Will’s training and racing in early 2011 was focused on one goal: bring home gold from the UCI Track World Paracyling Championships in Montechiari, Italy. In four camps spanning two months and twenty-eight days his training regimen required two-a-days at the Home Depot Center Velodrome.
He arrived in Italy fit and competitively sharp, and found himself immediately taken by the rustic nature of this small Tuscan town, despite the overwhelming smell of cowshit that permeated the village. With only 23,000 inhabitants, Montichiari is home to Italy’s first indoor track that is open year-round for training and racing. Unknown to most of the world championship contenders, however, Montichiari is famed as the home of the humble peasant Pierini Gilli.
Pierina personally witnessed apparitions of the Virgin Mary on seven separate occasions in 1947. There are detailed historical records by the locals regarding the Virgin’s appearance, and even verbatim transcriptions of her words. For example, on December 8, the Mother of Jesus spake thus: “Through my coming to Montichiari, I whish to be known as the Rosa Mystica.It is my wish that every year, on the 8th of December, at noon, the hour of grace for the world be celebrated. Many divine and bodily graces will
be received through this devotion. Our Lord, my Divine Son Jesus, will send His overflowing mercy if good people will pray continuously for their sinful brothers. One should very soon notify the Holy Father of the Church, Pope Pius XII, that it is my wish that the hour of grace for the world be made known and spread throughout the world. If anyone is unable to visit his church, yet will pray at noon at home, he will also receive graces through me. Whoever prays on these tiles and weeps tears of penance, will find a secure heavenly ladder and receive protection and grace through my motherly heart. Soon one will recognize the greatness of this Hour of Grace. I have already prepared a flood of graces for all the children who listen to my words and keep them in their hearts. Good bye.”
As a side note, Montichiari is located in the heart of the Chianti wine growing region.
Will and the clock
The 3 km pursuit was Will’s first event, and he had never gone under four minutes in this test of aerobic fitness and ability to suffer. He was seeded against a Russian and consumed with the encouragement of a fellow trackie, who had texted him the night before to “Nuke the Commie Bastard.” Never mind that Russia is no longer communist; trackies aren’t known for their grasp of history or current events. The clock started and Will came out fast and never looked back. He caught and passed his opponent with two laps to go, holding on to take 7th place in 3:54, a personal best of nine seconds in competition, and a new American record.
The following day Will raced the kilometer, also finishing seventh and besting his previous PR. With these full gas efforts he was unable to unclip from the bike, let alone walk to due to uncontrolled shaking in his lower body. His coach caught him as he came off the track, and wheeled him down to the pit area where the staff unclipped him from the bicycle.
The next day led off with the team sprint, the event in which Will felt he had the best chance for a medal. The US had taken 4th in 2010 and the team was even stronger in 2011. All were hungry to stand on the podium. By the third day of competition everyone was getting fatigued, except teammate Vince, who had ridden a 1:08 kilo the night before to win a silver medal.
Will’s position was start, get out of the gate cleanly and drill it for 250 meters, then get out of the way. He was prepared for this event, as he had been training with his Olympic coach for an entire year. Will railed the warm up, and then waited nervously in that familiar spot, locked in a gate with sprint bars on and a clock counting down from 10.
He hit the start and tore out of the gate, depositing his teammates a lap later at over 30 mph, as they took up the baton and raced for a 4th place qualifying time, which put them in the bronze medal round later that evening. In the finals everything went perfectly until the Czech team had a mechanical, causing the gun not to go off until he was in the middle of turn one.
With only minutes between starts his legs were shaking as he remounted, his coach reminding him that he could repeat excellence. With a slightly missed start he clobbered the gear, giving all and hoping it was enough. In the end they missed the medal by seven-tenths of a second. The big consolation, however, was getting to enjoy the Italian Piedmont through a fog of great local wine, enjoyed over the next four days with his dad, brother, and a teammate.
Next stop…World Championships 2012
In October, Will dominated nationals by winning a gold medal in the kilo. After this event he was third overall, and with the top five automatically qualifying for worlds in February 2012, he’s setting the stage to win a rainbow jersey. The upcoming edition will be held on home turf here at the Home Depot Velodrome in Carson. Details here, see you there!