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Cycle of life: Biking fits Front Row GM Freeze

April 18, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

When Jerry Freeze is at the office, his mind constantly is thinking about wheels and how to make them go faster. When he's on his lunch break or at home after dinner, he's doing the same thing.

In the first instance, the general manager of Front Row Motorsports is focused on performance of his Cup team, powered by Ford. In the second, he's the one supplying the horsepower.

"Bicycling is a lot like racing, it's a lot of drafting and positioning."

--JERRY FREEZE

Freeze is an avid bicyclist, riding between 100 and 150 miles in a typical week. OK, maybe "passionate" is a better word, since the resident of Winston-Salem, N.C., rides with groups on Tuesday and Thursday nights, then usually goes for "a long ride" with other bicycle enthusiasts on Saturdays.

"We're close to the foothills: Pilot Mountain, Hanging Rock and Sauratown," Freeze said. "We'll take a trek out there -- and do one, two or all three [rides], if we're really ambitious -- and climb the mountains, along with just pedaling around the area. There's a lot of fellowship out on the road and it's a good way to enjoy your time."

Freeze rediscovered his love of biking about eight or nine years ago. Given the choice of working out in the gym or riding the roads of North Carolina, Freeze opted to get back in the saddle seat, as it were.

And since then, he hasn't stopped pedaling.

"It's a way to stay fit," Freeze said. "I always enjoyed riding a bike when I was a kid. And I didn't enjoy the traditional ways of working out, like weightlifting. Bike riding seemed to be something that fit me pretty good.

"I started out, just doing it for the exercise and got a little more passionate about it. I found some guys that were equally passionate about it that are good friends."

Freeze isn't doing this on your father's Schwinn Varsity. In fact, his bike definitely wouldn't pass NASCAR tech. Freeze's latest pride and joy is a Belgian-made Ridley Helium carbon fiber frame with components from German manufacturer SRAM.

It replaced his previous bike, a Specialized on which he estimated he rode some 25,000 miles. That's nearly twice the combined distance of all 36 NASCAR Cup races in 2011.

"In racing colors, it's Petty blue, black and white," Freeze said of his new ride. "It's a sharp-looking bike. I love it."

A few years ago, Freeze got the idea of putting his bike on the team hauler, then riding to and from the hotel for practice and qualifying. That worked out pretty well -- especially when Freeze had the company of fellow cyclist Randy Rodriguez, who drove Robby Gordon's transporter.

With the help of a Global Positioning System, Freeze finds there are almost no limits to where he can ride. Well, up to a point. Like learning to play a three-chord country song on a guitar, Freeze always has to keep in mind C, D and G: in this case cars, dogs and gravel.

When he's in a group, Freeze doesn't worry so much about traffic. But when he's on the road alone, cars always are a concern, even with the necessary precautions.

"It's way more dangerous riding a bike by yourself than in a group," Freeze said. "I always feel at ease in a group, because every story I read about a bicyclist getting hit, they're by themselves. So that was the nervous part last year."

Dogs are more of a nuisance because they're "protecting their territory," according to Freeze. And gravel roads can do more destruction to a thin bike tire than any track on the circuit, Darlington and Atlanta included.

GPS can tell you if there's a road. But it can't tell you what kind of a road it is. Freeze found that out the hard way at Kansas Speedway.

"GPS sometimes will get you on a dirt road," Freeze said. "I took a direct route to the track from the hotel, which was about 30 miles. I had a 60-mile route planned on the way back, but you get in Kansas and you find a lot of gravel roads. I had three flat tires and finally had to call the guys back at the hotel to come and get me.

"I had been sweating, and then sitting and it was getting to be nightfall. It gets chilly in Kansas in October. I was freezing out there, just shivering. The one guy coming to get me doesn't bring a GPS, so he's asking me, 'How do I get to where you're at?' And I didn't know."

Freeze sometimes rides the 44 miles between his house and the shop in Statesville, N.C. But his favorite ride might be the one to Martinsville Speedway, which he did twice in 2011.

He started thinking about it when he lived in Greensboro, N.C., but when he moved to Winston-Salem, he realized it was challenging but doable.

"I started plotting out a route and it was about 60 miles, and I thought, 'You know, that would be a good little ride,' " Freeze said. "I never had ridden past Stokes County [N.C.], so it was all new to me the first time I did it. It's an absolutely beautiful ride but I had to go through all that foothill region. So there's a lot of climbing. I was pretty beat by the time I got there."

Freeze estimates there's a total about 3,700 feet of elevation change between Winston-Salem and Martinsville, Va., with most of the climbing right at the end of the ride.

"The hardest part is in the last 10 miles -- from the Virginia state line to [the track]," Freeze said. "There were some really good climbs -- 10-12 percent [grade] for 1,000 yards or so -- just enough to where you're already tired after 50 miles and now you're thinking, 'Oh, God, I've got this hill coming.'

"The last five miles was almost a steady descent to the race track, so that was pretty nice once you got to that point."

Because it rained on the Saturday morning of race weekend this spring, Freeze decided to leave the bike at home. But he may have some company in the fall. Josh Wise also rides, and Freeze is trying to talk him into joining him on the trip.

It would do two things. One, it'd give Freeze someone with which to converse. Two, it'd make the ride a heck of a lot easier. Just like tandem drafting at Daytona and Talladega, wind resistance plays a huge factor in how much energy you have to expend pedaling the bike.

"Bicycling is a lot like racing, it's a lot of drafting and positioning," Freeze said. "The guy who is in the wind is working 30 percent harder than the guy following, so that's why you always see them in a line. I found out pretty fast that when you're by yourself for 60 miles, it's like riding in a group for 120 miles. So it was a tough ride."

The most ambitious ride Freeze has undertaken to this point has been the Bridge to Bridge Cycling Challenge, a 102-mile ride that starts in Lenoir, N.C., and climbs in the Blue Ridge Mountains, ending at the summit of Grandfather Mountain.

"The last time I did it, it rained the whole ride," Freeze said. "We got there and the fog was so bad, you couldn't see the mountain. But it was kind of great climbing, because you were just steady. And the next thing you knew, you're at the top -- because you couldn't see the top."

Freeze's dream ride? It would be making the trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific on two wheels.

"If I ever slow down a little bit, I would love to ride East Coast to West Coast and just take a month," Freeze said. "I've had some friends do it. That's just a fantasy more than anything. But I hope to do it some time.

"Me and some buddies, we've got a trip we're wanting to do -- just a trip to do the whole Blue Ridge Parkway -- try to take a week off from work and do that. That's probably realistic."