by David Kirkpatrick, Features Editor
Jay Moglia has been a fixture on the MABRA scene for years. An elite racer, he earns his keep as a courier and as the co-proprietor of the Raw Talent Ranch, which he owns with his partner Audrey Taucher.
GamJams: 1. Your athletic background before cycling is somewhat atypical, more Caddyshack than American Flyers. How did you get into cycling?
Jay Moglia: Well it's only caddy shack because I actually did some 'looping' and golf got in the picture, albeit in a big way.
Other wise there was some mean NJ no pads sandlot tackle football (I was the skinny quarterback who got crushed). Baseball into Babe Ruth/senior leagues (second base and solid lead off guy) and basketball at the high school level (last man on the squad but off the bench to shoot technicals). Basketball skills were good but I was limited on speed having flat feet. Hand eye shooting reactions and all that stuff were solid but useless with out fast feet.
I got hooked on golf which took over. Had a 5 handicap when I was 16. Doing well on the state level and all self taught. Then the pro at the course I worked at took an interest and started giving me free lessons, which totally screwed it up for me. He completely dismantled my natural swing and move and tried to superimpose some ideal he had of what a swing should be. Not knowing any better and thinking that is what I need to do to take it to the higher level I went along with the program willing to sacrifice a year or so of scores for some long term improvement which never came. So that was the end of my promising golf career. A long, gradual, and ultimately wasteful exercise in misdirected effort and information. Anyway. After high school I was pretty much done with sports except for jogging and some weights to keep in shape.
I got into cycling at age 31 because I was an out of work carpenter (post bartending and music careers) and saw an ad in the Post for courier work. That was it. Had no background or clue. Had a beater bike and rolled with a t-shirt, sweat pants, and sneakers for first half year. Started racing two years later and it was a surprise to find that what limited me in running sports didn't on the bike, plus I could use my decent hand eye reaction abilities to a good degree.
And finally, regarding golf, I think even if I had not lost my swing, nerves would have been a hurdle. Early on I had occasional tournament success but more often excelled in practice rounds. In cycling pre event jitters don't really effect the action (unless you're puking sick and immobilized). Once things start it is all effort and instinct. You can make mental errors and choices on the race course but not in the same sense that nerves can impact someone on an important putt or a free throw in basketball for instance. You DO need nerves in the big picture as far as lacking fear, shooting holes and just diving into the scrum but there isn't the small stuff and/or the time to ponder it. .
So all in all I quickly determined that cycling was a good fit, and even though I found it late I was highly motivated to take a run at it, maybe since it felt like a second chance at something.
GJ: 2. Your training is pretty bipolar, either dodging traffic in the mean city streets or shepherding hacks like me through the back roads of WV. This isn't exactly the stuff that Carmichael training plans are made of. How do you make it work?
JM: Yea I would say I'm not really plugged into CTS. Mine is more random and abstract; dictated by variables that would resist any kind of formal stone tablet marching orders
The entire time I have been racing I have been a courier. Initially the courier work and riding was a training and a vaulting point with additional work required on weekends and evenings for speed and more sustained efforts. This was at the 3/4/5 level. As I moved into elite competition, the scales shifted and the equation was more complex. The issue became “where can I find rest?”
On the courier end I spin the easiest gears possible. I also use lengthy time on the bike as an exercise in stretching, visualizing and working specific muscles and areas. I realize that is vague but given the bulk of time spent it makes sense. I'm not doing much out on the streets that is directly race specific so I see it as a similar but very different cross training exercise - a chance to fine tune rhythm, pace and timing.
This has been the general schism or balancing act the entire time. In recent years
RTR has added a further dimension to the 'pencil and paper computations'. Taking on the barn project means my cycling objectives no longer have precedence yet the nature of operations throws me deeper into cycling then ever, so this is a paradox, at least if you are measuring in terms of results and performance. I always sought the mountains for strength training and scenery but now it is a constant, not just an occasional thing with flat recovery rides.
Leading, riding or coaching groups is a blast. A learning experience all around and something that has widened my take on how people do stuff and achieve goals. This is a way to say I get pretty serious work outs no matter who I ride with. Seventy five miles with seven thousand feet of climbing is hard no matter who it’s with. Also, in the hills, there is the effort to the top and regrouping after, so the strongest folks always have the opportunity to push max if they want. Finally, if I think I need more work, I simply bike to the barn instead of driving to the barn. This gives me an extra 28 miles and about 2000 feet of climbing on top of whatever the group does. Handy, right.....
The most difficult thing is not being able to control when I ride or who I ride with. Firstly, this is a great problem to have since I get to do all these cool rides with different people. It is what I set out to do so that is in the fore front, yet teams are coming here to have training camps and hit it hard. They may back off the following week (and they should) meanwhile I have another squad coming in looking for blood and I feel like I need to deliver! Hopefully it works out fine organically with how the season falls and when the most serious riding happens. What's more important is that I'm healthy for the sessions.
Here is the paradox and I guess priority shift. Being present for RTR rides is necessary for operations so that is a focus beyond my own personal race schedule, yet by doing that I can get into some pretty good form so why not take advantage of it, if I'm not over ridden.
Last March things worked out conveniently with progressively stronger squads arriving capped by four days with Harley a week before Jefferson Cup. (Ed Note: Clearly buttering me up as my group preceded Harley. Just sayin’). My main concern was being fit enough to do consecutive days of 80 plus miles at pro speed. The success of their camp (or any camp) is more important then me clawing for a result I already had ten years ago. It turned out by day four of camp I surprisingly had some solid legs. Perfect for the season, right? That would be if I had a week to rest and spin out. The following week was courier work, which maybe would of been ok, but in addition to the bike stuff I do seat holding for congressional hearings, which is an offshoot of the courier biz.
At this point I take form when it comes and hope for health and a handful of good rides during the year. It's just hard to know when they will occur and I can't really expect to.
GJ: 3. What is it about riding on gravel and dirt roads that we should be getting but aren't?
JM: Well I'm not sure who the 'we' you're referring to is. (Ed Note: Pretty much everybody!)
Some people love it. Can't get enough. Dig the challenge. Appreciate the diversion. Bask in the adventure. Covet the tranquility. Find solace in the sounds. Embrace the smells. Connect with the surfaces and value the great physical and technical benefits. Others maybe have a bumpy painful dusty ride that grinds ‘em down, ruins their day and causes them to curse me out.
Initially in my early days of road recon (way back before the barn in the post up at the Pioneer Motel in Front Royal days) and exploring, when I encountered dirt roads I would shy away from them. If they were short enough and they linked up a greater loop I included them. Over time I found a lot of great loops with dirt climbs. The value was immediately obvious. The rider is forced to use smooth efficient strokes while the climb demands stength. Push too hard or too erratically and the rear wheel spins on dirt and you go nowhere. A precise subtle move is necessary. The rider must maintain an even center. Once this is developed, power out put on pavement is by extension increased.
Going down hill is entirely different. At the onset I tolerated the descents simply for the benefit of the climb and the value of the greater loop. There wasn't much pleasure and little fun or payback, compared to a paved climb with the release (and recovery) of bombing downhill. The dirt descent was something to get through on the way to better roads. Now it is different. It is still not a back side of a roller coaster fun time move, and concentration, skill and patience ARE required, but there is big value in the descent. This is assuming we are in the context of a 'training' session.
Again, by necessity, you are forced to do certain things. You must use your entire body: arms, shoulders, neck, core, back, knees etc to absorb bumps and maintain buoyancy.
The more I do it the less jarring it seems. Developing specific areas that can accept the shock helps. This is a conditioning that occurs naturally from going down hill on dirt.
It has also helped to see other riders like Jeremiah Bishop or Russ Langley routinely include these roads in their training program, expanding, or upping the antu, on the idea of what's possible or 'normal,' so in that sense beside the physical aspect there is a perceptional one and a raising of the bar.
Finally. For those with the new equipment fearing scratches and nicks that is understandable. I would recommend tough training wheels and proper gearing but a frame is made to be ridden!
GJ: 4. During your early days in cycling, you and a bunch of your team mates were able to make a pretty good go of it on the national level. What were you guys doing to get to that level?
JM: Early days? What do you mean? I was in the money at Crystal City in '07.... Haha
That is hard to pin point. Blind faith, enthusiasm and wander lust didn't hurt the momentum. Also having a core group with compatible abilities and styles as well as the freedom (if not finances) to come and go from our courier gigs made the idea of piling in the car and driving to AZ for a month seem logical and almost necessary! We took it serious but made it into fun and didn't spend too much time dwelling on things a lot of other riders obsess on.
That doesn't mean we didn't study, analyze and break matters down in ways that could be applied strategically and tactically. The idea that it was happening organically through experience or trial and error kept it vital and relevant. Throw in a constant dose of cycling videos and you have the nexus of our lab work. I'm sure every group or subset has their mode but in our case, as a bunch of outcast or non-traditional courier athletes, coming into the sport from left field and finding each other to challenge and learn from was galvanizing.
In certain ways the riding took care of itself. We raced and did the park ten o'clock ride. Bike handling skills were cast early on the DC streets. For several years we had a time trial/barbecue in Rock Creek Park on Wednesday evenings that was a serious work out and even more serious throw down. That was The Ruff Newz Beat Down Barbecue and Time Trial.
It helped that we had motivating results along the way. Even early on back in '95 as cat 3's we traveled to a Pro 1/2/3 stage race in Johnson City Tennessee, and had two podiums and one GC top ten. That was me Chris Schmitt and Zach Browne. This was before Russ Langley even came on the scene.
At the time we thought it was decent riding but didn't quite realize the quality of the field. Not quite NRC but on par with maybe a Millionaires Row Stage Race or something similar. A good amount of national pros and top amateurs. Paul Martin, Chris Pic, Steve Sevener, Jersey Wozniak... Names that may not mean much to folks now, but back then when we realized their rankings, our confidence crept up some.
That same year we upgraded and went off to do Altoona and the Killington Stage Race in Vermont which is now replaced by Green Mountain.
These were full on US Trade Team events and being in the mix here sealed the deal. A top twenty at Killington and even a top 40 out of 160 at Altoona, which doesn't sound like much, proved we could go with these guys. People we had seen in pics or on video we were now side by side, riding against, just dudes on bikes, even though we really still didn't exactly know what we were doing.
From there it was a matter of training hard and hitting the races. Mostly up and down the east coast. From Florida to Vermont and out into Ohio or Wisconsin. For several years it was the school of hard knocks. A steep learning curve. Close enough to validate staying, but just barely, and a long time just trying to crack the top twenty five. Gaining speed nerves moves pacing and just trying to read the rapid action.
In '98 I had some strong NRC results at the end of the year including 10th at the season finale in Coconut Grove. (I missed all of '96 following a broken tib/fib and shattered knee cap early season, and '97 was a rebuilding year)
This convinced me to take a bigger more serious stab at the circuit by making a shift to Tucson for Feb training and some early season events like Valley of the Sun and Another Damn Race.
I maxed my courier work from Oct to Jan. Stowing away job receipts like acorns. Jason Stevenson came on the trip, and our club at the time, NCVC put together a fund raiser to send us on our way. Grass roots club support was crucial for us being able to get to the next level. We ended up doing the trip three years in a row expanding the time spent out west to almost two months and adding other riders like Russ, Zach and Shane Groth. NCVC was and still is 'a developmental' club and it was purely by chance the right combination of people came together to make things happen for us.
During that period Russ Langley's skills were eclipsing ours and the team profile really leaped. I could maybe make the break and hold on for a result and Zach, who had won the D20 Bar around that time, was able to find his way in NRC sprints but Russ was actually animating the action and challenging for wins. .
A big event was another one of those Coconut Grove Pro season finales. (Btw. We raced from Valley of the Sun, Az in late Feb to Florida in October)
Russ attacked early in the $10,000 race (that included George Hincapie and Fred Rodriguez) and forged a move that drew Ivan Dominguez, then riding for Saturn and Todd Litthales of the Navigators, who at the time was a big force on the circuit.
They stayed off the entire race and Zach and I worked the front juiced up on our guys efforts. In the end Dominguez won and Russ got second. I was still able to lead Zach in on the field sprint for 15th on the day. A good effort down south.
A similar scenario played out a couple years later when the race was in nearby Bayside Park. Russ had moved on to Team Snow Valley. This time it was me, Zach and Chris Schmidt. The race winning move was Chris Horner, Brice Jones and Roberto Gaggioli. They had a pretty good gap early on. Midway through the submove attacks started up and Zach and Chris set me up to go clear in a group that included Antonio Cruz, Jonas Carney, Andrew Crater and Kevin Monohan among others. I got tenth that time and Chris and Zach still scored top twenty five money spots. Another good day down south. Again. One in the move and three in the money. A big profile for a little team.
So, to summarize, team unity and cohesion was primary. Not that you can't go it alone but you really need allies probably more so emotionally than physically. The timing of having soldiers all willing to march in sync and to similar if not the same beats keeps you involved and participating. So many riders come strong and then drop off because the sport is hard and if you don't have back up you can't absorb the losses and the bad days.
Obviously there were training specifics that maybe your question was looking for but the methods are so varied that regardless it just comes down to hard work with a smart sense of balance. Lots of riding in lots of places at lots of tempos. Keep it varied, keep it fresh and focus. But mostly hard work. With the right crew or the right attitude the hard work doesn't feel so severe.
The adventure just happens and the conditioning becomes a very nice by product of it.
GJ: 5. How did the Lost River Barn come to life?
JM: The idea of doing a cycle training facility in the mountains already existed.
Before finding the Lost River area we had some land with a double wide on it in Fort Valley, Virgina outside of Front Royal. It was in a great spot for riding, south of Elizabeths Furnace and close to Woodstock Tower Road.
The idea there was to build cabins and maybe a common area. We needed the adjacent land, which was for sale, to complete the picture but the owner wouldn't sell to us because we were an unmarried 'mixed race' couple. (Audrey is half Japenese)
I guess that is one of the ways communities/areas are shaped and formed....
Ultimately it turned out to be fortuitous since later a random internet search brought us to Lost River which I had never heard of. Initially it seemed like a big set back since I had years invested running routes out of Front Royal and had the loops wired, but Hardy County is just as road friendly, less trafficked and only a little farther out.
So that explains the locale. The rest was not graphed, it just appeared which helped define the picture.
From being on the road and training/racing out of random and very varied hotels I knew I wanted to upgrade lodging and create an environment for cyclists to thrive and explore. The terrain/area was the main component. My original idea for housing was simple and utilitarian. That a place presented itself making more possible is a huge bonus.
It struck me on one of the trips to Tucson that very little is required when you have quality riding. If the emphasis is on the riding, and of course nutrition and rest, the accommodations just need to be solid and functional since six hours in the saddle is basically a full day. When you are done you just need a place to relax and call home. I don't think too many racers stayed at the Dream House. Probably only four. Me, Shane, Jason and Russ. There was a kitchenette and a TV. We hit the local pawn shop for a VCR to watch race vids (which Russ traveled with) and just across the parking lot, with a chain link fence around an empty pool, was a Circle K convenience store. The best part of the Dream House was that you could see Mt Lemon 20 miles off in the distance. Roll out from downtown at 1500 feet and 80 degrees and a few hours later be at 8600 feet and in the snow. Plus it only took about 15 minutes to bike to the coffee shop near the university where every day some kind of pretty serious group of riders (including the likes of Gord Fraser and Phil Zajicek) hit out at ten.
In our own way we got into a great rhythm of training at this spot. Even though it was unconventional, for us it worked. We got our miles and our hang.
That is what I aimed for with Raw Talent Ranch. Nothing to do with the 'Dream House' but then again everything to do with The Dream House.
The barn has been alive since the 1930's. A working barn until 1990 when some folks turned it into a house. Thing is they didn't completely abandon the animal activity. I'd say they shifted the parameters and opened the doors wide. Previously it was a bonafide cattle operation run by one of two families that had settled on top of the mountain, the Funkhouser's (the others are the town namesake Mathias). The folks immediately before us were closer to a combination between an A & E episode of 'Hoarders' mixed with 'Animal Cops.' The place was filled with stuff and the living areas were not off limit to the animals which consisted mostly of big pot belly pigs, along with some goats, a mini horse, dogs, and a cow (there was also a parrot with not many feathers to show). The pigs were pets but the conditions weren't too pet friendly.
What was maybe a negative for the livestock and other potential buyers created the depreciation value that made a 5000 square foot mountain top structure with 7 acres, as well as a unique and structurally sound interior, within our means, so for us that is how the 'barn' even had a chance to come to life.
GJ: 6. How do I put this delicately; as a cyclist, you've never exactly had time on your side, and now at an age when AARP fliers are no longer considered "junk mail" you remain competitive in events that most people will never get to compete in. How do you battle the hands of time so effectively?
JM: Yea, I began at 33 so while there is never a bad time to start a recreational activity it was a big leap, and unexpected, to take it where I have. Initially I didn't really consider the age factor. My teammates were all ten or more years younger. Since the goals were defined loosely, and at the very least as simply having fun and gaining fitness, age didn't conflict with any objectives.
I don't think I really considered it much, or at least seriously, until I hit forty. At the 2000 Olympic Trials, when Kent Bostick didn't show up, someone mentioned that I was the oldest dude in the race, which hadn't occurred to me. Still, what mattered was my 'racing age' and at only seven years in, including a full year out from a bad crash, I felt young in terms of motivation and desire.
The physical is another matter. Obviously age levels out aspects, yet since I started so late I felt I was still fine tuning technique and finding better ways to use my body more efficiently and more effectively. Maybe if I had started earlier the scope of my arc would appear sharper.
From 40 to 45 I think I was still gaining experience and skills that negated the inevitable physical decline, but from 45 on up the challenges of competing at the same level increase distinctly. The hardest part is balancing the mental and the physical and monitoring what is really happening. It is so easy to quit during race crunch time that any mental flinching is usually a ticket off the back. Thoughts that the pain is due to apparent realities need to be banished, yet those same realities are creeping in and need to be monitored and maybe even given special attention and care. The body is not as pliant and loose. The lower back, especially, maybe can not take as much abuse and once it weakens so does pedal power.
The thing is once a race begins those thoughts are baggage. All you can do, or ever do at any age, is try to find a rhythm. If something is bothering you physically, mentally or mechanically you have to find a way around it. Sometimes you can sometimes you can't.
I know it is possible to keep it going since guys like Malcolm Elliot, Steve Tilford and Ned Overend are still performing strongly and pushing 50.
Mostly it comes down to desire. I still like riding the bike for pleasure, but do I need to suffer on the bike. That is always the question. In a good situation the suffering is a warm adrenalin payback. That is what the racer is after and I guess the percentage on returns determines whether we keep lining up.
At this point I feel like every year I have to suffer more just to go the same speed and the races are only getting faster. I guess if I can magically keep increasing my pain threshold I can continue the beatdowns.
GJ: 7. With being a courier, plus the Barn, plus racing, your life involves cycling to a degree that many wouldn't be able to handle. How have you kept the fire going for so long?
JM: Optimally they're all in separate lanes. That is the only way it works. Bikes are involved but in totally different formats. Managing the body and not getting burnt out physically is a continuing equation.
The courier work is an entity unto itself. Solo riding yet immersed in a web and world of faces and personalities. It is shapes, colors, objects, data, and conditions always emerging, changing shifting and inflicting themselves on you and toward you. How you move through it is what determines the intensity not the other way around, even though resistances and situations can increase from day to day and moment to moment, you and your ability to process, as well as how strongly you charge, is the constant. I see it as a series of moves or even an entire day to achieve one worthy move. Closer to rock climbing, skating or surfing then the discipline of pedaling a bike five hours on a training ride.
The pay back is self satisfaction. Some move that gets absolutely no recognition or documentation. No one even knows it happened. Perhaps by chance another messenger may glance it and comment days later or some cross walking denizen senses something happened but isn't quite sure what. Not for public consumption maybe, expression in its pure form. This is necessary to validate the job presently because tangible returns have dwindled sharply.
Following that same idea of variation and change fuels the recon missions at Raw Talent Ranch. Too many repeats flip over each other. That is what takes me further into the dirt roads and unexplored routes - the chance for some new terrain and visual. That is what brought me to the hills in the first place, from Marshall to Front Royal to Lost River.
To round out the picture, since my 'downtown' riding is courier work, and my training riding is back roads and mountain, hopefully when I actually do a race, it feels new and invigorating by contrast.
The main thing is trying to not overcook any of it. It is a bummer to have something you love become a grind and when I feel even a hint of that it is time to pull back, reassess and maybe shift the parameters some.
That is how it all plays out on paper, anyway......
Ps. Beside Cycling I try to play some music on the side:
GJ: 8. Past or present, what's your favorite race?
JM: My favorite races are ones I have done well in and also ones that have relaxing and convenient parking lot situations to minimize any pre-race stress.
Tour of Somerville usually turned out pretty good for me. The full on crowds and excitement plus being in my home state of NJ made it worth the trip.
I also had good experiences at the Michelin Classic, a tight technical crit course, which was a late season NRC race in Greenville SC. I'm not really sure why I had good rides there. A couple top tens and several more top twenties plus my closest glimpse of an NRC podium. I got clear with one other rider with seven laps to go. I think it was after going for a prime. We had the gap, kept going, and opened it to 30 seconds. The whole time I didn't think it would stick but I also felt good and with 3 to go started thinking of how I might play the finish even though we were still full throttle. The gap was coming down and I heard the announcer say Mercury was chasing, but with two to go I still didn't see any one behind us.
Just before we neared the slight up hill to the finish line for the bell, a small train of riders came blazing by with Chris Horner ripping it on the front. The field was blown apart from the chase. I was able to claw on to the back as they passed and hold on for 16th, but chances of glory were gone.
I guess being chased down by Horner is a consolation prize.
GJ: 9. Complete the following sentence: "In 12 months I'd like to..."
JM: I'd like to have more breathing room but not because I lost anything that was taking away my breathing room in the first place.