best of list 2019

Chris Carmichael’s List of the “Best of 2019”


By Chris Carmichael,
Founder and Head Coach of CTS

In my view, reflecting on the accomplishments and challenges of the previous 12 months is one of the best things you can do as the year draws to a close. It’s not just a matter of scrolling through your own personal highlight reel; it is also a great opportunity to think about the people who played a role in your success and happiness, and about the things you might want to do in the year to come. Here’s some of what’s on my list for this year:

Best sense of accomplishment

I have been very fortunate and experienced a great deal of success in cycling over the past 40-plus years, but the irony of that success is that as the years go by it can be increasingly difficult to feel a genuine sense of accomplishment. A cynic would scoff at calling a finish at the Liege-Bastogne-Liege sportive an accomplishment after finishing the actual race as pro. But as I crossed the finish line in Liege in 2019, after riding 165 miles on a cold, rainy day and getting sick to my stomach right before the big climb of La Redoute, I felt the surge of pride and deep satisfaction that come with accomplishing something that really challenged you.

Best New Event: SBT GRVL

Gravel events are in the explosive growth phase, meaning new events popping up all over and some will be great and others will fade away. In its first year, SBT GRVL in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, hit it out of the park. The course was great, the services for riders were completely dialed, and the vibe was incredible. I’m already looking forward to the 2020 edition.

Greatest disappointment: Cancellation of 2020 Tour of California

The Amgen Tour of California had a really good run, but after 14 years it was a huge disappointment to see it go on hiatus for 2020. We all have to recognize the incredible work and dedication from Philip Anschutz, AEG, Amgen, Kristin Klein, Ryan Ung, and everyone who worked tirelessly to produce a great race year after year.

The ATOC made a tremendous impact on pro cycling. Think about some of today’s stars who had breakout performances at ATOC. It was Peter Sagan’s first major stage race victory, as it was for Julian Alaphilippe. And Colombian Egan Bernal won the ATOC in 2018 before going on to win the Tour de France in 2019. It also offered a great opportunity for US domestic pro teams to race with World Tour teams. Back in the 90’s, US pro teams took a backseat to the Euro teams in the first editions of the Tour du Trump/Tour du Pont. To be competitive they had to raise their competitive level, and they did. We saw the same thing with US pro teams like Rally, United Healthcare, and the US National Team.

Best Sign of Progress in Cycling – Women’s Pro and Grassroots Growth

There is still a lot of work to be done, but in 2019 we saw some good strides in the progress toward gender equity in cycling. The Colorado Classic dropped the men’s race and focused all their efforts on producing a world-class women’s pro cycling event. It was a giant hit, and proved – in case anyone still needed convincing – that women’s pro cycling appeals to sponsors and fans all by itself. On the grassroots side, both Rebecca’s Private Idaho and SBT GRVL made concerted and successful efforts to welcome women. As I’ve written about before, representation matters when it comes to growing female participation in all levels of cycling. Focused efforts like those executed by RPI and SBT work, in my view, because women are eager to participate but have been treated as an afterthought by sponsors and event promoters for years. No one ever said women couldn’t participate or needed to be invited; but there’s a difference between letting anyone enter and creating an environment that is actually welcoming to all.

Coaching Development – New and Returning Coaches

Welcoming new coaches to CTS is one of the best parts of my job, and in 2019 we had some great new additions. Following great successes as a coach and director for the Twenty20 Pro Cycling team, World Champion and Olympic silver medalist Mari Holden (who was a CTS Athlete coached by Dean Golich) joined CTS as a cycling coach. Craig Griffin, one of the original CTS Coaches and longtime coach to Olympic and Paralympic teams, also returned to the fold in 2019. John Croom, a 3-time National Champion on the track and member of the gold medal winning team pursuit squad at the 2019 Pan American Games, started coaching from our Colorado Springs office. The Ultrarunning coaching staff grew as well, including Stephanie Howe and Sarah Scozzaro. Howe is a Western States champion and earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition & Exercise Physiology from Oregon State University. Scozzaro earned her M.S. in Exercise Science with a concentration in Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention.

And stay tuned for two new high-level cycling coaches who are coming on board soon.

Recent Athlete Accomplishments

This is always a hard section of any year-end list for me. So many CTS Athletes win events and accomplish big personal goals that there’s no way I can mention all of them. A few I want to recognize here include:

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  • Gage Hecht: Despite being eligible for the U23 race, Gage stepped up to win the Elite race at the 2019 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships. For a time, two CTS Athletes were out front and pulling away from the competition. I was pulling for a 1-2 finish between Hecht and Kerry Werner, but an unfortunate crash put Werner one spot shy of the podium. Maybe next year!
  • Katie Clouse: Coached by Jim Lehman, collegiate racer Katie Clouse won the Collegiate Short Track MTB National Championship, the Collegiate Cyclocross National Championship, and the U23 Cyclocross National Championship.
  • Rebecca Rusch: The “Queen of Pain” has had a tremendous cycling career, but her impact off the bike and her ability to inspire young athletes mean more than the championships she has won. In 2019, The Queen was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame, and I think the only question any of us had about this foregone conclusion was, “What took so long?”
  • Jane Rynbrandt: There’s no rule that anyone has to be a great athlete in order to be a great coach, but it is always nice to see coaches walk the walk as well as they talk the talk. With her young son in attendance, Jane Rynbrandt capped her return to the top of the podium with a win in the Masters 35-39 XC MTB National Championship. On the same day, fellow CTS Athlete Megan Carrington won the 40-44 XC MTB National Championship.

Looking Forward to 2020

While the end of the year is a good time for reflection, it’s also the time to look forward to the possibilities that lay ahead in the New Year. Here are a few things I’m looking forward to in 2020:

CTS 20th Anniversary

CTS will be celebrating our 20th Anniversary all year in 2020! Way back in 2000, I started this business with the vision of making world-class coaching available to athletes of all ability. Twenty years later we are still going strong, and the best is yet to come. Stay tuned for a special 20th Anniversary cycling kit, great content from some of the people who helped make the company what it is today, and much more.

Trainright Podcast

The soon-to-be launched weekly Trainright Podcast is one of the key ways we’re starting our next twenty years. Coach Adam Pulford will focus on cycling every other week, with trail running episodes hosted by Coach Hillary Allen on the alternating weeks. The first episode will launch in January.

2020 CTS Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo

Save the date! The CTS Figueroa Mountain Gran Fondo will be in Solvang, CA on November 14, 2020. Having the start/finish in downtown Solvang helped make the 2019 edition the best one yet, and we are busy making plans for 2020 festivities.

Golden State Epic

For 10 years, a team of CTS Athletes rode all the stages of the Amgen Tour of California a few hours ahead of the peloton. The race may be taking a hiatus in 2020, but we are not! From May 10-17, the Golden State Epic will feature 6 long rides of 75-100 miles, starting in Santa Rosa and pedaling through wine country before tackling the mountains near Lake Tahoe and Nevada City. This big cycling trip in May has been the perfect way to prepare for a strong summer on the bike!

My 60th Birthday

In October 2020 I’ll reach the Big 6-0, and I can’t wait! In 2019 I rode recorded 315 activities on Strava, rode 7538 miles over 563 hours, and climbed more than 600,000 vertical feet. Right now I’m feeling really good and strong for a 59-year-old cyclist, and I have big plans for my sixth decade. Like many of you, I am not looking to recapture my youth, but rather to live a great life now and for the future. Training, nutrition, and recovery will be part of that journey, and I look forward to continuing to share my experiences as well as what the research says about staying fit and active well into our 60s, 70s, and beyond. One thing I have planned for 2020 is a bikepacking trip with Coach Josh Whitmore in preparation for the Tour Divide in 2021.

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Comments 4

  1. I third the nomination for Dave Sheek! His positive influence on the cyclocross and gravel communities, including youth development, should be celebrated!!!

  2. Thanks Chris.

    I see many people (including myself, at times) who struggle to find fulfillment in the present b/c they can’t escape comparing a/g their past self. Thanks for touching on the issue, and in doing so, leading the way.

    P.S. And thanks to Coach Chantelle Robitaille for helping me reach a “Best of 2019.”

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