Cycling is a team sport, and to barrel through roads with your teammates, racing TT bikes, the feeling can be both surreal and rewarding — you are riding faster than ever, and you are all committed and in these next moments riding 100% for a National Championship — you all need each other, you all need to make the pain worse, you all need to stay together to cross the line and deliver a product that reveals your overall potential.

“What a day,” NC’s Adam Perez said afterwards. “From hard rain to monster legs to bombing descents at 44mph to missing the top step of the podium by 4.2 seconds…”

On the morning of the race, Adam and his Happy Tooth Racing teammates arrived at the race site and just as they popped the 10×10 tent, the rain turned volatile, heavy and harsh. Adam looked around and it was near-chaos, teams and personnel scrambling to prep gear and keep the peace before the TTT event, not an ideal controlled warm-up environment for a National event.

The squad decided to warm-up on the road, to get warm and stay loose and relaxed. After the first five pedal strokes, Adam knew it was going to be one of those days, one of those days where the legs are ridiculous…

At the start-house, the rain had stopped but the course was a quiet river. Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, and the men boomed off on their TT bikes, uncoiling with wolf energy onto the wet Nationals course, which was on the side of a small interstate.

Adam noted he felt tight but strong and fresh, so he continued to accelerate with this teammates, not worrying how the day will go — all the men were 100% committed, time to go to war with the clock.

At 1.4 miles, the men pedaled into the first long roller. Adam felt strong as they approached and was on the front, doing a long, steady pull — he felt strong and 100% in control.

Adam was able to sit behind and rotate in the paceline in perfect timing to be at the front again for the next harder roller, and he was able to keep it steady hard up the incline, keeping the pace in-control and steady fast — they were flying.

Very common: Adam knew they had crushed the out-leg. They passed the 4-man team that started two minutes ahead within the first six miles — they were on a good ride, knew they were in the process of making a full championship run — at the turnaround, the team feeling sickly strong, and they knew they only had 10 miles left.

“I could tell the pace and lumpiness of the course was wearing on all of us,” Adam said, “but at this point we where fully committed and all in. 10k to go and our mask of pain was in full effect.”

Adam had monster legs in the final third of the ride and rode with full aggression, having no fear — give everything, see what happens. With 5k to go, he was burning all matches throttling the big rollers.

In the distance, he could see the tollbooth — this meant The End.

Someone barked, “Whatever you got left, burn it now!”

Even at your most vulnerable, if you want a special performance, you must be able to dig down and find something and respond to what your teammates do — the team is only as strong as its weakest link, and then team strength can flourish. The men were decimated and continued to accelerate desperately to the line.

His teammate Luis buried himself on the last downhill, setting the other final three to crush the last 1k uphill, to the finish.

Your teammates find something special on race day, you feed off this, and the four of you come together to create the perfect TTT machine for one singular day.

They roared across the line, the effort leaving all riders shattered and shaking on the bike of the road, leaning on their bikes.

In the end, the team had a goal — to podium. “We knew we had a really solid time,” Adam said, “and we weren’t surprised to have podiumed. On-course, we rode together as one unit, to place 2nd left us feeling very ecstatic.”

Happy Tooth Racing, 2nd overall at the TTT National Championships.