Take 5: Q&A with Summit County pro cyclist Taylor Shelden
Shelden’s summer schedule
Summit County native and professional cyclist Taylor Shelden is a week away from hitting the thick of summer-race season. A look at his schedule, with more than a few local showcases:
May 24-28 — USA Cycling National Championships in Lake Tahoe, California
July 18 — Breckenridge 100 Mountain Bike Challenge, Breckenridge
Aug. 9-14 — Breck Epic mountain bike stage race, Breckenridge
September (date TBD) — Fall Classic mountain bike stage race, Breckenridge
Editor’s note: Take 5 is a weekly interview series with high-level athletes who call Summit County home.
It’s almost unfair for a High Country kid like Taylor Shelden to ride bikes for a living.
Over the past seven years, the 28-year-old Breckenridge native has worked his way higher and higher in the pro cycling world, earning accolades at the 2008 USA Cycling National Championships for endurance and, of course, impeccable climbing skills. That lungpower comes with the territory.
His breakout year in 2008 eventually led to a spot on the 5 Hour Energy road team in 2013 and 2014. The team is now defunct, but no matter. Starting this season, he’ll compete on pavement for the Alto Velo Racing Club and travel the region tackling mountain bike races for the Tokyo Joe’s squad.
Now based in Louisville — just a short ride from Boulder-area trails — he occasionally swings by his old stomping grounds for the Summit Mountain Challenge Series and, for the first time this year, the Breckenridge 100 endurance race.
Before heading to the 2015 Nationals, he spoke with the Summit Daily sports desk about growing up on Summit trails, the boring life of a pro cyclist and why nothing beats oatmeal before a race.
Summit Daily News: The heart of cycling season is rapidly approaching. What upcoming race has you chomping at the bit to get started?
Taylor Shelden: A week from tomorrow (June 17) is the National Championships for road cycling in North Tahoe, out in the Lake Tahoe area. There’s a road race and time trial out there, and the terrain should be well-suited for my riding style. It’s at high altitude, which is advantageous for me after growing up in Breckenridge and then living on the Front Range. They try to rotate the Nationals every few years, so this is a brand-new venue for everyone, and I’ve actually never ridden anywhere near that area. I’m looking forward to it.
SDN: Do you think growing up in Summit County made you a better cyclist?
TS: I would think so, for sure. Right now, it’s even better than it was 10 years ago, but the number of trails they have across Summit County is just incredible. You walk out — well, more like you ride out your front door — and you’re on a trail. It’s pretty amazing to have that.
I remember my dad got a really nice mountain bike in high school when I was 15 years old, so right around the time I was big enough to fit on that bike. I did the Maverick Sports bike league starting around then. I’d say I fell into it pretty quickly. It was super fun to get out and race. I had a few friends who did it, too, and I really liked racing against people I knew, compete against them.
SDN: What was your favorite local route when you started getting serious about cycling?
TS: I’d say my favorite road ride in Summit is going up Loveland Pass. It’s a great climb, a classic route. Sometimes it’s a nice cruise ride, the sort of thing where you can just take your time, and other times I get out to really push myself. It’s not always the best idea to go real hard out there, though. It can sneak up on you.
If I were to characterize myself as a cyclist I’d say I’m an all-arounder, especially on the road stuff. I can handle all aspects of cycling, even if there’s not one thing I really excel at. For mountain biking, I’m more on the climbing and going hard side. I do love descending and rolling through the technical sections, but that’s definitely my weak spot.
SDN: Talk about the life of a professional cyclist. What’s your schedule like during race season? For some reason, I imagine it’s like “Bull Durham” with bikes.
TS: When we’re at the races, it’s actually not super exciting. You wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, go race, add some more food, then pretty much lay on your hotel bed for the rest of the day — read books, watch movies, stay entertained however you can — because a lot of the places we go to aren’t always very exciting. We do go to a few cool places, but sometimes people are really surprised when they say, “Oh, you must have loved the views,” and I just say, “Well, I actually spent most of my time in the hotel.” The thing is, you just have to be ready to race.
On the longer races when you’re doing several days in a row, it’s all about preparing for the next day. I have my own personal coach, but they’re more for training and preparing, getting ready before the race.
SDN: Food and rest are musts — simple enough. What’s your go-to breakfast before a road race?
TS: Oatmeal, peanut butter, a banana and a hefty dose of salt, especially if it’s going to be hot. It’s evolved over time, but I’ve pretty much settled on that meal. You can have it for more than a couple of days in a row without getting totally sick of it.
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