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Interview with Randy Warren of XXX Racing-AthletiCo
 
By Staff
Date: 3/1/2004
Interview with Randy Warren of XXX Racing-AthletiCo
 


Randy Warren on Snake Alley, Burlington, Iowa. Courtesy XXXRacing-AthletiCo.

You were a runner before a rider. We read that you had trouble with your knees. How did you make the transition to cycling? How hard is cycling on your knees?

Randy Warren: I wrestled in high school and for two years in college and ran for endurance training while doing that. When I stopped wrestling I continued running and ended up running for my college during my senior year. After several years, 3 marathons and numerous shorter races, my doctor told me that I had to either stop running or start a series of operations to repair the damage that I was doing to my knees. That is when I started to concentrate on bicycling.

For my first 2-3 years of cycling I had to wear knee braces to support my knees. Without the impact of running to damage my knees, however, they were able to grow stronger and 15 years later I have almost no trouble with me knees, unless I try to run again! Because bicycling is a non-impact sport (generally) it is a great activity for those with bad knees. Many cyclists are ex-runners who had knee problems.

What brought you to coaching in Chicago from California?

RW: My wife, Kari, enrolled in graduate school (she is now a physician assistant) in the Chicago area. Although I loved living in California, I love Kari more, so here we are. We never thought we would stay in this area after she graduated but she got a job in the area and I have a job and a racing team that I love and we both have family nearby, so here we are.

My background is primarily in coaching collegiate racing teams (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and University of Redlands). When I arrived in Chicago I was approached by XXX Racing-AthletiCo to coach them. Going from a rural college team to an urban USA Cycling team has been a challenge but also a great experience. In just a couple of years we have gone from very little success to a team that brought home 5 medals from national championships and 37 medals from state championships including 18 gold medals in 2003.

Chicago is flat with lots of cement pavement and not too many hills. How do you train for road racing? Mountain biking?

RW: It is a challenge. I went from San Luis Obispo, California where I could be on singletrack in the mountains just a few minutes from my home or ride for hours on the road without seeing a traffic signal to an 8.5 million person metropolitan area. It was quite a shock to my system. Yet I'm very proud of how well my team does in all cycling disciplines. We are truly an urban team.

We do sprint practices in the parking lot of a sports stadium, practice time trials early in the morning on our Lakefront Trail, hold skills clinics in the parking lot of a high school and even do some urban mountain biking. There is one main road that almost every group ride out of Chicago takes for road training that heads through the northern suburbs. It is funny because in California the route we take here in Chicago would have been busier than any street we have in San Luis Obispo County, yet here in Chicago it is our best route. We adapt. We get used to riding for an hour or so through heavy city traffic to get to roads that are a bit less traveled.

We are fortunate to have a velodrome in a nearby northern suburb (Northbrook). We travel in our team van to race there every week during the summer. We won the Team of the Year competition in 2003 at the velodrome. There is one forest preserve just southwest of the city where we can mountain bike. Unfortunately, we often times have to drive to Wisconsin to get some really good mountain biking in.

Tell us about your team’s training program. How important is weight training? Chicago is pretty cold in the winter. What about indoor training?

RW: Although we do have fairly harsh winters here in Chicago, most of our team rides outside all year long. The team was founded by bicycle messengers who work all year long. Even though most of our members aren't messengers now, if you go to any team meeting, even in the winter, almost no one will drive to the meeting and most will have ridden their bicycle. Although we still ride during the winter it is hard to train much so we do spend up to 6 months in the weight room.

That is a long time, so we break it up some with weekend rides in the rain, snow or the occasional shine. Some people are not looking to ride outside more than they have to, so we do offer indoor training sessions. Just to share the suffering with teammates.

Personally, I'd rather dress warm and ride outside in just about any weather than to suffer on an indoor trainer. Once the temperatures rise to the 30's (F, 0 C) we head back outside in larger numbers. We also take a short annual winter trip to someplace warm. This year we are going to Tucson, Arizona. When the time changes (first of April) we start having structured sprint practices, fitness check time trials, skills clinics and practice races. By the time our racing season starts in May and June we are really prepared.

Where do you find young talent or does your talent find you?

RW: We do have some of our junior racers who have found us on their own. Because our junior's program is pretty strong, many times the riders have heard of us and want to join our team and learn how to race bicycles. We also support a program that has kids work on bicycles to earn credits towards buying a bicycle.

We offer scholarships where we loan kids a bicycle, uniform and helmet. We pay for their racing license, teach them how to race and then take them to races, primarily at the velodrome, pay their entry fees and support their racing efforts. It is amazing how much we have seen some of these kids change. Some have gone from smart-mouthed, street-talking tough guys to a level of maturity that is recognized at the track and throughout the region. We are definitely changing lives with our junior's program and we don't take that responsibility lightly.

Do you have any riders who are potential international pros?

RW: Most of our riders dream about racing as a professional even here in the United States. But to be an international pro - that is a pretty big ambition. We have a real mix of racers, from our juniors to our women's and elite programs to senior and masters racers. Our elite team is very small and most are content with being top regional riders. We do have one junior woman, who has been collecting medals at junior nationals the past two years, who has a lot of potential, but I would hate to put any kind of expectations on her potential.

Back when I was first starting to race bicycles and was attending a US National talent identification camp, I remember Walter Golbieski, one of the US National Team coaches at the time, telling us that it takes 5 years of serious training and racing to even know what your potential might be. I generally believe that, especially for my younger riders. I try to encourage my racers to dream big but to know that there is glory all along the path to wherever their career in cycling might take them.

So does Rebecca Much, my hot junior racer, have a future career as an international pro racer? Check back in a couple of years and we'll know what her potential might be. In the mean time we'll have fun as she continues to rise amongst the ranks of US cycling.


Rebecca Much. Courtesy XXXRacing-AthletiCo.

Tell us about your Women’s Development Program.

RW: XXX Racing-AthletiCo has always had a junior program but 2003 saw Vince Kamholtz-Roberts step up and lead the group to a banner year. Our women's team has always been steady but small; with the success of our juniors program in 2003 we thought that we could devote additional resources to help the woman's program grow in 2004. Many of our women are relatively new to cycling and this program helps them to feel more comfortable with bicycle racing and seeks to create a social bond amongst the women as well.

Our team also works with a lot of women from other teams to build women's racing in general in our area. We figure that racing is a lot more fun if the fields are bigger. If half of the racers in a women's or junior's race are XXX'ers then we aren't doing enough to promote cycling in general in the Chicago area. Many of our programs gain strength through one person deciding to put in extra effort to see that program succeed.

Eve Pytel has decided to lead the women's program for 2004 and has a good group of women together for this year. I'm always willing to work with all of our programs but it is people like Vince and Eve who are the real motivating forces behind their respective programs.

We read about your association with the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. Please tell us about the goals of this important advocacy group.

RW: The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation is focused on making communities better through bicycling. Traffic congestion is a very big problem in Chicagoland. When people are surrounded by steel and glass they also don't tend to be very nice to their fellow citizens. The more people that choose to get out of their cars and onto bicycles the better our communities will be.

 That is exactly what CBF is working towards; creating conditions through facilities, events, programs and education that encourages people to ride their bike more. There is a great natural connection between XXX Racing-AthletiCo and the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. XXX'ers tend to be utilitarian cyclists as well as racing cyclists.

It would be much more difficult to ride or train on our bicycles anywhere in Chicagoland if it weren't for the efforts of CBF. We volunteer at their events and they provide us with meeting room space, supplies for our annual Sherman Park Criterium and serve as our fiscal agent. The CBF website "biketraffic.org" has one the best spots on our uniform, right across our butts!

We read your announcement for a couples’ seminar for racers and their significant others. What problems do these couples face? What causes a relationship to fail and what can help a relationship succeed?

RW: Cycling can be a rather all-consuming passion for many people. When you try to combine cycling with a healthy relationship, problems can and do arise. I have a background in counseling and guidance and my wife and I thought that we could share some of our experiences and methods that help us to have a successful and happy relationship while I still devote a large amount of time to cycling.

Having a healthy relationship is hard work but you can mix the two loves of your life. The most important thing is making sure that your partner knows that they are your number one priority. That isn't always an easy thing to do. When you are committed to achieving success on the bike it takes a lot of time. Too often your partner is taken for granted. Communication is very important. If you know how and when to communicate effectively to your partner, you can avoid many potential conflicts. Respect is also of the utmost importance. If you respect your partner you won't treat them as if they are not important to you.

Cycling is great but I certainly don't ask anyone to make it their number one priority, especially if they have a partner. By communicating well, respecting your partner, combining riding and racing with family activities and truly letting your partner know that they are your number one priority you can blend these two loves.

Thanks to Randy and to Georg Reidarson at Syklingens Verden.

About XXX Racing--XXXRacing was founded in 1999 by professional couriers who wanted to extend their cycling experience to organized racing. Since then, the team has expanded to include all elements of the Chicagoland cycling community. Visit XXX Racing here.

 
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