’t really realize I could be good at sales, but it was that, you know, I love talking to people and, you know, having that, you know, building that relationship and which, you know, it’s not everything about sales, but it certainly is a start, you know, being able to cold call and essentially write.

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Jesse: [00:01:18] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host. Jesse Funk my guest today. Like many of my guests, has a laundry list of accomplishments we could talk about, so I’m going to get the CliffsNotes version. And then during the entirety of this conversation, I’m sure we’re going to get more into the nitty-gritty. He’s a former pro cyclist, an Olympia, the first North American to wear the leader’s jersey in the Tour de France, he’s a current IT pro. We’ll figure out how he went from cycling to IT. Welcome to the show, Alex Stieda.

Alex: [00:01:48] Great to be here, Jesse.

Jesse: [00:01:50] Before we got going, we were talking about this, Alex, thanks for taking time out of your day. I, unlike many people, this is part of my job, though this is just recreation for you. So I appreciate you taking part of your workday to spend time with me and us, the listener. I know it can be tough, especially as we were talking about all the back to back to back Zoom meetings. Everybody’s all on nowadays and trying to be on time. So thank you so much for taking time out of your day with us here.

Alex: [00:02:22] Yeah. And Jesse, thanks for having me. It yeah, it it seems like during this weird time of our lives, there’s more expectation during the workweek to get more work done just because you can. And yeah, there’s no there’s no time to drive to customer sites and a face to face coffees and things, which I really miss, actually. Yeah. But yeah, it’s just a it’s a weird time.

Jesse: [00:02:51] It’s it’s kind of a it’s good and bad in the sense that. I think it helps us think a little more creatively about one, what does work look like and how can we accomplish that in the sense that a lot of people were really stuck on this? We all have to be in the office. It’s like things can be a little more flexible than that. But as you mentioned, the downside being that now people think you need to be on 100 percent of the time, which I don’t think is realistic for, like the human attention span.

Alex: [00:03:21] Yeah. And it’s it’s very it’s very challenging and it’s not just, you know, nine to five, you know, it’s because we’re dealing with, you know, I have subject matter experts and I’m calling in from around the world to talk to my customers. So sometimes, you know, you know, I’ve got people in India, so I’ve got to have a meeting at 8:30 at night. You know which, you know, five, 10 years ago, no one would have thought that, that you would have to do that. It’s crazy.

Jesse: [00:03:50] So I guess we’re going to get into the cycling for sure, but before we get there, I have to ask how do you get from pro cyclist to IT pro? Like what was was it always an interest like? What’s the transition? How did that occur?

Alex: [00:04:11] Well, it almost by osmosis I’m going to say. When I retired from racing in nineteen ninety two, I had been racing, you know, for about half my life. I was 31 years old and and, you know, it wasn’t sure what to do. But in the last couple of years of racing, I was riding for the soft ride bicycle company. You know, you know what, we affectionately called the beam bike and that a carbon fiber beam that supported the saddle. And so I raced on that and I took it upon myself to go visit some bike shops wherever I raced in, you know, in North America and showed them the bike and let them ride it. And and the soft ride folks noticed that and said, Well, why don’t you stop racing and be our sales manager? So, you know, I didn’t really realize I could be good at sales, but it was that, you know, I love talking to people and, you know, having that, you know, building that relationship and which, you know, it’s not everything about sales, but it certainly is a start, you know, being being able to cold call and essentially write.

Alex: [00:05:17] So yeah, so I, you know, we moved my family to Bellingham, Washington, and for five years I was the sales manager for a bicycle company just just by, you know, again, osmosis. You know, we wanted to, you know, raise our kids in Canada. So we moved back to Edmonton, where my wife is from, you know, without any job prospects. And it turned out my brother-in-law worked at a software startup here in Edmonton, Alberta. And he said, Yeah, they think they’re looking for some sales guys, Alex, you know, why don’t you go meet the one of the owners?

So I went and sat down and met with them. You know, this is nineteen ninety seven. I barely knew how to type. Ok, I was thirty six, thirty five, thirty six years old. I didn’t even know what a URL was like. Honestly, just been living, living in the Stone Age, essentially as a pro cyclist back then. You know, we didn’t have cell phones. We didn’t have, you know, there wasn’t sort of, you know, internet connections, you know, you didn’t want. You don’t you didn’t travel around with a modem, —

Jesse: [00:06:19] Not not training with power with a computer.

Alex: [00:06:22] And oh no. No, I mean, yeah. Yeah. SRMs were were out there, but they were very, very hard to find. And, you know, we didn’t even know how to use, you know, if we had one or know how to use them. So, yeah, so I met I met the owner of the software company said, Yeah, we’ll give you a try. So again, there was, you know, in this industry, I knew nothing about, you know, started doing some research and but it was more about, you know, being able to just put yourself out there and cold call and talk to people, understand what their needs and priorities were, their challenges and see if he could find a fit. You know, with with the with the solution offering that we had. So it just grew from there just, you know, totally unplanned. And and, you know, I’ve been able to make, you know, a good living in the IT space for the last twenty five years.

Jesse: [00:07:14] It’s always, you know, sometimes I say this often on the podcast, it’s like it’s easy to put the story together looking backwards. It’s like, OK, but then looking forward, you try to go, Where am I going? And I think sometimes that the uncertainty of life or in your case, like not knowing that you would end up there. I think some people want to make this like grand plan. You know that that classic interview question, where do you see yourself in 10 years? Like right, right? Like, like, I don’t know, like life changes. What do you mean where I see myself and tell you I’m going to? I’m going to ride the wave and see what happens.

Jesse: [00:07:53] But I think that uncertainty is is difficult to live with. However, if you can, I think you can find yourself in like really interesting spots because you take advantage of those opportunities. You didn’t know where really corner.

Alex: [00:08:07] Yeah, I mean, I’ve always loved setting goals for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just not going through life going, OK, well, whatever comes, comes, you know? But setting goals is super important, whether they’re, you know, short mid-term goals for this year, next year or longer term goals, you know, but. You know, I’ve always been able, I think, to recognize, you know, recognize opportunities when they come along and be able to pick it.

And I I take that back to how I raced as a as a, as a professional cyclist. Mm hmm. And you could like in a bike race, you could prescribe everything down to the nth degree, OK? This is going to happen. You’re going to get in the early break, you’re going to stick it out and you’re going to be the last guy to attack from the break and then finally get to maybe, you know, be able to solo to the finish before the Peloton catches you.

Alex: [00:09:03] But you can’t plan like that, right? A bike race is is like a moving story, and, you know, the story is evolving as the race goes on. Now granted nowadays with the race radios the guys use and you know, there’s more control of the race from the directors and the team car, and it’s a bit more predictable. But there’s still an element of of of the storyline that can change. But you know, back in the 80s, it was definitely more about thinking on your feet and be able to read the race. And what I call feel the moment when you feel the moment when the when the right time is to attack or accelerate or make your move. Right. But that’s a gut instinct that you learn and acquire with experience. And I found that that’s, you know, I’ve applied that to the rest of my life, essentially. Yeah.

Jesse: [00:10:00] So is this do you think that, you know, now that I guess a short way is even though you’re an it guy now has technology ruined cycling? Is it have we taken that that guts element out so much that it’s more? It really is more of a calculated thing? Or should we should we say, all right now we’re banning race radios. We’re like

Alex: [00:10:24] Parameters

Jesse: [00:10:25] Of the parameters like you can’t. You’ve got to just go on cuts alone, you know, shoot well with the two or two of Alberta. Are you going to like, say, Hey, we’re going, we’re going low tech only and get out for like a weird classic race?

Alex: [00:10:39] Well, I mean, yeah, I mean, for the tour of Alberta, which is a professional cycling race, which I helped run for five years. You know, we had we had individual time trials in the stage race and we said to the teams, Don’t bring your time-travel bikes, OK, do the time trials on your regular road bikes, right? And you know, that helped the teams too, because then you know, their costs of travel and all the extra

Jesse: [00:11:00] Bringing all the equipment,

Jesse: [00:11:01] You know, a lot of them were flying in, not driving. So, you know, it just made a lot of sense that way. But yeah, you know what, when the race radios first came out and became more prevalent, I was adamantly against radio, so I was like almost screaming from the rooftops. Whoever, whoever would listen, you know, like, yeah, there really weren’t podcasts back then, but right,

Alex: [00:11:20] You know, over time, you know, I’ve come, you know, you know, especially working in it, you you become you come to realize that change is inevitable. Right? And if you don’t adapt and accept change, you’re just going to you’re going to fade into oblivion. All right. So, you know, I think there’s there certainly are a lot of reasons, a good reasons for race radios and power meters. You know, it helps the athlete, you know, the parameters certainly help athletes become very specific with their training and maximize their performance.

Alex: [00:11:56] Otherwise, you’re just sort of, you know, you’re you’re you know, you’re training in the dark, essentially without a power meter and a heart rate monitor. Now, glucose monitors are becoming more prevalent, too. Right? Yeah, it goes on from there. But you know you’re maximizing human performance. That’s a good thing, right? The race radios, you know you. The races actually become safer, to be honest. You know there. And the race organization can relay through the team cars who then relate to the riders if there’s a situation on the road that that they need to, you know, shut the race down.

Alex: [00:12:32] And case in point was the Tour de France a number of years ago when there was that mudslide. No one knew what was going on. But because the team cars were were listening to the race organization on that radio channel, they were able to tell the riders on their radios what was going on, and they, you know, they had to, you know, to, you know, cancel the stage early.

Alex: [00:12:53] Otherwise it would just be chaos, guys being like, you know, I’ve got to talk to the team car and they’re in the mountains. So, you know, the team car can’t follow every guy. So anyway, you know, there’s a lot of good reasons for race radios. And you know, it’s it’s it’s actually quite quite fun when you, you know, when you’re watching video of the directors and the team car directing the riders, you see the, you know, the little video cameras in the team car and they’re talking to the riders and giving them instruction. And you know, it’s it’s an interesting way that the, you know, pro cycling has evolved and I’m good with it now.

Jesse: [00:13:32] Yeah. Well, I mean, I would think so, given that you just espouse the philosophy that you have to change and change is inevitable. I kind of think about that situation of like seeing like the team directors, you know, given the directions to the riders sort of similar to. So we have a soccer team here sporting Kansas City, and we have a very animated coach on the sideline, always dressed well, but he yells and stuff, and you get, you know, you get.

Like things that he’s yelling at the players and you can see how the formation changed. I kind of see like the similarity there where it’s like you get the coach’s direction and then you watch how the writers in this case instead of players like react to what the suggestion or direction is to move forward, hold back, you know, get your pace line going. Whatever it is, it’s like it adds another layer of depth to watching this sport, I think.

Alex: [00:14:37] Yeah. And so you could argue that you know that the writers become more like robots and they’re just being told what to do. They have to think for themselves. Right? But you know, you could you could certainly take that position. But I think you know any, any any business, whether it’s a sporting team or, you know, a, you know, you know, an IT organization needs to have coordination and command and control and, you know, to maximize the efficiency of of the team that’s working, whether it’s in business or in sport.

Alex: [00:15:19] So it just it just it’s it’s a good thing and it’s something that, you know, you know, the, you know, the die hards have to just get over, I think, you know, it’s like it’s just, yeah, it’s fun to watch. And it does add this element, of course, that you know that that sort of strategy and I think we’re, you know, as a fan, you’re able to see more about the strategy that’s unfolding because of the cameras that they’re putting in the cars and allowing people to hear what the directors are saying to the riders. So yeah, right. I think it’s good all round.

Jesse: [00:15:56] Yeah, it’s like I said, I think it’s you get those bits and pieces where like for people like me who I would never be anywhere near a pro Peloton or even like cat one, I probably would ride like cat for maybe, which is sort of there’s different categories of riders in cycling, if you’re not familiar, starting camp five, I think, and then all the way up to pros. But, you know, like they’re kind of my background is in running. I think I have insights about running and triathlon to some some degree that like, you’re just not going to have if you haven’t been able to compete at a high level. I think that same thing is happening in cycling and then having that just small glimpse.

Jesse: [00:16:40] Obviously, you’re not on the team bus, you’re not hearing like, you know, all the prep and stuff, but getting like these little bits and pieces of info that you wouldn’t have any other idea about if they weren’t sharing it. One thing I want to ask you about that always just I’m I’m a terrible descender. I’ll say that I just maybe part of it’s just I’ve been on a time trial basically for most of my writing, but I’m absolutely terrible descents. And I watched these guys bombed down the hills at 50 60 miles an hour. They’re, you know, they’re sitting on their top tube instead of sitting on the saddle —

Alex: [00:17:21] Well, they’re not allowed to do that anymore.

Jesse: [00:17:22] Ok, we stop it. Ok? Yeah, yeah. I was like, I’ve kind of I’ve kind of peeled off watching the two of the last few years. Tell me about learning to do that. Was ever be as aggressive when you were riding. Has that did that like develop? Talk to me about that situation. How do you learn to be a good descender? Because it’s yeah, yeah.

Alex: [00:17:44] And yeah, Jesse, that’s that’s a great thought. How how did I learn to be a good descender and learn about the skills of cycling? You know, there’s no prescribed way of teaching cycling skills. That’s what I’ve learned over the years, and that’s been really frustrating for me. That’s why I run. I’ve run my own skills camps for four riders, you know, taking people to Europe or going to a nice location in North America and running skills camps. But it’s it’s still frustrating because every every X Pro teaches skills in a different way.

Alex: [00:18:19] So I took it upon myself to take a a downhill ski instructor’s course. Now here’s the difference in downhill skiing. They have a very prescribed method of teaching skiing skills to recreational skiers. But if you want to be a ski race a racer, you don’t take lessons from a skiing instructor. You take lessons from a skiing coach who teaches race technique? Race technique in skiing is completely different than. Recreational skiing technique, the principles are the same, but it’s it’s radically different. So I took this in skiing instructor’s course, so I could. So I just wanted to understand how they did it. This is back when I was still racing actually in the mid 80s, and it was a really interesting, you know, they use a progressive teaching technique where you teach one one part of the skill and then you master that.

Alex: [00:19:33] Then you add in another part, you do both together, you master that, then you do stage one. The third stage, you do one, two and three together. Master that repetition. Do it again. Ok, now let’s add on the fourth skill and then pretty soon you’re doing the whole skill after you’ve you’ve started with this really basic version of this, you know, part of the skill and then you add on. And so I’ve taken that. I took that to heart and I started to think about how how cornering should should work and using using the principles from downhill skiing.

The primary principle is what’s called angulation. Where you you you are very conscious of where you’re putting your weight. And on the bike, just like skiing, you actually have, you know, the bottom of your body is angled and the top of your body is essentially vertical. And as you’re going from side to side, the bottom of your body angles, but your upper body stays vertical. I know we’re on a podcast, so maybe a little bit hard to describe.

Jesse: [00:20:38] But if you’re on YouTube version, you can see Alex’s hands as it makes more sense.

Alex: [00:20:42] There you go. And you know, I developed this, this sort of distanced way of thinking and you know, you know, I applied to myself personally, and I think maybe I was able to come to it from, you know, that kind of non cycling perspective because I started cycling not as a cyclist, but as a hockey player.

Jesse: [00:21:03] Ok.

Alex: [00:21:04] Right. I came to cycling relatively late when I was 16. A lot of a lot of people grow up in cycling families, you know, and you know, especially nowadays and you know, they don’t really do other sports. They start with cycling. But I came to cycling from hockey and I wanted to just get in shape to be a better hockey player. And then cycling took over again by osmosis. I never had a goal to be a professional cyclist, but it just got every year, just kept getting kept, getting better. But because it came from that, from that non cycling world, I think I was able to be more open to other ideas and other ways of of improving cornering techniques.

Alex: [00:21:43] So being able to, you know, apply those techniques and made me a much better Descender cornering specialist. And still today, you know, I look I watch some of the the pros who are racing now. Some of them are horrible descenders. Absolutely. And these are the best pros like Pogacar. Pogacar in the tour last year on one of those time trials. You know, he was doing it. He was cornering on a on a descent, you know, completely opposite. Instead of having his weight on the outside of the bike and pressuring the outside pedal, he was trying to lean his shoulders into the corner and the bike’s over. You know, there’s no way in his outside foot. So, you know, there was no pressure holding the tires to the ground like he was doing it completely wrong.

Alex: [00:22:37] But I’m sure no one, ever no one has ever taught that because he didn’t, you know, he didn’t. You know, it depends where you’re where you grow up, which club you’re belong to and who teaches you the skills, right? And there’s no there’s no book, no manual for that right versus downhill skiing. Everyone learns how to corner or turn properly on their downhill skis, whether you’re a racer or a recreational skier, right? Anyway, that I’ll jump off my soapbox. Yeah, no,

Jesse: [00:23:09] You’re so I’m thinking about Pogacar, in that example and thinking about like. I wonder, too, if. It’s I see this with running sometimes and a case of like somebody does so well, it’s like if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. I mean —

Alex: [00:23:26] Right, right.

Jesse: [00:23:27] But then I always go, Yeah, but can we make it better? Exactly. So I think that’s a that’s a tough balance to have because gosh, why you just forget Tim Don, former pro triathlete. He runs like a goofy mofo like apologist, Tim. He is fast as all get out. Absolutely. Super faster than I could ever be, but his running form is bonkers. But people, they just let him go because he’s so fast. It’s like, Well, why screw with it? Right? You talking about downhill skiing and talking about teaching skills that made me think about another another conversation I had with two time Olympian Doug Lewis, who’s the downhill ski racer? He has a camp where he tries to teach like he. He doesn’t teach downhill ski skills specifically. And if you want to listen to that episode, he’ll talk. He talks about it more. So one or two.

Jesse: [00:24:30] But and I’m paraphrasing, obviously, because it’s been months and months since I talked to Doug. He talks about like they do all kinds of like random drills and stuff in his attempt to basically teach like. Instant adaptability. So you encounter a situation you’ve never been in before. You can’t necessarily rely on that perfect like muscle memory of why I make a right turn and make a left turn like something weird happens. And then having the adaptability to deal with that moment without thinking about it is like what he’s after teaching. So are you talking about different philosophies and not being necessarily an exact prescribed train of thought for teaching, cornering or descending and cycling? Maybe, maybe. Definitely. Think about Doug, especially when you mention the downhill ski racing.

Alex: [00:25:24] Yeah. And you know, in my skills camp, for instance, I’ll teach agility on the bike wear so that you are used to you’re not used to just sitting in one place on the bike all the time. You know, you get you need to get used to doing, you know, being on the bike as if as if it’s part of your life. You know, the biking, you are one. So, you know, putting water bottles, water bottles on the ground, you do it on the grass, actually, and then getting people to as a riding past the bottle, pick the bottle up. Right. And then and then if you get better at that, then put then put the bottle down without having it tip over while you’re still riding right, loop around. Pick it up again. Do it on both sides. Right.

Alex: [00:26:07] And it’s it’s tough when you’re not used to doing it. It’s tough, right? Or just just the idea of being in a, you know, riding side by side beside someone and being able to look back, say, Look, look for traffic or you. Maybe you have to switch off the front. Well, how do you do that without deviating from your line, right? Right. And just all those little things that that help you be become a more well-rounded, you know, rider that lets you adapt, I think and that’s a good word to adapt to different situations. And you know, you know, when that dog runs out in front of you,

Jesse: [00:26:47] The dog!

Alex: [00:26:49] Right?

Jesse: [00:26:49] How many tours have we watch where a dog takes out the peloton like?

Alex: [00:26:54] Well, but what you don’t see is how many times it happens on training rides, right? Because there’s no cameras, right? Right? And to tell you what, it happens a lot. Yeah, those crazy dogs that run out from people’s yards. And, you know, we used to have used to have the frame pumps that fit in the frame. Right now, everyone has a mini pump, but back then we had a frame pump and you know, we had there are two prongs

Jesse: [00:27:17] Still attached to my dad’s bike. Don’t worry.

Alex: [00:27:19] Oh, good, good. So there used to be prongs on the end of the of the pump. And we actually sharpened those ends. They used to be metal. It can be actually made one that was a metal metal and that we sharpened those two ends. So when the dog came, we could we could beat off the dog with a pogo stick, you know that. But you know, those situations are so unpredictable and it creates such chaos just even if there’s like six of you riding along.

Yeah, dog runs out. How do you react right? And does everyone do the right thing at the right time? And how do you train for that? It’s, you know, it’s it’s, you know, it’s going back to that, you know, repetition and being on the bike for so many hours. You know, once you’ve got ten thousand hours in. Right. You finally become an expert at doing that, right? Yeah. Reacting properly, but it’s it’s definitely tough to to to to train people, to react appropriately. And in those kind of emergency situations? Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Jesse: [00:28:28] You turn up with the skills you work on with your skills. Course made me think about, you know, when I was watching the tour more more regularly, definitely the like. There’s so much time to my dad likes watching the scenery, but I actually like watching the race. Yeah. And so I always think about I ride when I ride, I’m basically riding solo like I’ve done group rides on a very rare occasion. But and then as trying to become a pronate triathlon, I was fortunate to get to work on some drafting skills for some of the draft legal format, amateur stuff that’s available.

Jesse: [00:29:06] And it’s very different. I mean, just the thing I think is. Taken for granted by the like, the average viewer that doesn’t know anything about cycling is how tight it seems like everybody is in the Peloton, like you talking about those skills of looking around, not running into other people, like how tight the tires are. Front to back. Yeah. And then I always felt like the food and water stops were amazing.

Like just, you know, they’re going by twenty five miles an hour or grab a water bottle without blinking and continuing on their way. I’m like, How does that not throw you off your set or gravity? You know, practice, obviously. But just I think some of that minutia is like the appreciation for it gets lost because you don’t necessarily understand how I’ll say difficult. But just like compared to average Joes capability sounds like difficult. Some of those even think every day easy occurrences are.

Alex: [00:30:04] Yeah. And you know, for when you’re in the race and you’ve done this so many times over and over, you know, it becomes it becomes second nature because, you know, as an amateur rider, you don’t necessarily, you know, do those feed zone situations as an amateur rider because most of the races aren’t long enough, you start doing that later on in your in your cycling career, but you soon realize, you know, there’s there’s there’s a proper way to do it.

Alex: [00:30:37] But again, no one’s actually teaching that you have to just learn by osmosis. And by watching. And you know, let’s say, you know, in a feed zone, there’s some unwritten rules as well. So, you know, you learn to look ahead and you see, OK, you’re looking for your swan, you’re with your musette bags right in front of you as a guy, you know another racer, but his one year is ahead of your swan year. So you you need to go to the outside of that of that exchange so that you don’t get in the way of their pickup and then you can go and get your pickup ahead of ahead of the guy in front of you.

Alex: [00:31:17] And it it it’s it’s not obvious when you’re watching on TV how that works, but there’s these unwritten rules, right, that you that you need to follow and everyone stay safe. And if you don’t, if you don’t follow that rule, if you get in the way. You know one of the senior guys in the Peloton. We’ll talk to the road captain from your team and say, Hey, you know, your guy there didn’t, really didn’t, didn’t really do the right thing there, so then your road captain then comes down and in the race, this is all happening of the race.

Alex: [00:31:48] It talks to you and says, next time, make sure you’re on the other side when you know when the feed is happening because you know you’ve got in the way of that guy, right? There’s a real there’s this, this, this, this protocol that happens, that that is quite it’s quite interesting. Of course, you don’t see a lot of that on TV and no one really talks about it. But there’s definitely this this this hierarchy. Mm hmm.

Right. And you learn, you know, hopefully you can learn, you know, before you, you know, cause a big crash or crash yourselves. But unfortunately, you know, some, some some good riders end up crashing and, you know, ruining the careers, because they just aren’t able, you know, they didn’t do the right thing at the right time or they haven’t. They weren’t able to learn along the way. Um, and yeah, they had to stop being, you know, they weren’t able to continue their career because of a of a career career career ending crash. Yeah.

Alex: [00:32:46] So it’s a it’s a weird sport. There’s lots of lots of nuances that you need to pick up on. And you know, I know the, you know, the teams are trying to do a better job nowadays of helping their young talent develop, you know, not just with the training, but, you know, with all these, these these protocols as well, so they can prepare them to be, you know, a, you know, a better professional.

Jesse: [00:33:14] So I want to ask you in. I’ve been trying to figure this out, so this question is going to come out as I don’t know what I’m talking about and that’s precisely why I’m asking it. So I want to ask you about it seemed like I’ll make an assumption. You’ll tell me I’m wrong and then I’ll learn, and that’s how I’m going to do this. It seem like you’re pretty solid at some of the like short time trial stuff. So but then obviously you’re writing tours. Why don’t you say I’m just going to ride like velodrome and I’m just going to ride track like what you probably did a little of both. So I guess, can you talk to me about maybe the differences or why you chose to go with the longer stuff versus, say, you know, being like a track specialist?

Alex: [00:34:00] Yeah, I mean, it’s it’s actually a natural progression. I’ll put it that way. Track cycling, you know, and I’ll say this every time. You know, to anyone. Track cycling is the basis for all cycling. When you grow up racing on the track, you learn so many things as a junior, as a U23 rider. It’s very intense, but it teaches you to pedal properly with a smooth pedal stroke because you can’t change gears. It’s a fixed gear, so you have. If you want to go fast, you have to pedal faster, right? That’s just how it is.

Alex: [00:34:39] You learn how to how to time your sprint properly, how to come off a wheel, how to stay and follow a draft. Because the faster the speeds go, you know, the more draft, the effect there is because it’s exponential. So you learn to be super efficient. You learn how to handle your yourself in a really tight group because track cycling is all about staying in a pack until the right moment. You know, there’s so many things you know and. But you, you know, to to be a track specialist for the rest of your life, you know, if you’re in a if you’re in the short distance track events like Sprint, then yes, certainly that’s something you can do and make a living from, possibly by racing six days and and, you know, track in the winter and all those things.

Alex: [00:35:23] But as an endurance track cyclist, which I was, you know, the natural progression was to was to race road and that’s that’s where you can earn a living as a cyclist was on the road. However, it was an interesting, you know, situation for me, you know. You know, starting as a hockey player, developing anaerobic power, not really developing the long distance, you know, abilities with, you know, aerobic power. You know, when I went to Europe, you know, and we started racing over 200 kilometers, I just I really didn’t feel I was able to to adapt to that time in the saddle and the distance.

Alex: [00:36:05] So fortunately for me at that time, our our sponsor, 7-Eleven also wanted riders, you know, to race in the U.S. and Canada in the shorter races, criterium, shorter road races, short state, you know, stage races that weren’t nearly as long. And that was a perfect fit for me. You know, I could race in Europe and you know, you know, I could I could be useful for the team in the first 200 K, but if it went to two hundred and fifty K, that was really another level that I wasn’t really hadn’t, you know, adapted to. And I just thought, you know, as a professional, the best thing to do would be to help my sponsor, you know, by by racing in the U.S. and Canada.

Alex: [00:36:48] So I ended up in the last years of my career racing more in the U.S. and Canada because that’s what I was better at. And and I think, you know, as far as I go through life, you start to realize, you know, what are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? You know, admit that you have weaknesses. Not everyone’s going to be great at everything. And where’s the best place to apply those strengths? All right. As a cyclist, that’s what I did as a business professional. That’s what I do as well, right?

Alex: [00:37:16] I love hunting for for new opportunities. I hate farming. Right, and, you know, going into an account and saying, OK, well, we did a good job for you here. Maybe I know, can we do something else for you that would be really valuable, you know? And what are your. You know, that’s just boring. You know, I want something new and exciting to work on, right? So, you know, realize that if you’re of myself was really a sort of a, you know, an aha moment, right? Oh yeah, that’s what I love, right? So. And been able to sort of craft my career that way as time goes on.

Jesse: [00:37:53] What’s the saying, it’s like horses for courses, figuring out what your lane is? I think sometimes as a a young person that assuming you didn’t like you mentioned earlier, maybe grew up in a cycling family or kind of inherited a certain discipline, especially in North America. We, like kids, have so many different sports and options to choose from. Yeah, I think sometimes it can be difficult to to hone down on one, especially because like this, this mentality of competing all year and so many different things is so pervasive that.

Sometimes it’s like maybe you love things equally, but you’re a little better than at one. It’s I think it’s hard. Maybe I’m just speaking in projecting here, but it’s hard to give up something and say, No, I really think I am better at this other thing just by a little bit. And, you know, I can have more success and that’s that’s going to be more fun. I don’t know. It’s just the paradox of choice. Sometimes, I think is difficult, especially when again, coming back to like living with uncertainty. You don’t necessarily know. Where you’re going and are you going to have success?

Alex: [00:39:11] Yeah, so know you can never predict all those things, you know? And you know, with, you know, I’ve got two kids, they’re now in their late 20s, early 30s, and we always said to them, you know, you can do one thing at a time, one sport, you know, one activity. But you know, we didn’t want to be the parents that were driving our kids from one activity to the next to the next to the next. Right. So in the winter, you know, our son played hockey right in the summer. We were we were bike riding, but it wasn’t like we were doing all these other things to try to like, Oh, give them the full experience. No, just just, you know, keep me.

Otherwise, you just run around with your head cut off and you never really get to learn, you know, a particular skill or sport or activity. Our daughters are really good piano player. So she took piano lessons and then it was a bit of dance as well. And boy, I tell you, the dance thing started to take over because they want you to do all the other pieces of dance and not just one, you know, and oh, I got to got out of hand, right? And you know, I also coach our local cycling club here in Edmonton, Alberta, the Juventus cycling club. Not, you know, loosely affiliated to Juventus in in in Italy, the soccer club.

Jesse: [00:40:30] Yeah, I had wondered about that. I was like, Where’s the Cadec house trying to figure that out?

Alex: [00:40:34] It took me, well, we we actually also have a soccer club here in Edmonton. The event, a soccer club that we’re we’re affiliated with, as well as cycling and soccer because that’s big in Italy, of course. Yeah, but right. But with these with these kids 11 to 14 year olds, you know, I really impress upon them that, you know, it’s important to do other sports, other activities, not just cycling. Yeah, let’s let’s do cycling. Let’s you know, when we’re doing it, we’re, you know, we’re having fun. I’m teaching them the skills.

Alex: [00:41:01] But you know, you know, do your volleyball, do your school volleyball or club volleyball, if you have to. Or triathlon or anything else. And you know, when you know, as you get older, they’ll they end up gravitating to a what they are good at and usually because they’re good at it, they’re enjoying it, right? So they end up gravitating to the place that they want to be, and that’s just fine. It doesn’t have to be cycling, but at least I know I’m giving them a foundation to be a lifelong cyclist, and that doesn’t mean they’re going to be a bike racer, you know, but be able to learn how to ride a bike properly and handle yourself in a group and, you know, be able to just jump on a bike and go and know what to do when you’re riding. To me, that’s, you know, teaching that lifelong skill is the most important thing.

Jesse: [00:41:49] I always find it interesting how former pros approach their children in terms of, you know, deciding or not deciding to pass on skills, right? Because, you know, I think there’s this in our mind or my mind, maybe maybe a cultural mind, but at least in my mind, there’s this like image of, you know, former pro athlete. And then they’re just going to like drill their kids to be the next pro like, like, you know, continuing their career vicariously through their children.

Jesse: [00:42:22] But as far as all of the pros I’ve talked to in the last four years, at least to me, none of them have espoused that philosophy in the slightest. You know, similarly to you, it’s like, you know, I talked to Olympic hurdler Toyin Augustus and she talked about her daughter. She’s like, You know, we we’ve gone to the track. I’ve taught her hurdling skills because she’s, you know, expressed some interest, but she’s not like grooming her to be the next Olympic champion. It seems really consistent, and it kind of makes me wonder where, yeah, that you know, in my mind where that idea came from of like. Pros continuing their career through their children or, you know, has to be that way because it doesn’t really seem to be a reality.

Alex: [00:43:13] Yeah, I think I think it’s mostly the, you know, the the X pros generally, I think, have a better perspective on on life with their for their kids as opposed to, you know, high performance adults. You know, you know, you know, it never quite were good at, you know, enough to be a pro and they’re living vicariously through their kids, OK? And you know, my son, you know, I was a hockey coach for my son’s minor hockey team throughout his, his minor hockey life. And boy, you, you saw parents who were definitely trying to to to to, you know, live through their kids, right? And their kid was going to be the next hockey pro. And boy, that was tough to watch and listen to because you could hear them from. As you’re on the bench coaching the team, you can hear the parents yelling from the stands, right? Like, Gosh, you guys, what? What are you? What are you thinking? And those poor kids?

Alex: [00:44:09] You know, and my rule was, you know, with with our son, you know, we drove to the game together, you know, and then and after the game, we of course, drive home. And my rule was I didn’t talk about the game about what happened unless he brought it up. Mm hmm. Right. It’s not a lot about recapping all the things that happened and how you could have improved and all this crap, right? Don’t even go there. Yeah, that that just now just burns in this, this feeling of, Oh my god, I’ve got to get in the car with dad and hear about all the shit that happened. And you know, all the mistakes I made, all the opportunities I missed, like, no, no, don’t go there, right?

Jesse: [00:44:48] Yeah, yeah. Do you think hopefully I’ll make this short because of a certain run down on time? Do you think that that trying to live vicariously through their kids? Do you think that’s like the fallacy of thinking, like then projecting themselves if I had just worked harder than I could have been? And then they’re pushing that on their kids, like, Oh, if you just work harder, then you can be. Do you think it’s that?

Alex: [00:45:12] I think there’s an element of that. I think it’s more about, you know, I’m going to give my kid all the opportunity that I never had because I can afford it now because, you know, you can’t. So it’s it’s power skating. It’s doing the extra dry land training. It’s this, it’s that, you know, and because, well, I didn’t, you know, power skating wasn’t around when I grew up and my parents couldn’t afford that. But I can afford it.

Alex: [00:45:37] So I’m going to get my kids to do all these extra things right? And all of a sudden, it, you know, there are 12, right, because the bantam draft is coming up when they’re 14. If you don’t get drafted in the Bantam draft, well, there’s no hope. Mm hmm. So now you’ve got a you know, you’re you’re working backwards from there going, OK. Here’s the goal, kids, you know, get drafted and, you know, and of course, they don’t get drafted in the bantam draft and they feel like a failure. Yeah, right. Even though the parents push them, as you know, with all these different activities and they don’t feel like they’re pushing them because, oh, we’re just dropping them off for power skating.

Jesse: [00:46:19] Oh yeah, because you’re not involved at all the work.

Alex: [00:46:22] Right, right. Wrong. You know, anyway, so you know, there’s an element of, you know, let’s provide opportunities for kids in my mind. But there’s also an element of, you know, they’ve got to develop at their own pace and it’s mental as well as physical. And every, every, you know, it’s been proven time again with child psychology and sports. Every kid will develop at a different pace mentally and physically. You’re seeing kids who are super strong, you know, you know, when they’re very young, but mentally, they’re not strong.

Alex: [00:46:54] So you think, Oh, this kid is going to be an amazing athlete, but they don’t have the ability to focus and and and learn those techniques because they’re not mature enough yet. Right, right. Where you see the, you know, the the skinny kid, you know, and I’ve seen this at our cycling club, you know, the super skinny kid, you know, you never think, well, that he couldn’t be a good cyclist. You so she’s so frail, but he listens and applies everything that you describe. And he’s so good at that that practicing the technique that he is better.

Alex: [00:47:27] And I’ve seen this in pro cycling, too. Like, you know, the guys who are super strong, naturally generally haven’t learned how to be a good technical rider racer. You know, I think of John Tolmach, and if you remember John Tolmach, he used to be a really good mountain bike racer anyways. His son, Eli is now, you know, a supercross racer. But John was a, you know, so he thought, Hey, if I could race road, that would help my mountain biking. Ok, great. But when he raced, rode for seven 11 for maybe a year or two, but he he couldn’t learn how to how to sit on a wheel and conserve energy. It was always in the wind. I’m like JT in the on the wheel, on the wheel.

Alex: [00:48:10] He couldn’t understand it. That was going to save him energy to get to the end of the race or for the next day. And you know, you’re always looking to be efficient. And he was super strong. He could hold himself in the wind and ride with everyone else, even though we’re on the wheel. He’d be out in the wind. He could hold their. But because he was so strong, he didn’t have to learn how to be efficient. Right? So there’s these it’s a really interesting dynamic, you know that I that I I’ve witnessed over the years. Yeah.

Jesse: [00:48:41] Alex, I don’t want you to be late for your next one, so I have a question, I’m asking everybody, I ask a single question for an entire season to all my guests. And so I’ll ask you this year’s question is how do you celebrate your wins?

Alex: [00:48:57] Well, yeah, whether it’s an athletic win or a business win, you know. That’s a great question, and, you know, I usually like to celebrate a win with the team that helped me get there. You can never, ever forget that, you know, whatever you’re doing, it’s a team sport, you know, even if it’s an individual sport that you’re in, there’s a team behind that individual, you know, supporting them, getting in there, whether it’s your family, your coaches, the, you know, the mechanic, the swan, you’re the you know, it’s you have to bring that team together to celebrate.

Alex: [00:49:41] And in business, it’s the same. You’ve got people behind the scenes. A sales guy gets the win, but it’s the people behind the scenes that are that are making it all happen. You know, without those people, there’s no way you’d get that win. So trying to get together, you know? And it’s tougher, of course, in COVID times to get that team together. But even if it’s, you know, a group call and you make time to to thank people and and give them kudos in front of their peers, that’s that’s that’s what matters.

Jesse: [00:50:11] Actually, that’s a really solid answer. If people want to catch up with you, see what you’re up to any of that kind of stuff, where can they find you?

Alex: [00:50:20] Yeah, probably best to go to my website So it’s S-T-I-E-D-A cycling dot com. Go to my blog. That’s where I sort of keep an updated list of where you know what’s been happening. You know, I recently got over prostate cancer. I had prostate cancer surgery August of 2021. It all happened really fast and I had a radical prostatectomy, which means, you know, removing the prostate with this really cool robot technology, you have to look it up. It’s amazing. And six months, you know, two months later, I had another PSA test and I have a clean bill of health. No, no cancer. So I feel so, so fortunate to be in this situation.

Alex: [00:51:11] You know, I’m going to be sixty one this year and, you know, had the prostate removed, which, you know, there’s some side effects. But you know, I’d rather have that than, you know, have cancer in my body. And you know, when you when you hear the stories about other people who have, you know, cancer and that they’re not, you know, it’s not as easy for them to get over the cancer, you know, I almost feel guilty that it’s been. It’s happened so well for me. But my final thought is, I’ve got a blog there about my cancer going off on a tangent here.

Alex: [00:51:39] Sorry, but my my my message is to all the men out there. Over 40 get tested every year for prostate cancer. Obviously, you’re going to get, you know, you should get a, you know, you get your GP to check you over anyways with your annual physical, but get the PSA test, the PSA blood test. And asked also for the finger test. It’s very uncomfortable having someone stick a finger inside you, but that’s how my GP found. My prostate cancer, by feeling a lump on my prostate, my PSA number wasn’t very high. So ask for both, get both, get it done every year, and early detection is the key.

Jesse: [00:52:24] Well, appreciate the public service announcement, I guess, but I’m glad you’re doing well. And Alex, thanks for hanging out with me.

Alex: [00:52:33] You’re welcome, Jessie. My pleasure.

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