Working man Tristan Schouten (cyclocrossracing.com/Blue/Rolf) has been finishing top 15, top 10 at cross races in the past but this year, he’s taken a huge step forwards, he’s battling with and besting pros. At the Planet Bike Cup, the opening weekend of the Greenware US Gran Prix of Cyclocross, Schouten made the lead group both days, laying on attacks to the likes of French National Champion Francis Mourey (FDJ), Christian Heule (Champion Systems) and Ryan Trebon (Kona).
A few weeks later, the 28-year old broke through to solo to third on the second day of Cincinnati’s UCI3 International Cyclocross Festival. That was after he barely slept for a couple of days to take care of business you see Schouten has a ‘real’ job and a baby girl, Ellie.
How does he do it? He’s quick to credit his wife Jamie for all the support and then well it’s dedication and time management.
I caught with the quiet rider from Wisconsin after his third-place finish at Java Johnnys/Lionhearts in Ohio. The interview includes a cameo appearance from his friend, and race rival Brian Matter (GearGrinder).
You were battling in the top 10 last year but this year you’ve seemed to kick up a notch. Yes?
A lot of changes last year. I got married two years ago, then we had a baby girl last April, I started a new job last January and it was just a lot of things going on (chuckles). I didn’t get to race much last year but I had a pretty solid, I think it was a good build year, base year. And then this year, I’ve really been able to race quite a bit more. I’m used to my new schedule, I’m used to have to having a good team. I think a lot of more focus at the races.
What do you do?
I’m a maintenance tech at a cheese factory.
At a cheese factory? (insert cheesehead joke).
Yep, at a cheese factory. There are actually five cheese factories where I live and I’m in one of them.
I guess you are a cheesehead.
Mmm Definitely, I know how to fix a machine, I know how to break a machine.
Baby girl, a real job and then you train around all that to compete. How do you do that?
(chuckles) I don’t know. I wouldn’t be able to do it if … my wife doesn’t work so she stays home, she makes lunches so when I get back from my ride I have a lunch, she makes my supper so when I go to work I have food, she does my laundry because I can’t do laundry when I’m at work, so she basically does everything that I can’t do. I don’t know if I could work and race if it wasn’t for her doing all the stuff, that’s a big part.
Do you work at night?
I work second shift which I really like for racing because I can get up, get on my bike, do my training, it leaves me two hours from 12:30 to 2:30 to get the stuff done around the house.
That’s a lot of time balancing going on here. And then you have to travel for racing.
A lot of midwest races, I don’t know…
Brian Matter: sleep 4 hours a night.
Didn’t you get up at 3am or something to come here?
That’s why I didn’t race yesterday because I was out in Gloucester. I got up a 4 in the morning, flew home, got home at noon and had to go to work at 3 and I was up until midnight. So, I just can’t do it, I don’t want to ruin myself either, I have to pace myself. It’s a lot of just do it and try not to think about it. (laughs)
Tell me about training since you are so time-limited. How focused are you on your training?
It’s pretty much strictly, every day is an interval workout or specific, I pretty much never go out or do nothing.
Not toodling at the bike then.
No, not at all. It’s pretty much focus only to race, it’s not fun riding, it’s not do group rides. It’s specific, Tuesday this, Wednesday this, Thursday this and race Saturday, Sunday. My coach has been, for three years, we’ve been building on that and it’s geared towards cross racing so a lot of short intense workouts, two hours a day.
Do you race road or mountain bike during the year?
We’ve got the WORS, the Wisconsin Off Road Series – it’s the largest mountain bike series in the nation – I do quite a bit of those and I did a lot of crit racing this year in the mid west. I think it helped.
Brian Matter: You should make a dedication to your training partner too.
Who’s that? (laughs). We ride maybe once a month together, when we don’t have any specific to do.
Oh so the toodling on the bike is with Brian.
Yeah (laughs) he’s got one toodle day and I’ve got one toodle day a month. We live twenty minutes apart, we ride to meet in the middle. When you’re doing specific stuff you can’t ride with people, it’s about racing.
Are you enjoying it?
Oh yeah. It’s all about racing for me.
How far do you want to take it?
I don’t know how much farther I can take it. I’m happy that I’m competitive with these guys, but I have to race them at the front. I had a few times at Madison where I was attacking Mourey and Page, but um I don’t know, there are not too many guys that are being paid to do it. Would I like it? Would I like the opportunity to race full-time? Yeah, but I have also to support my family now. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, well, just keep doing what you’re doing.
What’s your goal for the year?
Well, starting the year I wanted to race at the front and be competitive, so now well I need to make a goal. Today was kind of a goal, I was on the podium, you look at Powers and Trebon and I was on the podium with them.
Yep, and behind you were Wicks and Jones, two pros.
I guess that’s one of those small steps. Now, alright it’s racing for well, let’s get to the front.
Are we going to see that in Louisville?
I hope so.
How are the other riders treating you out there?
I don’t have any problems with anyone, I think. They’re used to seeing me up there. I don’t think anybody ever says anything during the race, I think it’s just Page and Powers that get into talking (laughs). Its funny. I’ve raced mountain bike against Kabush and stuff, you see the same guys every weekend, we all go to the restaurant and sit there and eat with each other and then get on the bike and we race.
How long have you been racing cross?
I think I have pictures since 2004, 03 a long time; on the national level, five or six years. I think I did this race in 2006. I did Gloucester in 05.
What are your strengths and weaknesses in cross?
I always look forwards to slippery races because I have pretty good handling skills. Today was almost like that because the ground was so loose that my bike was just sliding around, you have to be comfortable with that. And today, a lot of the efforts were short, 5-second, 10-second efforts which is really what I work on with my coach, we do a lot of real short high-intensity efforts. I think it’s a lot better for cross racing than doing twenty minutes LT stuff.
What about sloppy conditions?
I’ve had really good results at Nationals when it’s sloppy and wet. I don’t really like deep mud, it’s not for me. I prefer snow. In Rhode Island, what is in Rhode Island when it was wet? I had a great ride there and then, the one year in Kentucky when it was icy and snowy, I was like 8th there again too. I think I could improve on that now.
Yeah a new focus this year so….
It’s hard, I don’t want to focus on just Nationals because then you go and have a bad race or you crash or you flat.
So for you it’s the whole season.
I guess so. I just want to stay consistent at the front.
How much do you analyze a race afterwards. Do you go back and analyze?
Not really (chuckles). Try to move on and try to think about the next day. Today I was in a kind of bad position to make that leap across to those two when it went so it’s always a positioning thing, I’m always thinking about position and try to improve that. On the second day in Madison when I got fifth, I rode in good position the whole race. Mentally I was in a good position the whole time and I stayed there.
How important is the mental for you then?
I think when it comes down to it you have to be in those top guys in the group, otherwise you’re going to get gapped off when someone crashes. So mentally, even though you’re hurting, you have to move around someone, you have to be in the front of the group, you can’t let yourself be taken out of the race by someone else and that’s hard to do when you’re completely at your max to stay strong enough in your head to move around someone. It’s like crit racing almost, you have to stay at the front.
Currently sitting in fifth overall in the USGP, Schouten will be racing at Derby City Cup this weekend.