It is never too soon for our children to be better than us—at everything.
The moment my eyes met his, my body was flush with a wave of clarity. I had found the sense of purpose I was subliminally set on the earth to see. Everything in my life had changed. The meaning and priorities of my world were shuffled and reassigned.
If you are fortunate enough to have someone who loves you call you Daddy or Mommy, then you know what I mean. The moment that your sole purpose in life is to ensure that your children have a better life, endless opportunity, and are more successful than you—at everything.
There Was No Chance
“I thought there was no chance,” he alludes to his son’s attempt two years ago—in the winter of 2020. “His last time up the Alpe du Zwift was 2.5 hours!”
Jason Bretz is a father of six from rural Minnesota. Eight years separate Jason’s youngest son Carson, now eleven, from his other kids. When Jason and Carson set out to climb the Alpe again, now two years removed from the 2020 attempt, he thought he had plenty of time.
We want our children to be more successful at everything, but it doesn’t have to happen so soon. Can’t we have one thing to pad our fragile fatherly ego as we relinquish our diminishing strength and skills to our kids? Virtual cycling can be that thing, can’t it?
He Had Plenty of Time
“I thought I would easily beat him and be waiting for him to finish,” recalls Jason. He had plenty of time, or so he thought when his son set a meet-up to climb the Alpe again on January 22, 2022.
A lifelong cyclist, a friend introduced Jason to Zwift in 2018. Jason leads the DIRT XLR on Sunday mornings and is always one for a friendly virtual greeting on the roads of Watopia. He has immersed himself in the culture of the community. Virtual cycling is one of his things.
Jason and his wife encourage an active lifestyle, but team sports aren’t a big part of their family life. “Having six children,” he explains, “we try to do activities as a family.” Several of their older children also enjoy cycling but have moved on to the next stage of their lives.
Virtual Cycling is a Thing For This Father of 6
“We are raising Carson in a very different family than his older siblings,” Jason explains. “Now, for fun, it’s just the three of us.”
When Carson was eight, Jason bought him his first bike. He would tag along with his older brother during his mountain bike practices. Carson was able to keep up with some of the older riders.
Jason purchased a kid’s road bike for Carson in the Spring of 2020. “Selfishly, I wanted to be able to ride,” he notes, “and spend time with him.” Whenever Jason suggested they ride, Carson was always game.
The Shed Door Was Opened
During the winter of 2020, Carson asked if he could put his bike on Jason’s old trainer. “I reluctantly set him up,” Jason recalls, “thinking he would ride once and be done.”
Jason and his son began riding together several times a week. Carson was excited about earning XP, leveling up, and earning route badges. One of his early rides was in search of the Road to Sky route badge.
After three hours of riding, he was about to cross the finish line at the top of Alpe du Zwift when the battery on his tablet died. “He was devastated,” Jason sadly remembers, “and I thought he would never want to ride again.”
Undeterred, Motivated, Confident, and Happy
Carson was undeterred, and on November 26, 2020, he earned the badge in 2 hours and 40 minutes. He averaged 52 watts. Virtual cycling was becoming his thing.
His parents couldn’t be happier. “He is full of energy and goes from the time he gets up until he goes to bed,” says Jason. Virtual cycling has focused Carson’s energy, and he is more confident and doing better at school.
Carson is very proud of his biking and quickly tells his mom and siblings how he did. He was especially excited when he figured out he could climb hills on Zwift reasonably well. When the Tour du Zwift began in 2021, Carson asked his father to ride almost daily in the small shed where Jason perched his bike on a Kinetic R1 besides his Wahoo KickR.
Cycling and Climbing Was Becoming His Thing
Carson was motivated by the challenges. He enjoyed the rides, and despite finishing near the back of the group, he was never last. Everything changed when the third climbing stage of the Tour du Zwift came along.
“He did awesomely,” Jason states excitedly, “and as the climbing heated up, Carson passed a lot of riders.” Jason wasn’t riding with him at the time, but it was clear that he was doing well.
Carson’s love of cycling continued, and when the harsh 2022 Minnesota winter meant more frequent trips to the shed, he was ready. Carson set the stage and the date—January 22. The two set off on Watopia’s Road to Sky together, and Jason arrived at the base of the Alpe three minutes before Carson.
The Ride When it Happened
Jason switched from a mountain bike to a climbing rig and started the long trip up. Carson hit the early slopes soon after and began his climb. “It was hard to tell,” Jason recalls with surprise, “but it looked like he was gaining on me.”
Nature called, and Carson had to answer at the fourth switchback. “There is no way he will catch me now,” Jason said to himself. On his return to the saddle, Carson had other ideas and declared, “Dad, my goal is to beat you!”
Jason pressed on, still believing there wasn’t a possibility his son would catch him. Jason watched as the gap got smaller, and pretty soon, he knew. “He was going to pass me!” he conceded.
That’s when it happened. On January 22, 2022, at the 14th switchback of the Alpe du Zwift, Jason’s 11-year-old son Carson became a better cyclist than him. Carson climbed the Alpe in 54-minutes and averaged over three w/kg for the route. The time had come for Jason.
Conclusion—The Ultimate Reward
Carson had achieved his goal, but Jason fulfilled his purpose. He was one step further towards the ultimate reward. From the moment we set eyes on our children, our purpose is to make them better than us—at everything. The sooner it happens, the better.
“I had mixed feelings of defeat and pride,” Jason adds. “When your children become stronger than you, it makes you appreciate the circle of life. In some ways, while it humbles you, it makes you proud all at the same time. I want all of my kids to do better than I have done.”
Jason is giving his son a gift. The love of an active lifestyle and the forever sport of cycling. In turn, the greatest reward of all is the opportunity to share the experience.
By the way, when I asked Carson who the better cyclist is, he emphatically replied, “My Dad!”
When did it happen to you?
Do you remember the moment that you took a step closer to fulfilling your purpose? Comment below! Your fellow virtual cyclists want to know.
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!