CHATTING WITH THE PAT RAINES
Pat Raines, aka the Rainman, hails from another southeastern cycling hub, Cary, North Carlina, a suburb of Raleigh, where he lives with his wife Theresa. He has been a well-known fixture in the world of U.S. road cycling for three decades, racing for, and helping assemble and manage, numerous professional cycling teams, including American Airlines, Athens Bandag, Mountain Khakis, and the TIME Development Team that eventually became the SmartStop Pro Cycling Team. He always made time during winter for a road trip to Athens with his bike to see numerous friends, and he’s attended quite of few WBLs over the years, even soloing to a spectacular World Cup victory in 2019. Rainman also won gold in Havana, Cuba in 2004 in the Masters Pan Am Games and that’s just one of dozens of wins and podiums Rainman has picked up during his long and accomplished career, which resembles that of Aerosmith’s. You see, Rainman raced in his youth when he was but an innocent babe, impressing many with his displays of brute strength and power, and then he took a sabbatical before returning to the fold and picking up right where he left off. Even though the Rainman must be “somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,” he continues to confound logic by defying time, consistently crushing those 20 and 30 years his junior, much less the hapless bastards who are his same age and who make the mistake of trying to match him pull-for-pull. Sometimes, it even seems he relishes in doling out the punishment, a claim he denies. We checked in with the Rainman recently to see how life is in Cary.
Humble Chronicler: Tell the folks where are you living and what are you doing?
Rainman: My wife Theresa and I live in Cary, N.C. between Raleigh and Durham and I work for Cisco Systems here in RTP and have been doing so now for 22 years. I graduated from North Carolina State and other than short stints in Washington D.C. and Athens, Cary has been home. At Cisco, briefly I am doing some things with 5G support and I am here to inform your faithful that all the conspiracy theories regarding 5G… are true. 5G is the 5th generation mobile network and is a new global wireless standard after 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. 5G enables a new kind of network that is higher performing and designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together including machines, objects, and devices. People get ready.
H.C.: Didn’t you meet Theresa when you both were lost?
Rainman: Yes, a friend suggested I should try out some of our local woods in my area on my cyclocross bike and I met Theresa while I was riding in the woods—we were both lost. We are both active, she’s a former very good platform diver, and she was hiking at the time. Though we both were lost, I like to remind her that she had a map. It was clearly a foreshadowing because there would be many instances in the future when she was lost yet had a map. Fast forward two years and we were married in the exact same spot we met. It was a well-attended affair, all 6 of us dressed up, and we’ve been married now for many years.
H.C.: A lot of great riders have come out of Raleigh-Durham. How is the cycling scene in your area?
Rainman: Raleigh-Durham was a hot bed at one time with a lot of experienced, talented riders but local cycling scenes are much different these days than in the days of yore. Powers meters, specific training plans, minimal racing, and competing interests all contribute to the lack of a unified cycling scene and makes having a positive group ride experience more challenging. The WBL is really a blast from the past and one which I appreciate—the strongest riders check their ego and individual interests at the door, and as a result, everyone can enjoy an optimal training ride.
H.C.: You have had a career like Aerosmith, with a successful early race career, then you took a hiatus for a few years, and then came back stronger than ever. Tell us a little about your racing career.
Rainman: I raced from approximately 1986 to 1994, my golden years. I probably, much like Aerosmith, wish I had the gift of foresight and scope. I was young and did not possess the personal or external perspective to see all the opportunities I was given, and to maximize them. Travelling around the U.S. penny poor was a lifestyle that was brilliantly fun and adventurous, but I was always focused on the next penny and the lifestyle did not allow me to set long term goals or to have a legitimate path to reach them. I was a racer, a student, a worker, a partier… a jack of many trades, master of none. I probably had one popular hit during that time, much like Aerosmith. [Editor’s Interlude: Rainman, like Aerosmith, had multiple chart busters.] After ‘94 I took some time off and eventually got back into riding for pure fitness. I was out of shape and only riding for fun when an opportunity arose to help out with the TIME Development Team that eventually became SmartStop Pro Cycling. It was a fantastic time and we had some great results including winning the U.S. Pro Road Race Championship in 2014 in Chattanooga. My main message to the guys on the team was to focus on the opportunity you have and maximize it—give it your all and don’t have any regrets, a message built from my own experience.
H.C.: When did you first start coming to Athens to ride in the WBL?
Rainman: I first came down to Athens in 1989 or 1990 when I was invited by Bill Riecke, the main man behind the future Athens Bandag Teams. There was no WBL at that time, just folks riding, and I was told to just ride with Crowe and make sure your afternoon schedule was clear. “Where are we going?” I remember asking him. “Just over that next hill,” was the reply. I knew the fix was in when I heard that same answer every time someone asked a similar question. Times seemed simpler then and it has been fun to watch the WBL evolve over these many years. When I come down to Athens every winter for the WBL rides, it’s very early in my winter training program, and it’s usually the first time I go hard all year. Let me tell you, it’s a real eye and leg opener when forced to go against the Zealots who have been hitting it hard for a few weeks.
H.C.: But the last time you were here in 2019 you soloed to a World Cup win after 100 miles!
Rainman: Sometimes you get lucky and you have good day. Or did I have enough friends and family in the race to allow me to win? Either way, I will take my WBL victory. I built 15 years of friendships with many Athenians and maybe I cashed in on that one day. It will probably never happen again, that’s for sure.
H.C.: You might be a sandbagger! I understand you have raced in Belize several times—tell us about that.
Rainman: I first raced in Belize back around 1990 and I loved it there. Belize is a Caribbean country located on the northeastern coast of Central America and is bordered on the on the east by the Caribbean Sea. The country and the people are amazing but my initial performance was lackluster. I can blame it on many things—my prep, drinking the water, overconfidence—but whatever the reason, my first race in Belize was poor and it was a regret I lived with for many years until 2017 when I was given a chance to go back at age 47. In 2017 my older and wiser self was not about to squander this opportunity so I raced hard and did well and redeemed my 20-year-old self, and just as important, I had fun. This was a real gift and rarely does a person get second chance like that!
H.C.: What is one of your best days on a bike?
Rainman: That’s easy, isn’t every day on a bike a good day? I’ve learned not to take it for granted that I can still swing my leg over the saddle and go for a spin. My best day on the bike has never been a race day, but maybe the day I pedaled through Yellowstone in 2017 with some friends on a 170-mile day, or maybe it was the day as a 15-year-old I went on my first 60 plus mile ride. Of course, any day I can half-wheel my good friend Jered Gutcheck Gruber is a good day, and thinking about that day in Orangeburg when I bridged to Crowe in a break always makes me grin. Again, though, any day on the bike is a good day.
H.C.: How have you been able to maintain your passion for training after nearly 3 decades of riding and do you have any parting words for younger riders?
Rainman: My involvement with TIME, Mountain Khakis and the SmartStop teams were key to keeping me engaged and motivated. The riders, relationships and friendships built through that time were priceless and are the real key to staying motivated and engaged over the long haul. My advice is simple and consistent: Enjoy the voyage, maximize your opportunities, relish the places that your bike allows to visit, and establish relationships with all the various types of people you’ll encounter, and with which you share a common passion, the love of riding. Later in life, you will be glad you did.
H.C.: If we need to ever track you down, where is the best place to look for you?
Rainman: If I am not working, or riding, you will probably find me out with my dog, Roxy. If I am in Athens, look for me on the Gruber’s sofa. And Merry Christmas to all the Zealots.