Trading a Dream Season for a National Title By Charon Smith (Surf City Cyclery/Sterling BMW)

Recently I was asked if I would trade my 12 wins, back to back 35+ California state titles, and capturing the coveted SoCal Cup in exchange for the Masters National Criterium Championship stars and stripes jersey. When first asked, I was stuck and thought it was a great question. After pondering over it for a while, I answered, “No.”


Some may think I am foolish or a little crazy for saying no, but honestly, I take each race one race at a time and no matter where or what race I am doing, the goal is always to win. It doesn’t matter if it’s racing in Ontario or racing in Carson at a CBR race. These two races are put on several times throughout the year, so many people don’t value them as much, but I think that is the wrong approach when it comes to competing. As a sponsored rider, I feel like I owe it to my sponsors and team to always to give my all. They do a lot for me so I refuse to do a disservice to them  by not giving 100 percent each time I suit up to race.

The person who asked me this question in return questioned my answer and commented that a National Championship is the epitome in our sport. I agreed but pointed out that a National Championship is a one shot chance at winning. There are so many variables in a race like that and you can’t control them all. That is why so much joy and happiness is felt and released when you win any bike race. It is probably one of the toughest things you will do when it comes to sport. Many people who don’t race or ride do not understand the difficulty that it takes to win or place well in a bike race. Some people try to play the extreme cool role when they win, and downplay the accomplishment, but trust me; when they get home, they’re happy as a pig in slop.


Maybe I am just wired different for not wanting to trade my successful season for a National crown. A funny thing happened at a local race the week prior to National Championships. Jamie Paolinetti, one of my mentors and a guy I respect and have studied for years, gave me some great advice and taught me a lesson at the same time. After I missed the break in a local race that Jamie won, he said, “Don’t let them do that to you next week at Nationals. That’s how you’re going to get beat.”


Later I emailed Jamie thanking him for all he has shared with me throughout my brief time in cycling. His response was typical Jamie; very cool soft spoken, and down to earth. “Don’t worry about Nats,” he said, “If you win, you win. If not, don’t worry. You have made a huge leap this year. Nats would just be icing on the cake.”  All of Jamie’s words stuck with me leading up Nats, which is why I’m okay with my second place finish in Bend.


What I have learned about the Mark Scotts, Thurlow Rogers, and other guys that have been around a while is that their approach is similar to Jamie’s. They are willing to share and give back if they feel you will listen and not try to make a ton of excuses for why something did not work. Note to the younger riders; try to find a proven veteran rider and learn from them. They have a ton of wisdom that can make your life a lot easier on the bike if you are a good listener and a hard worker who wants to take your game to the next level like I did.





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