When it comes to endurance sports, it’s all about the individual. Runners, cyclists and triathletes train and compete against other individuals looking to push their physical limits. Of course, many athletes compete and train on endurance teams.
It’s what Craig Webb of Traverse City prefers in his own athletic endeavors.
“It’s the simple joy of getting on your bike and being with your buddies,” said the 53-year-old Webb, who is president of the Hagerty Cycling Team. “It’s just the same as it was when I was 10 years old. Even though we didn’t have cell phones, we were still able to show up at the same spot at the same time and ride our bikes. Someone would see a stop ahead and we’d race for the stop. Forty years later, it’s the same excitement and passion.”
That passion has gotten Webb quite the impressive athletic resume, including achieving state masters titles in road racing, criterium, time trial and mountain biking. Webb has also finished in the top 20— twice—in the Iceman Cometh (a point-topoint mountain bike race with over 5,000 competitors).
INTUITIVE SOLO TRAINING
Webb still trains on his own when he’s not participating in Tuesday group rides along Mission Peninsula, or Thursdays on the Vasa single track south of town (“There’s always a group ride going on in Traverse City,” he said). But even those moments take on a structure-less schedule that is loosely based on Webb’s own intuition of how to train, how hard to train, and when it’s time to rest.
Even his diet follows a loose set of selfguided standards.
“It’s not anyone’s diet but my own,” he states matter-of-factly. “My simple mental thought at every meal is to have at least half of everything I’m eating be completely natural. I make sure to eat fruits, veggies and lean meats. It works pretty well.”
Being lean is important with all endurance sports, Webb said.
“Weight is everything in this game. It’s literally an end-all, be-all. A friend of mine used to say, ‘You know, if you lose 10 pounds, it’s like holding a small child for awhile and then setting that same child down.’” When it comes to gear, the vehicle is only as good as its driver, he says.
“That same friend who gave the child analogy said the same about the bike. ‘It’s still just a triangle with two wheels.’ It’s the person on the bike who makes the difference.”
So how does a guy who started cycling competitively at the age of 40 manage to not only place in several races, but to capture titles?
“I don’t mean to make it sound easy,” said Webb, who followed his own seven month, self-disciplined training schedule with one goal in mind: “To win the M22 Challenge.”
For months, Webb treated his own life as if he were a professional athlete.
“All winter long, I was literally dedicated to training… everything I ate and drank, my sleep, training schedule… every single day, it was a lot of sacrifice every day. I would think, ‘I’ve got to go for a run. But it’s raining outside, it’s cold outside. Doesn’t matter.’” Webb was rewarded with a third place overall finish behind Denny Paull of Cheboygan and Jeff Smoke, a former Olympian paddler from Chicago, who took first in the run/bike/ paddle race in Glen Arbor.
TRIATHLON? SURE, WHY NOT
“I had never thought of doing triathlons ‘til I did all these time trials and running for M22,” said the dedicated cyclist. “Around the time the M22 Challenge got over, I thought, ‘I’ve got all this fitness, what am I going to do now?’” During a swim at the Grand Traverse Civic Center, a fellow pool buddy asked Webb if he was doing the upcoming triathlon — referring to the Jordan Valley Triathlon at the end of June — to which Webb said, “I didn’t know about the race. The guy was like, ‘Yeah, there’s three triathlons coming up.’” So, Webb set his sights on three triathlons within one week of another.
Less than a month after his podium finish at the M22 Challenge, Webb knocked out three consecutive first overall finishes at the Little Traverse Bay Triathlon, Interlochen Sprint Triathlon and Jordan Valley Sprint Triathlon.
Like the M22 Challenge, Webb proved his strength in the cycling portion of all three races.
A ROOTED LIFESTYLE
Webb participated in the usual high school sports, such as football, wrestling and track; but it was his four years in the U.S. Marine Corps Second Force Reconnaissance Company that helped fuel a disciplined passion for competition.
“We went from one training school to another and trained with different elite forces in different countries,” he explained. “And that’s probably where I got the bug for pushing myself in athletics. Once, we went to train with the French War Legion and the very next morning, the legionnaires wanted to see if they could beat the Marines in a foot race. Everything was a race and I think that carried through my life.”
It carried through to his home life, as well.
It helps having a wife who enjoys endurance sports just as much, Webb credits.
“It’s very nice to have that connection with your spouse. I met my wife, Laura, riding bikes here,” said Webb, who moved to Michigan from Las Vegas after his parents purchased a home in the 1980s. “My wife… you really should be doing a story about her. She’s a big Nordic skier and has won the North American Vasa a few times. She’s also placed in the top four or five in Iceman.”
After living some time in Lansing, the couple chose to buy a home on the southeast side of Traverse City, purposely for its close proximity to the Vasa trail for skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the spring, summer and fall.
Webb, who is a semi-retired CFO, is able to train more for his endurance events, “much to the dismay of the competition,” he laughs.
That said, he does spend some time providing consulting work for friends and other entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, Webb serves on the Cherry Roubaix board and spends much of the winter helping the Vasa Ski Club develop the nordic ski scene. During the warmer months, he helps guide the 60 members of the Hagerty Cycling Team, with riders ranging from beginners to hardcore racers.
“We want to put more time into developing young racers in this community. It’s been a slow movement because cycling is a hard sell to a young person,” said Webb.
When it comes to career highlights, Webb tosses the idea a bit.
“If I had to pick a race and if I was to say it was the highlight of my career...,” he whistles, “I don’t even know.
“You know, it’s funny because we were just talking about this the other day. At the start of a race, I look around at all the participants and realize, ‘It’ll just be five of us left.’ That’s almost as fun as winning the race: The chess match. I can honestly say I’ve felt more achievement in not even winning a race, but being in the mix of that race with some really strong, talented riders and how it plays out.”
2013 Little Traverse Bay Triathlon 1st Overall
2013 Interlochen Sprint Triathlon 1st Overall
2013 Jordan Valley Sprint Triathlon 1st Overall
2013 State Time Trial Masters Champion
2013 Cherry Roubaix Omnium Champion
2013 Cherry Roubaix TT 1st Masters
2013 Master’s Criterium Champion
2013 3rd Overall M22 Challenge
2010 MBRA State Masters Champion
2010 State Masters Road Champion
2010 Masters State Track Champion
2010 Cherry Roubaix Road Race Masters Champion
2010 Maillot Jaune Road Race Champion
2010 BTR Criterium Masters Champion
2009 Superior Bike Fest Masters Criterium Champion
2009 Barry Roubaix 10th overall
2008 Superior Bike Fest Masters Criterium Champion
2007 Iceman Expert overall Champion & top 20 overall
2006 Expert Masters State Mountain bike Champion
2005 2nd overall Avita Black Bear
2004 Cone Azalia Cat 3 Champion
2003 21st overall Iceman