Competing in his first Breckenridge 100, Breck pro cyclist Taylor Shelden eyes overall victory
With Oregon’s Cascade Cycling Classic cancelled this year, Taylor Shelden had an opening for where he was going to ride this weekend.
For the Breckenridge hometown professional road cyclist, there was really only one choice: To race his mountain bike in the Breckenridge 100 for the first time.
So come Saturday morning, Shelden will depart from his home on High Point Drive atop his Scott Spark RC 900 mountain bike for the short ride down the road to the start line at Carter Park.
Having ridden most all of the Breck 100 terrain before, Shelden hopes to capture the top spot on this home course when the grueling day concludes.
“I’ll definitely be racing to win the overall,” Shelden said. “I’ll use it a little bit as part of my training for the road cycling, because that’s my main focus. But I’ll definitely be riding hard.”
Now 31 years-old, Shelden, who rides professionally for the Jelly Belly Pro Cycling Team, has lived in Breckenridge for the past 25 years. He grew up on Moonstone Road, where his passion for both mountain biking and road cycling developed in the shadows of the steep mountains of Summit County.
Over the past three years, though, Shelden has shook up his training with a goal of improving his road racing. No longer an invincible twenty-something, Shelden has cut his overall time spent on the bike by a third — from 20,000 kilometers per year to 12-15,000 kilometers per year — while also changing up the kind of cross-training he undertakes.
This loosening of the reigns on just how hard he rides day-in, day-out has helped him to register some of his best career results in the past couple of years. That includes a second-place overall finish at the Fourth of July Firecracker 50 mountain bike race earlier this month in Breckenridge.
“I was too focused on cycling, which was fine when I was a lot younger,” Shelden said. “In my mid-twenties I was not doing much else other than cycling. Now I have a good balance that actually is advantageous. I’m fresh both physically and mentally. It used to be a lot longer rides, a lot more harder rides. Now, it’s less volume, less hours, less miles. But the shorter rides I do are a lot more focused. I kind of work on doing very specific intervals. So less time on the bike, but more quality over quantity.”
A true Breckenridger, Shelden’s cross-training throughout the year includes such winter-time activities as skinning up the resort, fat biking and taking a “Body Pump” strength class at the Breckenridge Recreation Center a couple of times per week.
“If I don’t do anything except ride a bike, I become a frail person,” Shelden said. “It can make you really fast, but it can lead to injury.”
Shelden’s most recent injury occurred at one of the highest profile events he’s competed in: the 2017 Tour of California. While riding for the Jelly Belly Pro Cycling Team, Shelden fell and broke his collarbone after encountering what he described as a “weird pothole” on the race course.
It was a setback, for sure. But just seven weeks later, here in his hometown, his first race back was atop a mountain bike rather than a road bike, at the Fourth of July Firecracker 50. He took third place overall that day while riding for hometown team Tokyo Joe’s.
One year later, earlier this month, Shelden improved his Firecracker 50 time by seven-and-a-half minutes, finishing in second place behind repeat champion Payson McElveen of Durango.
Despite his recent mountain biking success, Shelden is still primarily focused on road cycling. He said his time split between the two disciplines is typically 85-90 percent on the road compared to 10-15 percent on a mountain bike. But this summer he’s picked up that mountain biking percentage to a quarter of his riding time.
The diversity of what he does isn’t limited to when he’s atop the bike, either. This year, rather than just focusing on mile after mile on an indoor-trainer or outdoors on a bike, Shelden derives some of his strength from non-sporting activities as well. This past winter, he was out there working on residential construction sites with his father Kevin, a general contractor in town. Working on two to three houses per year, Taylor was there aiding his dad with anything from framing to demolition.
“It kind of goes along with the same thing I’ve been saying, “ Shelden said, “just doing something different. It’s hard work for sure, just different than the cycling. So it helps keep me fresh. Cycling is so low impact doing a lot of this body strength and running as well, I find, makes a big difference in the summer time.”
Saturday morning, Shelden and his Scott Spark will encounter one of the steepest climbs of the day not soon after the Breck 100 race starts. It’s, more or less, straight up Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak 9 and up onto the Wheeler Trail. Forty-five minutes to an hour of straight climbing will likely shake out some of the contenders and pretenders right at the start of the race, which typically runs eight-and-a-half to nine hours.
The mid-point of the race will be daunting terrain at what the Breckenridge mountain biking community terms “Little French.” It’s a super-steep spot that Shelden traversed twice during the Firecracker 50 10 days prior. That’ll be another make-or-break spot for riders hoping to take home the title.
Heading into the race, Shelden’s thought process is that if he can make it out of that second lap feeling OK and within striking distance of first-place, he’ll have a good shot of bringing the win home on the third and final lap, which includes a climb up Boreas Pass he’s very familiar with.
To fuel him, much like the other racers, Shelden will have plenty of water and an electrolyte mix. But being a Jelly Belly Pro Cycling Team rider, he’ll also be sure to stock up on his preferred “sport bean”: Juicy Pear.
“It tastes almost like eating a piece of Gatorade, essentially,” Shelden said with a laugh. “It’s similar to a standard Jelly Belly bean, but it has a good blend of electrolytes, carbohydrates and vitamins to fuel you throughout the day.”
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