Dan Feldman | Flint Journal
FLINT, Michigan — Derek Graham and his wife recently bought a house in a nice Grand Rapids neighborhood.
But one day, his neighbor was playing the bass guitar loudly.
Graham, who seems to enjoy peace and quiet, knocked on his neighbor's door. When the neighbor answered, all Graham said was, “Do you know that low-frequency waves travel farther and are more audible to the human ear?”
“That's 'DG' in a nutshell,” said one of Graham's cycling teammates, Derek Witte, who relayed the above story.
That same Derek Graham who prefers quiet won the men's category 1-2 at the inaugural Le Champion Pave bike race in Downtown Flint on Sunday. That's the same Derek Graham the crowd heard as he shied through a post-race interview on speakers that blared across Saginaw Street.
Further questioning didn't reveal much more personality.
Graham said he was relieved to win. Are you just not that excitable? “Not really.”
Have you always wanted to be out of the spotlight? “Pretty much.”
After he forced a smile for a few pictures while holding up his oversized winner's check on the podium, Graham hopped down quickly. But Witte, who missed the photo shoot, wanted a picture to send the team's sponsors and asked Graham to go back up. Graham declined. Did anything sound worse than going up for another picture? “No.”
But Graham compromised, remaining on ground level, and holding up the check while Witte photographed him. That's when Graham showed his other side — the side that's a trivia expert and knows things like the behavior of sound waves, the fun side only those close to him to know.
Graham held the check straight forward, then turned to his side like he was posing for a mug shot. Finally, more than 40 minutes after winning the race, he cracked a natural smile.
Graham, 29, began road racing about six years ago, and that's when he met Witte. It's common for people to act reserved in new situations. Sometimes, they open up in a few hours, a few days, a few weeks or even a few months.
It took Graham three years!
One day, he just began talking to Witte during a training ride. Witte said the conversation seemed natural, and since, he's enjoyed getting to know Graham.
“Still waters run deep,” Witte said.
Before participating in road races, Graham specialized in mountain-bike racing. Since switching focus, Graham has excelled. With his second individual win this year, he has helped his Bissell racing team to about 12 team wins in 20 events.
“He said himself, and I agree, if he had committed to road earlier, he'd probably be on a pro team now,” Witte said. “But he seems happy with his life.”
The latter point wasn't apparent to everyone in attendance Sunday. But those close to Graham know it's true, and that seems to be all that matters to him.