Team-building exercises in the corporate world typically involve awkward games and catered lunches, but for Erik Clark and seven of his co-workers at ViaSat, it took the form of a highly competitive, 3,000-mile bike race from California to …
Team-building exercises in the corporate world typically involve awkward games and catered lunches, but for Erik Clark and seven of his co-workers at ViaSat, it took the form of a highly competitive, 3,000-mile bike race from California to Maryland.
“It really is almost like (the television show) `The Amazing Race,’ ” Clark said. “There are all these aspects of navigation, team-building, the crew aspect, the planning that goes into every step … and then all the drama when something goes wrong.”
Clark moved to Parker and began working for the satellite communications company three years ago, and quickly learned that his love of mountain biking would translate well to his new job.
Each year, the company participates in the Race Across America, a continual race challenging cyclists to cross 12 states, climb 1,700 vertical feet and endure any weather conditions they come across, like the desert near Borrego Springs, California, Clark found himself navigating.
“It felt like I was in an oven,” the two-year veteran of the team said. “It’s not like if it’s hot out you can take a break.”
Clark and his teammates took first place in the eight-man division as well as first place overall with a finish time of five days and 17 hours. They each rode for about five hours a day in 15-minute shifts, rotating four teams of two riders throughout the race. They each slept an average of four hours a day, though he said he didn’t sleep at all for the last 40 hours of the race.
“Going into the last nine hours of the race our lead had been 30 or 40 minutes, but in the last nine hours it dropped to about nine minutes,” Clark said. “It wasn’t until the last mile or two that we realized we had it.”
The toll of training and the race itself, along with sacrificing summer family time with his wife, his 8-year-old son, his 21-year-old daughter and his 2-year-old granddaughter, may keep Clark at home next year. He said he needs to work that out with his family.
But like many of his co-workers who don’t qualify for the team and mentor other riders, Clark will stay involved with the team.
“It might be nice to pass the torch to one of the younger guys,” he said. “Besides, once you win, you can retire on top.”