LeadBoat Blog #4: Late Bloomers

For this week’s #LeadBoatStories, we are featuring two athletes who started cycling later in life.  Despite self-identifying as late bloomers for their entry to the cycling scene, these athletes prove that it’s never too late to pick up, embrace and commit to a mind blowing challenge.

Nan Doyal, a writer, author, lecturer, cycling coach, mother and former international business owner, discovered the bike in her late 40s.  Cliff Bockard, a father, husband, Senior Executive and all-around strong athlete didn’t explore cycling as a standalone sport until 2018.

Although Nan and Cliff haven’t been racing bikes since their youth, they are full bore cyclists now!  We are inspired by their determination and motivation to prepare for the #LeadBoatChallenge Read their stories below.

Nan Doyal

Nan is a writer and author, a lecturer, a cycling coach and the mother of two young men (22yrs and 24 years old) and an Australian Shepherd. A decade ago, she had a very different life, i.e. running an international business, working all over the world and mostly away from home.  She left that career in her late 40s to write a book and it was during those years that she discovered the bike. 

Although Nan started riding a bike when she was 48 years old, her palmares are impressive.  She competed in her first gravel race at the age of 51 and won her first 200-mile road race when she was 2 months shy of her 52nd birthday.  In 2018, she won the 50+ age group at Dirty Kanza. In 2019, she placed 2nd in SBT GRVL 50+. 

I am and have always been inspired by far fetched goals and in particular the journey it takes to get there – especially if it involves learning how to do something I don’t yet know how to do (like MTB for Leadboat)”.

That has been the case both on and off the bike for Nan:  “It is the challenge of facing what scares me and taking it apart piece by piece to understand how to deal with it. Then putting it back together and getting on with the job, that motivates me. It has taught me to change what I can and deal with everything else. One of the reasons I love teaching and coaching so much is that I now have something to pass on that helps others”.

Nan states that she came into cycling late in life because she was doing other things that had nothing to do with physical activity. 

“Ever since I got on a bike and started to challenge myself – my life has been transformed and I have been able to do things for myself and for others I never thought possible before”.

“I am inspired to take this one on, to race hard with and against other women like me, to teach and coach those that follow me, to share what I learn from this with others. I am excited about the training journey it’s going to take to get ready for this.I have never raced in MTB before (and have only ridden one several times), but I live on a gravel bike in Vermont and there is MTB all around me out there.what more can I tell you – except I love to ride my bike, I love being outside, love the mountains. I am nervous about this (in a good way) but I am ready to take this on. I just can’t wait.”

“I’ve thought a lot about the Leadboat Challenge – it scares the heck out of me.  But I have grown to embrace that feeling”

“Most of the things I am most proud of have never involved my making it to the podium. They are the times when everything went wrong – mechanicals, weather, injuries etc.  When I was sure I’d lost the race and wanted to just cash out, but I didn’t quit, I kept going and I finished”.  

“Overcoming that terrible feeling, beating out that voice in your head that wants you to quit is the best win of all”.

“What excites me most about Leadboat is the journey and what it’s going to take be ready. The physical, mental and emotional demands are going to be more complex than anything else I’ve done before.  I’m really looking forward to training to be the strongest all around athlete I’ve ever been in my life”.

Cliff Bockard

Cliff didn’t own a road bike until 2012 and aside from a Trek 970 aluminum mountain bike that he had through college, it was his first real bike of mechanical stature.  He didn’t compete in cycling events until 2018.Prior to picking up cycling, Cliff was a ski racer and tennis player in New England.  Somewhere along the way, Cliff and his wife Susie discovered cycling:

“Perhaps that is what drew me to cycling – there is a component where you control your own destiny — but the difference in cycling is that the community around you can and WILL get you through a race…to a destination…or at the very least to a bike shop.  I have witnessed that firsthand and have been a beneficiary of all three as well! Cycling = community”.

Although Cliff started cycling slightly later in life, he hasn’t balked at taking on enormous cycling challenges over the past few years.  He has competed in both Leadville and SBT GRVL, calling both races “absolute bucket list events individually”. Layering in the training, logistics, double carbo load and equipment is where all the fun begins for Cliff. 

“I view this challenge as a privilege and many of us have different journeys as we train.  I have 2 great boys, an amazing wife, a very demanding job…and travel a bit. Challenging?  Sure. But everyone will have their different means of getting to the start line”.

Cliff lives by the fairly straightforward quote from Warren Miller: “If you don’t do it this year, you will be one year older when you do.”  

Cliff applies this philosophy to time and experiences with his family, advancing his professional development, attempting new challenges and taking measured risks.  Cliff sees the fearlessness in his boys and always tries to take a sliver of that in everything that he does.  

“What motivates me are the people attached to cycling in every form…and the ultimate reality that we are lucky to be able to do this”.

Nan and Cliff both exemplify what it means to continue to take on challenges throughout life.  Their unique paths demonstrate that it’s never too late to pivot or try something new to accomplish great things.