Tyler Wren (Jamis/Sutter Home) was looking forwards to stage 9 at the UCI 2.2 Vuelta Chile this past Saturday.
“Most important to me this week was the queen stage to Farrellones which I saw as a chance at redemption after finishing second there last year and later inheriting the victory after the winner’s positive.” Wren told podiuminsight earlier today.
In 2011, Wren attacked the break with 30 kilometers to go in the 141.6-km stage with only one rider catching and passing him before the finish line. That rider, Marco Arriagada who won the overall, later tested positive for stanozolol metabolites.
“I made the break again that day as planned but the element of surprise was gone and they kept us on a much shorter leash this year. I did get on the podium for the most aggressive rider jersey which was a nice consolation. The race down here is incredible, some of the most breathtaking country and a wonderfully organized event – they even have their own theme song and accompanying dance.”
Wren called his first race of 2012 a big success. “Earliest I’ve ever started my road season, but I had enough fitness from training and a few cyclocross races to be relatively competitive and to build some valuable form ahead of the season.”
Successful 2011. The ride in Chile back in January 2011 was a sign of things to come for the upcoming road season, the most successful so far for the 30-year old climber.
“I think the first highlight was getting second down in Chile and then later inheriting the win. That was really a great way for me to set the tone and have some confidence in myself for this year. The stage was sort of the perfect stage for me, going into the breakaway with my teammate Nick and he helped me and then staying away on the climb except for the leader who later tested positive. That was my first international UCI win.”
“It was disappointing.” Wren replied when asked how he felt about finding out afterwards that he had won the stage because of doping as opposed to being able to stand on the podium that day.
“I kind of knew in my heart that day that it was mine, I never wanted to say that before the news was out, so I felt really proud of the result anyway even if it was second place. It was just a culmination of all the sacrifices that I had done that winter, the teamwork that day with Nick (Frey) helping me, all those feelings they didn’t really change by the news but obviously a win is a lot more satisfying than second place. The podium celebration I’m not going to remember that, I’m going to remember the effort of the day so I’m okay with it. I think it’s something that we deal with in the sport sometimes, and there’s been other times when I’ve dealt with that too, I can only control myself. My happiness and my satisfaction comes with my own decisions, not my competitors.”
More highlights included his third place overall at the San Dimas Stage Race, a top 10 at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, wearing the KOM jersey and a second place at stage 1 of the SRAM Tour of the Gila.
And working for the team. “I think I played an integral role at getting Luis on the podium at Nature Valley, attacking the last day on Stillwater, that was a highlight for me because that was an important result for him and the team. And Rio was another highlight, things that stand out for me.”
“Well California was also a little bit of a disappointment, I didn’t quite have it on the Mt Baldy stage, I was hoping to do well there but it came unglued that day. You can’t be good every single day, I won’t let it keep me down, there’s always more stages to get motivated for, if you fail one time well I know that I’m going to have success somewhere else.”
Wren saw his 2011 success as a logical progression. “I had a few results last year where I was close to the form that I have this year, I was pretty consistently right around the top 10 last year. “ Wren told podiuminsight during the last road season.
Under the guidance of new coach, Wren added more cross-training such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and “a lot more core conditioning work “ prior to the season. Another big factor was his move to Utah in 2009 which afforded him training at altitude and a stable homelife.
And the support of his team was also a big factor. Stability and loyalty are obviously important to Wren who has spent the last nine years with the same team, Colavita/Bolla, Colavita/Sutter Home and now Jamis/Sutter Home.
“They’ve invested in me a lot, and I feel that I have a really loyal program. (DS) Sebastian (Alexandre) trusts me a lot and he puts a lot of faith in me and gives me a lot of responsibility in the races and I think I respond well to that sort of pressure but it’s a great environment.” Wren said of his team. “If I fail, he’s not going to be really angry with me, it’s a real positive environment for me so I think everything is finally starting to fall into place. I think just the maturity and the more success I have, the more focused I feel like in my training, the more success I want to have in the future. It’s a positive feedback cycle for me.”
The relationship started in 2003 when a then 22-year old Wren was still in college. It almost ended in 2007 after a bad year but DS Sebastian Alexandre who had just joined the team changed his mind.
“I had taken the law school test and the business school test and I had even applied to some business school and gotten into some places. I was ready to go and Sebastian told me that he wanted to give me one more chance and I kind of figured that school would always be there, the next step would always be there and this was still my one chance. I didn’t feel like that I was completely finished with the sport. I think seeing the other options and kind of maturing a little bit, being 26 or 27 at that time, I realized that I really wanted to completely focus on this and get rid of all the other distractions and have this as my main focus and see how far it can take me. And I still feel that way for the next three or four years I want to have this as my main focus and try to do my best.”
Wren added about Alexandre, “I really feel very loyal to him. I think he believed in me before I fully believed in me, he believed in my potential, so that’s part of what I mean by being a good environment for me.”
Though they had many successes in the past, Wren agrees that he and his team are sometimes overlooked when listing favorites but media attention is not a personal driving force. “If I don’t read my name in the press it doesn’t really impact my confidence in the race. If I’m tired getting into a week, I have the same personal ambitions whether or not I was recognized as being a favorite. But of course, it’s great for our sponsors and I’m sure it has an effect on my psyche but I’d like to believe that it’s more of a sporting motivation for me.”
“It’s all about sacrificing and remembering why you’re sacrificing.” he added. “I love this sport because it’s a physical challenge but it’s also a tactical challenge. It’s all about overcoming the forces of nature, riding your bike faster than the next guy and conserving energy, it’s a real chess game. It never gets old for me. Every race is different, every race has a different parcours, a different route and whether it’s suited for me with a climb, or not I look for advantages for myself.”
“Like the stage down in Rio de Janeiro when I got on the podium.” he explained about his third-place at stage 4 of the UCI 2.2 Tour de Rio. “It was 90km completely flat to the finish but I knew that there were lots of curves in the last kilometer, I saw it in the race bible. I knew that coming from the crit scene that I could corner better than some of those guys so I took some risks and jumped into a corner with 200 meters to go and I was able to outsprint some guys even though I’m a terrible sprinter. So for me it’s really fun to think about how to do well in any kind of race and to have the team support to, to have my teammates do well.”
Aiming for bigger and better in 2012. Wren’s goals and race schedule are more ambitious this year.
“For me personally, I want to find ways to improve as a rider every year and my drive to do so is not diminishing.” he explained. “At Jamis/Sutter Home we are a family, and my director Sebastian Alexandre lets me choose my schedule which this year will be more international.”
His pecific events in the USA include the Tour of the Gila, Amgen Tour of California, US Professional Road Championships, Cascade Cycling Classic and Tour of Utah or USA Pro Cycling Challenge, pending invitations.
“It is a difficult decision to skip some events like Redlands, Joe Martin which I enjoy and where I have had success in the past. But to really be at my best for the races I would like to win, I am going to attend bigger 7-10 day events rather than the 3-4 day events we have stateside.”
“And attend challenging, long events like Chile to help my preparation.” he added. “My hope is that a more concise race schedule with longer international stage races will bring my competitiveness to another level and I plan to be racing for the podium at all those targeted events back home.”
“The UCI races Jamis/Sutter Home has on the calendar, in Chile, Mexico, Spain, Romania, Brazil, are also great opportunities for personal and team success themselves. I will still do my best to make the podium at every event I attend and help my teammates do the same. Every year I feel myself getting a little bit stronger, a little bit smarter, a little more driven and that trend will continue this year.”
At the end of one of our conversations, I asked Wren what made him happy off and on the bike.
“I think being with people I like and respect.” he replied. “It makes me happy to have teammates that I can share victories with and soften the defeats and have a good supportive staff, Stephanie our soigneur, Hugo our mechanic, just having people around that I really love and respect, I think that’s the same on and off the bike. Like I said, that’s a big part of my success having more stability in my life that way.”