A few years ago, we had the pleasure to sponsor the RenewedCX team where we first met Tyler Cloutier. The team has since found a new sponsor but we were pleased to hear from Tyler, who wanted to get back on our bikes as he begins his own elite program. 10-time British National Champion and fellow #KindRider, Helen Wyman caught up with Tyler to hear his story.
HELEN: Tell me a bit about your background and how you started bike racing.
TYLER: I grew up bouncing all over the USA, I didn’t get in cycling until really late maybe 2011. The fall of that year was when I did my first MTB race. I’d been focused on soccer and used cycling to keep in shape. Soccer kind of closed its doors to me when a couple of opportunities fell through and so then I started racing bikes. One bike led to another to another and here we are today.
HELEN: It’s a big switch from soccer?
TYLER: I played right through high school and was recruited to play in my freshman year at Rollins College in Orlando Florida. I was later in and out of the team and pretty rusty as I hadn’t had much game time. I pursued a couple of Division 3 teams in the USA; those chances fell through before the season started so I turned to cycling.
HELEN: So from Florida to Texas?
TYLER: I finished grad school and was working in a bike store but having family down in Texas I thought I’d move down here with the intention of eventually going to Colorado or California. My move was for work and having moved from role to role, I’m still here now. I work as an account manager for a software company. My degree was in Psychology and Spanish; my graduate degree was in linguistics. The linguistics has only ever really served me in my personal life and studies. Last year I went to Belgium and I picked up a little Dutch, alongside a bit of French and German. I was really more interested in the sociolinguistics side of things.
HELEN: Glad that degree has been so useful haha. Why the switch?
TYLER: I was kind of green to the exact requirements when applying for various roles so I took a year and spent it with AmeriCorps. It meant I could figure out what I wanted to do.
HELEN: So it’s thanks to AmeriCorps you chose ‘cross?
TYLER: Well I started out road racing and really enjoyed it. It was fun and it lead to MTB which I also really enjoyed. I don’t know exactly why cross but I remember watching the Jeremy Powers Behind the Barriers video’s, and then I watched the Louisville Worlds. That was the first race I’d ever watched live, and I remember just being so excited about it. I watched on the Internet and remember it clearly. It was the week before my comprehensive exams for all my graduate schooling. I knew I needed to pass to get my degree. I was super torn between staying at home and going. It was an 8-hour drive from Central Virginia and I had friends going. I fretted about it for a week, thinking I’d study in the car. But I chose to stay home and study and watch online. I started to race the next season and loved it, the feeling of being exhausted and totally cracked at the end of a race; it’s addictive for me. The more I got into it the more I like the culture and people around it. I think the approachability of cross is great for kids and new riders to get involved. It meant a lot to me and now I want to pay that forward a little bit.
HELEN: So why KindHuman?
TYLER: I’d ridden KH bikes and learnt a bit about them in ‘15/’16. I was familiar with them from Adam Myerson and seeing their bikes at events. The more I saw and learnt about founders Adam and Gavin, I saw it wasn’t all about watts per kilo, it was about being involved in a community. They’re a part of such a wide range of events, teams and causes in USA and Canada. That spoke to me and with my personal program this year, I wanted it to be about giving back, and the ethos of KH meshed well with that.
I want to encourage more people to do ‘cross; it’s fun and at an amateur level it doesn’t take a ton of time. Of course you can train hard and try to be fit but you can equally just have fun in the mud, and grab a beer and some bacon.
Helen: So our paths first crossed in Belgium, how’d that come about?
TYLER: Ever since watching CX that first year, I really wanted to go to Belgium. At the very least to watch a race, but in sport I’ve always wanted to see how far I can take it. I didn’t enter the sport with an agenda; I wasn’t thinking lets see if I can ride the tour, or do MTB world cups. The idea of going to Belgium gathered momentum as I moved up the categories. Last summer I was speaking to a mentor of mine and he said if you don’t go this year, when are you going to go? So when you put it like that, I saw there was never going to be a perfect time. I worked things out with my boss and the time differences were ok so I could simultaneously continue working, head to Belgium and get my teeth kicked in. Nommay World Cup was my first Euro race and I stayed right through to the last race in Oostmalle. That’s a super fun race, lots of sand, but awesome. Hoogstraaten is the hardest I’ve ever worked for last place in my life. Well not last, as I was not quite last (42nd from 43 finishers). The theme of the trip ended up being to try not to be last, but I was totally cracked after 3 laps, I was completely shattered. It was an interesting event and more mud than I’d ever seen in my years in CX.
HELEN: It was only half muddy, there was a dry section. It could have been worse. I think it’s very hard for riders from outside Belgium to adapt in the first season. There really isn’t a way to prepare for everything. You can see riders that have gone on to be real top riders have taken several seasons to get the kind of performance out they see back home in the USA or UK. So would you go back?
TYLER: Yes, I’m planning on going back after nationals this season although I’m not sure I’ll stay right through to the end of February. I stayed at the CHAINSTAY with Greg and Holly. It’s a great place to stay and nice to have some company especially after races. I might try a Spanish race or even an EKZ series. They look great.
HELEN: So the 2018/19 program, details please.
TYLER: I bounced around teams, Collegiate in Virginia and then a couple of others along the way including the Garneau-Easton team last season. I just wanted to be more than just a selfish racer and had a desire to give back. I want to support events, share what knowledge I have and help build the cycling community. I learnt a lot in Belgium, that certainly accelerated things so I decided to spin off and do my own thing. We have a Wednesday night league I’m involved with and the guys that run the Resolution Cross Cup and Ruts n Guts series are close by.
I’m doing clinics and I’m trying to get more involved in the community with the goal of bringing more people to CX. It’s a fun sport, but can certainly be even more fun when you are not terrified about how to get over that barrier or through a sand pit.
Back in the spring I reached out further to KH and also to DNA clothing. I had this colour theme and design in my head so I was talking about it with Adam. They had the ‘Abbie Taylor’s Niagra Falls’ and the ‘Stay Golden Peony Boy’ colors I loved, so I went with that and got the Pantones. I wanted to also add in some Kind Blue, so it’s all gone into the clothing from DNA. The bike colors and design came first we worked back from there.
I’m on the Küdü disc, I find it’s the right choice for me. At WSCXGP I heard a couple of kids trash talking disc brakes saying how great canti is. I mean when you only weigh 60lbs it’s ok, but just wait until you grow up.
“It’s a fun sport, but can certainly be more fun when you are not terrified about how to get over that barrier or through a sand pit.”
HELEN: The individual program is ever more common now, I’m one too. In my early years of my racing in the USA back in 2009, there were lots of teams, and seemingly a great structure for those teams at events. The USGP, pro row for the teams at events, live streaming. So many things we didn’t have in Europe. I guess it needs to find its mojo again?
TYLER: Yeah, events have come and gone and some events have struggled with numbers. Teams have turned into programs. I haven’t got the history in the sport but I hear stories about what the USGP was like. It does seem like there is a big focus on getting back to what the sport used to be, but the calendar is flooded with events. The old calendar seemed to flow, Holy Week was so easy for travel. Now it’s a little bit of a game to try to figure out where everyone is going. Do you go to where the big names are, or try to avoid them? Try new courses or stick to the familiar? It’s hard to know what’s best each time.
HELEN: What’s the big goal for this season?
TYLER: Well one of them was top 5 in a C2 so I guess I need to aim higher now I’ve ticked that one off. I want to be on a UCI podium and a top 10 in a C1 but they are all results based goals. I think in terms of process based goals I want to learn to turn and handle my bike faster and certainly get better with mindfulness around events. On entering the sport after watching the 2012 worlds I didn’t have an idea of goals; it was just a new discipline. Another way to keep competing, something fun and of course I wanted to win or achieve solid results. I didn’t have a long-term goal then.
HELEN: So away from racing, what’s on your Netflix watch list?
TYLER: Chef’s Table, I’m working well through that and a new series is out I think. It seems like forever since I got to sit down and watch a series but ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’ is always good.
HELEN: So finally, if you want to go on a night out, where to for dinner?
TYLER: Somewhere new, somewhere I haven’t’ been before, that goes for local or when I’m traveling. I need to get a bit more strict and dialled on race weekends I guess with the restaurant plan. I’d give up chocolate in favour of beer. I could live without chocolate; I’m more of pastry guy.