Athlete Of The Week: Thatcher Clay ’04

While some athletes have to perfect their style for many years in order to attain greatness in their sports, it is always nice to just have the ability right off the bat. Thatcher Clay ’04 started bike road-racing competitively last spring and has shown skill right from the start. Encouraged by friends David Morse ’04 and Anthony Roldan ’04 to try biking as a sport Clay left his previous spring sport of tennis and made the jump into biking. Though Clay had spent a lot of time in and around his native Maryland riding his mountain bike on and off road, he had never actually ridden the sleeker machine that is the road bike. Clay recalled, “I have been biking for awhile, but like most people my first bike was a mountain bike. I went to a mountain biking summer camp three years ago, and it was there that I really realized that biking was my sport. I did as much mountain biking as possible, but more often than not I ended up just riding out on the road with my mountain bike to keep in shape.” In his debut showing on the road bike Clay demonstrated that he really had a knack for racing. “Before the race my dad told me that if I did well then he would buy me a road racing bike. I was using my Dad’s 30 year old racing bike with 5 gears on it, and everyone laughed at me at the start line. I crossed the line 18 miles later in second. So here I am now with a new racing bike.” This season Clay has that new creation of a bike. Clay was happy to describe his creation, “Zu.” “My bike is the sleekest mesh of aluminum, carbon fiber, titanium, plastic, rubber, and steel that I have ever seen in my life. Last year I raced on a bike that the school rented to me, but over the summer I gathered up a bunch of parts and build my bicycle up from scratch. It was the culmination of all my years of pretending to know how to fix a bike. I race on that bike now. You have probably seen it around campus or in Commons; it is the completely black racing bike. It even has a name, Zu, which is a Babylonian goddess also known as the blackbird.” Zu has served Clay well this season, and with it, he took first at the Adelphia Grand Prix with an impressive finishing drive. Clay cites the mental aspect of racing as an important part of any racer’s success. “By far, the most difficult aspect of the sport is knowing when to give your all and when to hang back. It is difficult to understand this unless you are a cyclist. When I am in the pack of riders, I am continuously trying to figure out who looks weak and who is in contention to win the race. This way, when I see somebody sprint away from the main field of riders I know when to chase and when to sit back. The hard part about cycling though is to judge how good people are but to remain a mystery yourself.” The other portion of race readiness is physical training. The biking team spends its practice time completing intense circuit roots that many times include formidable hills. The team bikes roughly 150-200 miles a week. Clay is only one of the many talented riders on this years biking team. He holds his teammates in high regard, “The team this year is phenomenal. With a sport like cycling it is hard to find kids really dedicated, but our team has thirteen very enthusiastic cyclists. Last year our team was only six kids, but thanks partly to the advertising done by our captain Peter Stetson’ 03 we have grown. Because we have only lost two riders since last year and gained so many new good riders, our team this year can wipe the table with any other school. Our Captain, Peter, is a phenomenal cyclist, both in his strength and his racing experience. We have revived the girls’ team this year with five new faces. All and all, we are all looking forward to an incredibly successful season. We already won the first league race of the year, and we look forward to many victories to come.” The magnitude of Clay’s involvement has really put the team into overdrive this season. Teammate Morse said of Clay, “Everyone on the team benefits from Thatcher’s dedication to cycling. Every day we wake up sore from having to chase him up hills throughout practice the day before. We become better riders because of him.”