In the first of a new series, Travis McCabe shares his experience of competing at the top level of cycling for the first time at the age of thirty.

Part One

Well, here it goes. This is a little bit new for me, well actually it’s all very new to me. I’m entering into the top echelon of professional cyclists about ten years later than what seems to be the standard in today’s racing. It almost seems like you won’t even make it to the big leagues if you don’t immediately skip the U23 ranks, or sign right out of them. Well, that sure as sh*t isn’t me. I’ve been banging my head against the wall for an entire decade. Unlike the majority of Pro Tour riders, I wasn’t even riding bikes when I was eighteen. I was off running laps around a track, chasing girls, and just trying to figure out what being a legal adult was all about. So my approach to this blog is to give a different perspective within the top echelons of racing. How it’s different from the US and to give insight into the team’s operations along with the riders. Hopefully, some great stories about racing along with some off the bike as well. This is not only a big step up for myself but Israel Start-Up Nation as well. Of course, there will be speed bumps along the way, but that’s to be expected. The more important part is how we all handle them as they come, whether expected. In my opinion, that’s what defines everyone, nothing comes easily and nothing is gifted. Especially in this sport and at this level of racing.

So what’s it like? Well, I can only talk about team camp right now. Racing kicks off with San Juan, so I’ll be sure to give an in-depth report of the racing once it finally begins. Let’s start with team camp in Croatia, and then Israel.

Team Camp Croatia

Typically, the team camp is the only time of year that you meet everyone within the team. Riders, staff, owners, and sponsors all attend at some point throughout the camp. Ours was about three weeks long, so there was plenty of time to get to meet new teammates and catch up with old. We started in Croatia, where we received our new Factor Bikes, met with the Scicon, SwissStop, and FrogLegs sponsors. The weather was pretty grim. We would ride easily in the afternoons then attend meetings in the evenings. Most of it was shop talk from the sponsors and staff, so nothing too exciting. It honestly just felt like any other team camp, but I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous at first to meet everyone. Being the only American on the team, I only knew a few of the old ICA riders and not many of the new guys. Still, everyone was pretty much in the same boat, and fortunately, all the riders and staff were super personable and approachable. Next up was Israel, where we would have a team presentation, and camp would really kick-of.

We arrived in Tel Aviv, Israel, without luggage but we had our bikes! We spent the first day scrambling around trying to find cycling clothes and gear to at least spin the legs. Immediately, riders who did have what little spare clothing and gear with them lent out what they could, and the staff were able to grab some of last year’s clothes for those in need. I, of course, pulled the most rookie mistake possible and left my shoes in the suitcase. Pro-tip #1 ALWAYS travel with your shoes and even helmet if possible.

Eventually, our bags arrived, and everything went back to normal. Team Presentation was in Start-Up Nation headquarters, where it had a small and intimate feeling to it, which was quite nice. Afterward, we went to the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, which was unbelievably powerful. At first, there were a few mixed emotions; we left the excited energy of our presentation to a powerfully sad and tragic experience of the Holocaust. In the end it reinforced my perspective on life and helped me realize just how lucky I am to live the life that I live. I have no real understanding of what hardship is, and to be completely honest; I’m grateful not to know. We all live in these tiny little bubbles of our reality, but my experience at the museum allowed me to take a small step back and have a better understanding of my own life and perspective. It’s not an easy thing to do and can be uncomfortable, but it’s a necessity in life. It’s hard to explain the emotions that you experience in that museum, and all I can do is recommend you to go and experience it yourself.

After the presentation, the training truly began. We departed from Tel Aviv and rode south to a small desert town of Mitzpe Ramon, passing the Gaza Strip along the way while also getting caught in a pretty insane Haboob. Look it up; it’s wild! We spent the next three days putting time on the bike and rode countless hours in the Israeli desert. Nights were full of eating dinner, laughing, and learning a new card game called Yaniv. I was half expecting to see camels crossing the roads, but unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky enough to see one in the wild.

After Mitzpe Ramon, we rode north past the Dead Sea and back up to Jerusalem. Unfortunately, time didn’t allow a float in the Dead Sea, so I guess I’m just going to have to come back. We spent the last couple of days in Jerusalem, where we finished off a 30+ hr week of riding and were able to tour the city. All in all, it was a fantastic trip, and we were able to explore a new country in ways only possible on two wheels.

I’ll leave saying this. I’ve spent the last decade dreaming of the day I was able to ride in the top echelon of cycling, and finally, after a decade trying, I have my chance. I’m incredibly excited to be here, and I am going to do everything I can to learn and prepare for the season ahead. I want to come out swinging and show my worth as a rider and as an individual. This sh*t is hard! And I haven’t taken the traditional route to get here. There have been many highs and lows already throughout my career, to the point where I nearly hung it up this year. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity Israel Start-Up Nation has given me, and I hope you follow the team, myself, and Factor Bikes through the 2020 season. Buckle up because I have a feeling it’s going to be a wild ride!

Follow Travis’ journey on Instagram: @travis_mccabe. Stay tuned for part two coming soon.
Photos by @noa_arnon // @bettiniphoto