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In late July, Boulder rider Eric Young won his second criterium national title at the 2013 USA Cycling Pro Criterium National Championships in High Point, N.C. The 24-year-old, originally from the Chicago suburb of Geneva, Ill., rides for team Optum Pro Cycling.
We asked him a few questions about his cycling origins at Indiana University, his two national crit titles and his plans to pursue a career in neuroscience.
You started cycling in college at Indiana University. What got you into the sport?
The event is called the Little 500. It's an intramural bike race. If you're a student at IU, you can participate in it. You race around a cinder 400-meter old running track and it's a huge deal on campus. You get 20,000 to 30,000 people watching it every year. I learned about that and decided I wanted to do that. I was looking for a new sport. The Cutters are an independent team, not affiliated with a fraternity or a dorm or anything like that and I met the guys and they seemed really cool, so I started riding with them. The team is featured in the movie "Breaking Away" which came out in 1979. They helped my development personally as a rider and they became my best friends through college. I loved every second of doing that event, so it was a perfect college experience. That translated into getting more and more into cycling.
When did you move to Boulder?
I graduated from IU in 2011 in May and then started racing right after that with the Bissell Pro Cycling team. I moved to Boulder in July or August of 2011.
Did you ever think when you started racing the Little 500 you'd become a professional?
No, not at all. It was just purely for fun and really I didn't think I would be (racing after college) until my senior year. I spent one year as an elite amateur and I won a few races. I was kind of a young up-and-comer guy, so then the Bissell team contacted me and contracted me for that next year. I thought it would just be a hobby and just have fun with it. It's a bit of a dream come true for sure.
You studied neuroscience in college. Any plans to pursue that during or after cycling?
I would love to do that after I'm done racing and, if possible, I'd love to figure out how to go back to school while I'm still racing. I think I've still got quite a few years in me for racing. But you do get a lot of time where you're just resting, recovering, trying not to do much on your feet. I think studying or working toward something different than the sport could be really good for all that downtime.
Were your parents or siblings athletic growing up?
I had two older brothers and we were all athletic growing up. They both did track and field and cross country, so I just followed in their footsteps. Once you kind of become an athlete, you're kind of an athlete for life. Then it just changed into a different spot. I picked the right one I think (laughing).
What was the key to winning the 2013 USA Cycling criterium nationals earlier this summer?
Most of the teams wanted it to come down to a sprint at the end. It was us (Optum) and United Healthcare, we were kind of the big teams at the end. We were both pretty confident in our sprinters, so they did a lot of work to bring back that breakaway, and we just waited for them to do that. I would say the key, though, is in the last lap. The whole team did an awesome job of keeping us right where we needed to be at the front -- but not right at the front -- until we needed to be. With a few corners to go, it was my teammates Alex Candelario and Ken Hanson. We just worked really well together this year.
You also won criterium nationals in 2011. Is crit nationals "your race?"
There's no race that's 'your race.' I would definitely not say that. But I've won two out of three that I've done, so that's a good little track record. But it's the national championships, so it's a big deal for sprinters in the United States. It's still not the biggest race in the world or anything. It's an awesome feeling. I love being able to call myself a national champion. But it's also a huge win for the team adding another national champion.
Contact Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or email@example.com.