Ed. Note: It Sounded Like A Good Idea is a new semi-regular column by Olympic track racer Bobby Lea and endurance mountain bike racer Ian ‘Big DiRtY’ Mullins who have teamed up with plans to race Cape Epic, Breck Epic and Leadville next year. But, this isn’t just another story about some guys going to some race. It’s going to go much deeper and possibly become more polarizing to you, the reader, because of its honest look at some difficult subjects. Read on and find out why…
Words by Bobby Lea
Ian: “You wanna do a mountain bike stage race as a duo in 2018? Breck Epic in Colorado maybe?”
Me: “Absolutely! 2018 will give me enough time to get my handling skills up to snuff to race with a rider like you.”
That’s how it started. That’s also how I found myself in Leesburg, Virginia, for the Baker’s Dozen earlier this year after my good friend Gui, whom I raced with on the track at Junior Worlds in 2001, called me to race my mountain bike for the second time in 17 years (the first was just two weeks earlier).
Gui: “Hey hop on BikeReg and look up Leesburg 13. It’s a team off-road race I would like to win. Any interest?”
Me: “ I’m in. How does it work?”
I have a habit of saying “yes” to things that sound fun before knowing what I’m getting myself into.
I didn’t bother to look at BikeReg. Why should I? I was (am) head over heels in love with anything mountain bikes. I just retired from over a decade of pro road and track racing and I wanted something different. I love bikes, I love racing, I love competing and I wanted all that in an environment that was as far from what I experienced at the Rio Olympics as I could get. I wanted fun. I wanted unstructured. I wanted inclusive. I wanted to play bikes with my friends. I didn’t need to look at BikeReg. I knew it would be awesome.
What I didn’t know was it meant camping. I don’t camp. I didn’t know it meant racing for 13 hours. I think (thought) that’s crazy. I certainly don’t camp and race bikes at the same time. No part of me thought I had agreed to do a 13-hour team relay that involved camping at the race site. I don’t even own a tent.
In keeping with the theme of jumping first and asking questions later, I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the adventure that Ian Mullins and I are about to set out on. Ian and I became acquainted about a year ago when the Olympic track team was announced. My spot on the team was very controversial because I had tested positive for trace amounts of noroxycodone at Elite Track Nationals. As you can imagine, my social media feed was full of comments from many critics and “experts.” I noticed that one guy, @BigDirtyIan, was not only fighting the trolls on my behalf but he was doing it in a way that suggested he knew what he was talking about. I clicked “follow” and sent a simple “Thank you” message. Little did I know that we were both in crisis and both in need of more than a little support.
Fast forward to today. We have this hair-brained plan to ride Cape Epic, Breck Epic and Leadville in 2018. It sounded like a good idea at the time.
Dirt Rag has taken pity on our plight and kindly offered to let us publish our trials and tribulations. Before we go any farther, let’s get one thing straight. This isn’t just another story about some guys doing some race. We are doing this because we want to have a conversation with you. It can be difficult. It can be uncomfortable. It can be polarizing. It is real and it’s about time it was brought out of the shadows and into the mainstream of our sport.
Let’s talk about the gray area of legalized doping. Let’s talk about the very real dangers of “safe” painkillers. Let’s talk about drug addiction. Let’s talk about the gray area between the black and white of doper vs non-doper. Let’s talk about cycling as therapy. Let’s talk about the pitfalls of retiring from pro sport and trying to find your place in a world that seemingly has passed you by. Lastly, let’s talk about Cannabidiol use as a viable alternative to dangerous pain killers.
Join us for the ride. Join us for the conversation.
About our primary characters
Bobby Lea is 33 years old and a recently-retired professional road and track racer. His resume includes a bronze medal at the World Championships in 2015, 3 Olympic Teams (’08, ’12, ’16) and 30 National Titles. After over a decade in a highly-regimented environment where there is seemingly one goal, and success is defined by others, he is looking to rediscover riding for the pure love of it. He spent a career searching for the perfect ride on the perfect day. Now he is going back to his roots and learning a new way to define the perfect ride. On a mountain bike.
This seemingly feel-good story isn’t all puppy dogs and unicorns. In 2015 Lea had a positive drug test for trace amounts of noroxycodone, the metabolite of Oxycodone. The year that was supposed to be the capstone to a long and successful career was thrown into jeopardy as his entire career was on the line. Instead of doing battle on the track and focusing on the Olympics he had to fight in conference rooms just for a chance to toe the starting line again.
Post-retirement and post-Olympics he is working his way through a new set of challenges. Join him for the ride as he rediscovers an old love of the sport while learning a new discipline, and join the conversation as he candidly talks about issues pro cycling doesn’t like to talk about. Follow the adventure here at dirtragmag.com and on his social media at @Blea_1 on Twitter and @Blea505 on Instagram.
Ian ‘Big DiRtY’ Mullins is a Seattle based elite ultra-endurance mountain bike racer aboard Jamis bikes and races for Floyd’s of Leadville, a medical cannabis brand owned by former pro Floyd Landis. Growing up in Ohio and inspired by long distance pioneers like John Stamstad, Mullins’ racing consists primarily of 24-hour solos and 100 milers proving that having some screws loose can be a good thing.
Advocating for education and understanding surrounding drug use in sport is a personal quest Mullins is undertaking after experiencing addiction himself. Teaming up with Olympian Lea and Dirt Rag, Mullins hopes to spark conversation about many things using the bike as the common denominator among us all. Lurk on Big DiRtY’s socials and smash that like tab if it makes you giggle. Twitter: @bigdirtyian Instagram: @bigdirtyworldtour