Dean Phillips – Beyond the Athlete…
Like a bicycle, a business is the sum of its parts and Fit Werx is fortunate to have so many good “parts”. I’m lucky to be surrounded by the people that I work with – I see characteristics in each of them that enrich my life on a regular basis and I wanted to share a bit about what they have contributed to my life. Dean Phillips is one of those parts…
Dean stayed with me in Waitsfield over the past few days as he competed in the Green Mountain Stage Race. Those of you that know Dean, know how strong an athlete he is. He has been a member of the U.S. National Rowing team, a professional triathlete, holder of numerous TT records, a top 25 finisher at Mt. Washington (despite weighing almost 200 lbs…), the MA State Road Race Champion and I’m sure many other things that I am not aware. When it comes to his strategy and equipment, Dean is one of the most calculated, genuine and humble athletes I have met and his accomplishments reflect his talent and approach. Well, I respect Dean even more after this weekend and not so much for what he did at the stage race (which was significant), but for what he chose not to do.
If you have been reading the Fit Werx Facebook page or blogs, you know that Dean had a rough start to the race. The first stage is an individual time trial and Dean is one of the best time trialists around – his chances of leading the Cat 2 race after the TT were pretty high. Dean was well on his way to doing this when, 500 meters from the finish, he had a freak chain issue and lost around three minutes of time. Finishing in 80th place, he almost called it a weekend after the stage as any shot of a GC win were dashed; GMSR was the primary focus of the second half of his season and he was understandably pretty disappointed. Well, Dean didn’t go home. While the TT had stunned him momentarily, he didn’t let the failure defeat him – instead he started planning how to use his situation to his advantage and he changed his focus to Stage 2. Despite his intense focus and desire, it was refreshing to see that Dean had not forgotten that a nice benefit of riding your bike intensely is enjoying other parts of your life; he shared more than a couple beers with me that evening as we talked race strategy and business. The next day, Dean made a break with another strong rider and they crushed it – finishing 1:20 up on the field. After his herculean effort in Stage 2, Dean held the Green Sprinter’s jersey. Redemption.
GMSR was Dean’s first stage race and his legs were feeling pretty fatigued after his effort in Stage 2; his prospects in Stage 3, which ends at the top of the steep and long west side climb up Appalacian Gap, were literally and figuratively steep. Instead of basking in the victory of the day before, Dean instead did what he could to help the other rider who had worked with him so hard in Stage 2 (and who was still a GC contender) partially bridge a significant break that occurred in the middle of the stage. Dean made this significant effort even though he knew it would make for a very hard finishing climb and a diminished result. Why? Because it was the right thing to do. No matter how good Dean is as an athlete, he is even better as a person. Dean suffered to the top of the last climb with exhausted legs, but good spirit, and his usual patient and calm demeanor and approach. The same things that make him so good to work with, and such a good bike fitter and equipment consultant, are part of what make him such a consistent athlete.
Despite the challenging day, Dean still held the sprint leader’s Green Jersey and could contest for it overall in the final stage’s criterium on Monday. Back at the house after Stage 3 he told me that while the race weekend had not gone as planned, it had been very rewarding and he was really happy with it. He also said that, after three days away, he missed his wife and four kids and he had decided that he wanted to spend the Monday off with them instead of defending his Green Jersey at the criterium. As he told me this, he looked as if he was asking my opinion about his decision and I hope I made it clear to him at that time how I felt.
Life is a balance, and sometimes a hard one at that. We often have to set priorities and choose what is most important to us not only at a given moment, but for the future as well. It is not always easy. Just like your decisions the rest of the weekend Dean, I think that you did exactly the right thing.
Rest and recover and I hope you enjoyed that well earned day with your family Deano!
BTW – A huge “shout out” to Carolyn Phillips, Dean’s wife. Her support and hard work through the years are a big part of what allows Dean to be all that he is athletically and professionally and I know how much Dean appreciates her efforts and cooperation…