Team Athletic Mentors

Competing in a Race is Not All About Winning

May 14th, 2024 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  JoAnn Cranson

Running for a specific team or club is a great opportunity and honor, but along with that comes an expectation.  Being on Team Athletic Mentors is a prestigious position to be in.  Naturally we (as a team) want to do our best and win races, whether running, cycling, triathlons, skiing, etc., but that’s not what it’s all about.

As a master athlete, I’m not going to finish in the top overall positions in events I compete in.  But there is so much more myself and others  can bring to a race.  My goal is to inspire others to find what they enjoy doing and to motivate them to pursue a healthy lifestyle and positive attitude.  This world has a lot of challenges and negative issues.  But as we are running, cycling, swimming, etc., it’s amazing what an encouraging word will do for others.

I worked hard at my running and qualified for the Boston Marathon this year.  I ran it just 4 weeks ago.  It was very inspiring, very challenging and the enthusiasm from the spectators was amazing.  It wasn’t about my finishing time, it was about taking in my surroundings and soaking in the achievement of making it to this Grand-Daddy of races in the United States.  The spectators lined the whole 26.2 mile route!!  The kids wanted to give us “high-fives”, others were handing out candy and orange slices in front of their houses, some were spraying water hoses to cool us off, many signs were held up, clapping, bells ringing and shouts of encouragement.

The last weekend in April my grandchildren’s school had a yearly fund raiser with a 5K run.  This is the second year – we ran it as a family.  Three generations with my son, my daughter-in-law and 2 grand-daughters.  My grand-daughters wanted to run with grandma.  Pretty cool to inspire the younger generation to be healthy, challenged and positive.

On May 5th, I ran a 10K (6.2 miles) in Kalamazoo.  As I was at about 2 miles, this young man was running beside me.  I told him he was doing really good and asked his age.  He said this was his first 10K and he was 13.  I told him we had a 50 year gap between us and he was surprised.  We ended up staying close by each other most of the way.  I tried to keep him updated on our pace, the mileage, encouraging on how great he was doing and that we were getting close to the finish line.  How fun it was to just encourage this young man and watch him achieve his goal.

JoAnn Cranson & William Bates

When we finished I asked him if he would be willing to take a picture with me.  As I put my hands on his shoulder and he put his hand on mine, I was thinking how great it is being complete strangers yet we could feel such camaraderie in 4+ miles of running together.  A big thanks to Zeigler for sponsoring this race and giving all of us, but especially new runners, the chance to compete.

So next time you are out and about don’t miss an opportunity to take a moment in the busyness of life to encourage someone.  You never know what an impact it will make in their life!

 


Meet New TAMJD Rider Nick Thielen

March 17th, 2024 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Nick Thielen

Hi, my name is Nick Thielen. I’m 14 years old and in the 8th grade at Warner Middle School in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Outside of cycling I play basketball and run track. I started practicing with Huron Valley United Racing in 2021 and realized I was a pretty good cyclist so I decided to stick with it. This past season I won the MISCA Advanced Middle School state championship winning 4 out of 6 races. After the MISCA season, I raced Iceman for the third time. Iceman is definitely my favorite race. The atmosphere is great and the course is always challenging but super fun.

 

 

This upcoming season will be my first year on Team Athletic Mentors Junior Development. I joined the team because I thought it was a great opportunity to improve as a cyclist and also connect with people that had similar goals to me. I’m excited to get more into road racing this year which is something I haven’t done much of in the past. I think expanding into disciplines beyond mountain biking will be great for progressing in my cycling career.

I’ll be participating in the Tour of America’s Dairyland crit series out in Wisconsin as well as other road races which I think will be great opportunities to improve as a rider. I’m going to be doing some racing outside the state of Michigan which is very exciting. I know it’s gonna be a lot harder this year racing against high schoolers instead of middle schoolers, but it’s a challenge that I’m looking forward to. I’m hoping to do a lot of races this season that I haven’t done in the past and overall get a lot stronger.

I find riding a bike a great way to have fun while meeting some great people you wouldn’t have met if you weren’t riding. There is nothing better than the feeling of accomplishment after a good race knowing that all your hard work paid off. If a race doesn’t go your way you can always just look forward to the next one. I really like training for races. There’s something about knowing that someday it’s all gonna pay off just motivates me to train as hard as I can.

I also love riding on dirt roads or in the woods where there is nobody around and you’re all by yourself. It’s really peaceful and helps me clear my mind. One of my favorite trails around where I live is Lakeshore Park. It’s super tight and twisty with some fun features. I ride it all the time which gave me a big advantage at the MISCA race which was very important for me to win so that I could win the series. You can gain a lot of time on it knowing the trail really well.

I love the sport of cycling and its community. I’ve made so many new friends and learned so much from it. I’m super excited for the opportunity I have with Team Athletic Mentors Junior Development this upcoming season to grow as a cyclist.


Catching Up with New JD Rider – Donald Smith

February 23rd, 2024 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Donald Smith

Hello, my name is Donald Smith from Brighton, MI. I am 13 years old and am in 8th grade. I am currently homeschooled and go to a co-op for electives and other classes. I like homeschooling because it allows me the freedom to ride outside whenever I want. I live right across from Island Lake State Park, so I can ride there from my house. The addiction of cycling hit me when I was 5 years old and my dad had to constantly take me mountain biking, riding a short loop on blue over and over again. My dad has been riding forever and it is something we like to do together…and honestly, I did not enjoy playing other sports as much as I did cycling.

For the past three years I have been racing for the Wheels in Motion MiSCA team and took 2nd place this year in the Advance Middle School category.  This will be my first year on TAMJD. As I was researching junior development teams last year, I thought TAMJD would be the best fit for me. This is because through MiSCA, I found that I knew many junior racers on TAMJD. The team is also local which means I can ride and train with them more often. Having a team to travel to races with locally and outside of Michigan appeals to me as well.  I look forward to being on an organized team to help me continue to develop as a person both on and off the bike.

My favorite place to ride is in North Carolina when I go to visit my grandparents. The views are absolutely gorgeous at the top of a mountain. My favorite race is the Lumberjack 100. The people there are so nice and supportive.  What I like best about racing is suffering with friends!  The main new thing I look forward to this year is doing more national level races.

Since so many people have helped me to become the cyclist I am today, I try to give back to my community. This year I worked with the Poto chapter on several weekends to complete trail maintenance. For the last three years, I have volunteered as a coach for the Lexus Velodrome’s summer camps. I was able to help kids learn how to ride bikes. When the velodrome deflated in 2021, I worked for many hours breaking and shoveling ice off the dome so it could be reinflated. The inside of the dome was a mess, and I spent a day helping to repaint the track.

Track cycling gave me the opportunity to go to Track Nationals in 2021 and 2022. I took 5th overall in 2021 and 3rd overall in 2022.  My mountain bike and cyclocross skills came in handy when there was a crash in front of me at the 2022 Track Nationals. I was able to bunny hop over a rider that was taken out in the crash. Track and road cycling have helped me to learn to ride safely in a group. I have not competed in many gravel races, but it is how I like to train when I cannot ride on trails. I do plan on racing in more gravel races this coming year. Cyclocross is probably my 2nd favorite discipline. I really enjoy all the features the courses include. Going over flyovers, barriers, and stairs makes the race interesting. Cyclocross is definitely not a boring sport.

Some of my race goals for 2024 are to complete the Lumberjack 100 in 8 hours and compete at the Varsity level for MiSCA. I like the longer distance for Varsity and will try to get at least one top 10. Another goal I have is to do more national level races like Englewood. I will also be training to place in the top 3 for the 9-14 Iceman this year.

The main thing I have learned about myself is that I like mountain biking best out of the other disciplines I have competed in (road, track, gravel, cyclocross). Riding in the woods is my favorite. I hope to compete in Mountain Bike Nationals this coming year. Participating in all the different cycling disciplines has helped me become a better overall cyclist.


New to Triathlon? Learn from 3 Athletic Mentors Team members!

February 1st, 2024 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Natalie Rowe

A few weeks ago, Athletic Mentors hosted their Swim Stroke Video Analysis. There were 12 of us that participated, many of us fairly experienced swimmers…but after watching the videos, we all had technique issues, mostly hand entry and catch issues. Just to give you an idea, I grabbed an image from one of my videos to show you what we saw under the water.

When we met and reviewed our videos as a group, we started talking about the upcoming racing season, training and triathlon in general. It got me thinking…we were all beginners at some point and pretty clueless about all things triathlon. I thought it would be fun if a few experienced triathletes answered some of the top Googled questions about triathlon. I went to Google, looked over the questions and selected 5 questions that I thought would be helpful, and truthfully I’ve also been asked during training!

For those totally new to triathlon or multi-sport, I want to give you a foundation to start with. Typically, it’s three sports; swim, bike, and run performed consecutively in that order. There are other events in the family too; like duathlon, aquathon and aquabike (and other variations which we won’t get into). Now that we’ve clarified what a triathlon is, there are different triathlon distances, but the shortest standardized distance is a sprint triathlon and the longest is the iron distance. There are shorter and longer distances, but they’re not standardized. Here is a chart of what the distances look like:

Name of Event Swim Distance Bike Distance Run Distance
Sprint 750m* 20K / 12.4 miles 5K / 3.1 miles
Olympic 1500m* 40K / 24.8 miles 10K / 6.2 miles
Half Iron / 70.3 1.2 miles 56 miles 13.1 miles
Iron / 140.6 2.4 miles 112 miles 26.2 miles

Jay

Jay –  What makes it “standardized’?  If USAT (USA Triathlon) hosts a National Championship at that distance, does that make it “standard”?  For example, USAT hosts a National Championship at the Super Sprint distance each year at the Multisport Festival.  There is also a Super Sprint World Championship race.

Natalie – after Jay asked this question, I went back and did more research! Low and behold, there are different standards for different organizations. Since we’re US based, it seems appropriate to use what USAT deems standard. As it turns out USAT does include Super Sprint in their standard distances, they also include the World Triathlon Long Course. Here’s the fully updated chart:

Name of Event Swim Distance Bike Distance Run Distance Total Distance
Super Sprint 400m 10K / 6.2 miles 2.5K 12.9K
Sprint 750m 20K/ 12.4 miles 5K / 3.1 miles 25.75K
Olympic 1500m 40K / 24.8 miles 10K / 6.2 miles 51.5K
World Triathlon Long Course 2,000m 80K / 49.6 miles 20K / 12.4 miles 102K
Half Iron / 70.3 1.2 miles 56 miles 13.1 miles 70.3 miles
Full Iron / 140.6 2.4 miles 112 miles 26.6 miles 140.6 miles

Before we get to the questions, I asked everyone to share how long they’ve been participating in triathlon and if there is anything else about each of us that will give you insight into who we are or our background. 

Natalie: I’m the rookie of the group. I played water polo in high school and college. After many years of not being active, I started running mostly to lose weight and get in shape – it worked, but I became incredibly bored with just running, so I started migrating over to multisport and have been at it for about 5 years.

Dawn

Dawn: Swimmer for the fun of it before I could walk. Always a learner, I study triathlon and techniques to be the best athlete I can be. That education and desire to share it with others led me to become a USAT Certified Triathlon Coach.

Jay: My first triathlon was as a team member (running leg) in the 1993 Gull Lake Triathlon. I started running in college… mostly to deal with stress. My first race ever was a marathon in 1978. I drifted to triathlon because I needed a new challenge.

Kathy: As strictly a runner, I discovered Triathlon after suffering some sport related injury due to the constant pounding of running.  I loved the variety the training provided and the adventure of the races.  I decided to “Tri” my first triathlon in 2007 and started sharing my passion for the sport as a USAT Certified Triathlon Coach in 2020.

1)      Do you do all 3 disciplines every day?

Natalie: No one has time for that! When I train; most of my training days I’m doing 2 workouts, occasionally back to back but the only time I’m doing all 3 disciplines is if I’m doing a mock race or actually racing.

Dawn: No. Most individuals do not have time for that and then you wouldn’t be able to focus and improve on your weakness. I do have my athletes practice bricks, two workouts done consecutively with the purpose of improving race pacing. The most typical brick is a bike followed by a run. I also have them practice very short triathlons during race season to practice their transitions, that is, changing from one sport to the next.

Jay: I generally shoot for 10 workouts per week. My magic formula was always 4-3-2-1   ..meaning 4 bikes, 3 runs, 2 swims, 1 strength. I won’t disclose my current formula 😉

Kathy

Kathy: I tackle the disciplines in 2’s (as a minimum): 2 bikes, 2 runs, 2 swims, 2 strengths.  While this does mean doing more than 1 workout in a day, it is usually broken up into 1 before work and 1 during lunch or after work.  With working full-time and having a family, that schedule may not always be achievable.  If I have to pick and choose workouts during the off season, I focus on strength training and the weakest of my 3 disciplines.

2)      So, you swim, bike and run all in the same day…do you get any breaks?

Natalie: There is a transition between each discipline, depending on the distance it could be as quick as putting on shoes (or switching shoes) or as long as doing an almost complete wardrobe change – which for an Iron distance, I did actually change everything I was wearing except for my sports bra. Even with a full wardrobe change, that was only about 7 minutes. 

Dawn: I wouldn’t call transition a break. As you are just starting out in triathlon use the transition time to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the next sport. Speed will come in time.

Jay: Triathlon is an endurance sport.  There is no sense in sprinting or in taking-a-break. Pace pace pace.

Kathy: There are no “breaks” during a triathlon and only a “transition” from one discipline to the next.  This transition is included in your total race time, so it is often called the 4th discipline in triathlon.  As you become more experienced in triathlon and want to look at improving your race times, improving your transition is the easiest way to save valuable minutes.  We also refer to it as “free speed”.  Practice, practice, practice.

3)      Do you run in bike shorts (the ones with all of the padding)?

Natalie

Natalie: I have done it, but for me personally, I don’t recommend it. On race day, I typically wear a tri short that has a chamois, but is much smaller than a traditional bike short. It does take time to get comfortable with something smaller. The one additional thing I would say about apparel, I didn’t really know what to buy when I first started, I bought inexpensive shorts and gear, but I quickly learned that you get what you pay for. The more expensive gear is typically a higher quality and has been significantly more comfortable. 

Dawn: I’m one of the few people who doesn’t mind cycling shorts while running. Mostly because the run off the bike in a training session will be rather short. I wear a Triathlon Kit with thinner padding for races.

Jay: I come from the generation that wore Speedos on the bike. Wear what you feel comfortable in.  You will find that as you spend more time in the aero position on the bike, that you need less padding. To answer your question…never.

Kathy: I would compare running in bike shorts to running in a soggy diaper.  For a brick workout (bike followed by a run), if I wear cycling shorts on the bike, I will change into run shorts as I transition to the run.  During race day, changing isn’t an option, so I use triathlon shorts that have a much smaller chamois that dries quickly.

4)      How do you go to the bathroom?

Natalie: Personally, if I have to go – I’m going to stop and use a port-o-john. I’m never going to be so fast that I can’t stop to go to the bathroom. And if I have to go that bad, if I tried to push to finish, I would be miserable…not worth it!

Dawn: I agree with Natalie here. 

Jay: I’m not much help. My longest distances are marathons and half-ironman. In the hundreds of race I have done, I have never used the bathroom during the actual race….its a gift.  I must admit that lined up in my wetsuit prior to the start, I have watered the grass.

Kathy: I have learned over the years to use the bathroom whenever and wherever possible.  That may be the port-a-john, the lake, or even (full disclosure) sitting on the ground in transition.

5)      What advice would you give someone who is curious about trying a triathlon? (Ha, see what I did there.)

Natalie: Hire a coach. When I first started, I just followed a generic plan, which got me from start to finish, however I didn’t have anyone to lean on for questions or anything for that matter. For the Unique 10 stage adventure triathlon (in Michigan) I used a remote coach but realized pretty quickly how much I preferred having a local coach to help guide me. There are options for all budget levels, but this was a game changer for me. 

Dawn: Practice. Whether you read a book about triathlon, have a friend who can share their knowledge with you or hire a Coach, seek out knowledge to plan how you will get ready for your first triathlon. Before your race, lay out everything you will need for the race from start to finish. Then mentally and physically go through the steps, this includes getting wet and practicing how you will remove your cap, goggles etc before putting on your helmet and shoes to get on your bike. Remember, your first race should be enjoyable. If you are worried about being fast that will come later.

Jay: Don’t overthink it.  A lot of technology has made triathlon more complex than when we just put on our swimsuits and dragged out the Schwinn.  But there is nothing wrong with old-style. Don’t get intimidated by the gear of others. 

Kathy: Volunteer at a triathlon.  Volunteering gives you an inside view of the in’s and out’s of a triathlon.  It will help you to gain valuable experience while also helping to support the event.

This ended up being a really fun way for me to learn about the sport, find some really unique multi-sport events and how other athletes think about triathlon. Here are a couple of things I thought could be helpful, plus an event that might be added to my bucket list!

Learn more about USA Triathlon and all things Multisport

Grand Rapids Triathlon is one of my favorite independent races in Michigan. They offer Super Sprint, Sprint, Olympic and Half Distance at their 2-day event. It’s a great beginner event! 

Unique 10 stage adventure triathlon (in Michigan) is the Battle of Waterloo 


Adjusting Expectations: Katja’s First Season with TAMJD

December 27th, 2023 by JoAnn Cranson

By:Katja Opfer

My first season on TAMJD got off to a bit of a rough start when I broke my thumb at my high school ski team’s training camp in early January. While my ski racing season ended before it even began, this meant that I had a lot of time to train and build up base miles in Zwift. Breaking my thumb reinforced my belief that everything happens for a reason, because having all that time to train set me up well going into the cycling season and it paid off. My fitness was better than ever before and I had a great time at the team’s spring training camp in North Carolina, where I got to do some amazing rides. I also had the opportunity to participate in V02 testing at Athletic Mentors headquarters with some of my teammates, which was a great learning experience.

Barry-Roubaix Race

Going into the first race of the season, Barry Roubaix (18-mile), I had fairly low expectations for myself since it was my first gravel race. To my surprise, I won first overall female and set a new female course record on the way to helping TAMJD win the team competition for the third year in a row!  My success in this race opened up the world of gravel racing to me and I went on to place second overall female in the Cowpie Classic Short Haul (36-mile) and also won overall female at De Ronde Van Grampian (25-mile). I had never done any gravel riding before this year, but it became an essential part of my training every week and provided something different to change it up.

A lot of my training and preparation this season was focused on the Mountain Bike National Championships in Bear Creek, Pennsylvania. This was my chance to see how I stacked up against girls my age from all over the country. The course was super intimidating with more rocks than I had ever seen on a mountain bike trail in my life, and some pretty nerve-wracking features to tackle. With my limited experience on techy terrain, plus being one of only a few racers on a  hardtail, I felt like I was thrown into the deep end. I spent many hours practicing on the course and built up my confidence a ton by the day of the XC race. My result of 28th out of 74 proved to myself that I could compete against these incredibly fast girls and gave me some ideas of what my goals should be for next year.

My last race before MiSCA season was the Ore 2 Shore Soft Rock, which was one of the most fun and challenging races I did all year. The 28-mile course located in the U.P. was beautiful and had a fair amount of long climbs and fun descents on many types of terrain. This race was very competitive, and I really left everything I had out on the course with a sprint finish to win first place overall female. This win was a big achievement for me given that it was such a close race.

MiSCA season felt a lot different this year because I went from only racing the 6 MiSCA races last year to doing over 20 races this year. Winning all 6 races as a sophomore in my first Varsity season, after sweeping JV last year as a freshman, was pretty unreal. This year MiSCA was really about the atmosphere and the friendships. It’s not very common that you are friends with all your competitors. Even though we are on different scholastic teams, many of us are on TAMJD together and we invited the other Varsity girls to hang out with us after the races too. This dynamic made the races a lot more enjoyable because I was cheering on my friends and teammates.

 

Iceman Race

My last race of the season was the Iceman Cometh Challenge in Traverse City. Being the indecisive person that I am, I waited until practically the last minute to switch to the Pro category. After careful consideration of my season so far, and placing 2nd overall in Pro women at Peak 2 Peak two weeks before, I decided to switch to Pro at Iceman. Even though it was my first time racing Iceman, I felt confident that I could race in the Pro category after pre-riding the course. I had a great start but unfortunately I was involved in a crash around mile 4, which most likely took me out of the running for top ten. I gave everything I had to bridge up to the lead group, but couldn’t stay with them and got dropped halfway through the race. I was still able to finish 12th in a stacked field of 26 Pro women. I saw this race as a chance to prove myself and was really frustrated that it didn’t work out the way I wanted, but what can you do? I’ll be back next year, that’s for sure.

In summary, I view my first year beyond the horizons of MiSCA to have been very successful. Having a structured training plan provided by my Athletic Mentors coach Terry Ritter definitely helped me train productively to accomplish my goals. Next year I am setting my sights on more national-level races, possibly including gravel and marathon Nationals, and hopefully I can break into the top 20 at MTB Nationals. I also plan on doing some longer gravel and MTB endurance races after doing so well in the shorter versions, including Barry Roubaix, Cowpie, and Ore 2 Shore. I am excited for my second year with TAMJD and am looking forward to all the racing in 2024!


Why Running

November 10th, 2023 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Kellen Siems

My name is Kellen Siems. I am 14 years old and a freshman at Hackett Catholic Prep. This is my second year racing for Athletic Mentors. I competed in many triathlons and 5K races this past spring and summer.

I started off the triathlon season with the sprint distance at the Grand Rapids Triathlon, moving up from the supersprint distance last year.  I then did the Cereal City Triathlon for the first time. I was back doing the Shermanator.

My favorite triathlon was the Michigan Titanium Olympic relay. My sister and brother were on my team. Brie swam, Sean biked, and I ran. I made sure to train hard because I had not run a 10K in a while. We were able to cross the finish line together and ended up winning third place.

When I first heard about the relay we decided I was going to do the running portion. When I got the news that I was running I had to start training. Training consisted of me going out over the summer and running three to six miles. Some days I would head to a track to do short hard interval runs to improve my speed. When I finished every workout I made sure to stretch to help prevent pain and discomfort later. I also made sure to drink lots of water before and after every workout.


Catching up with Team Athletic Mentors Cycling Junior Development

November 2nd, 2023 by JoAnn Cranson

An interview with program director: Terry Ritter

What were some highlights of year four for the program?

We were able to win a number of local road races in the Elite class, on both the west and the east side of the state (Waterford and Grattan), with multiple juniors. 3 of them did the 2022 Iceman in the PRO class, with Jonathan Meyer getting 13th overall. Jon also raced in his first PRO criterium field at Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD). Charlotte raced up a junior class at ToAD and took 2nd in the 17-18 field for the 5 day omnium. Jack Kozlowski took 3rd in his Cat. 4 omnium as well. We also took a few wins in the Elite field for a couple of gravel events in Michigan, and had a few of our juniors score top 10 overalls. Katja Opfer (10th grade) won the MiSCA Varsity girls series, netting all 6 wins, while Charlotte Rosinski (10th) was 2nd and Lauren Schultz (12th) was 3rd in the series. James Meyer (11th grade) won a race and finished 2nd in the MiSCA Varsity boys series. And we had a split squad for Barry Roubaix, with 8 of our kids doing the Fayetteville USAC MTB National. The remaining 2 boys and 5 girls were able to win the team competition at Barry for a 3rd straight year and win the boys and girls overall. We also won the 15-18 Junior State Cyclocross Championships with Eli and Charlotte.  Finally,  Jonathan  got  17th  overall  in  the  Hard  Rock,  48  miler  at  Ore  to  Shore  while  Katja  won  the  overall  at  the  Short  Rock  event

How was this year’s team ambitions different from last seasons?

This was the first year we graduated a significant group from the program as September came, as we had 5 seniors in our 15 riders. Watching them progress from just a few years ago (and one of them from 4 years ago) was rewarding to see. This older group helped set the tone and we attended 2 National MTB USAC events as well as USAC MTB National Championships in PA. We also took 9 kids to ToAD, which was awesome. The seniors took a lot more responsibility in some areas which is part of what they experience on TAMJD. They left a good expectation for the younger riders.

Any news on the success of TAMJD alumni?

Three of our seniors, Jonathan, Hunter Post and Spencer Blaz, got cycling scholarships and are attending Fort Lewis College in CO, Kings College in TN and Lees McRae in NC, respectively. Elizabeth DeFauw, a past rider of ours, went to Bissell and is attending Marion College in IN this season. The fact they are competing in MTB and road while at school makes us all proud in the program. But the big news was Kellen Caldwell, who graduated from TAMJD 3 years ago, winning the College National Road Championships! I coached him the whole year until his performance there and a 5th at Green Mountain Stage Race caught the attention of a national level development team. Kellen is chasing his dream of being a General Classification rider for a professional team someday.

What are some changes you plan to implement for the coming season?

This off season we plan to have a monthly ZOOM meeting with the parents/kids to share some important information about various topics, like nutrition and sports psychology. We feel this will help the riders prepare for more success in 2024 and also keep them engaged throughout the downtime. We are also going to do some VO2 testing on most of the same subjects from last year this winter to see what growth they have made and get a better grasp regarding changes seen with the junior physiology. We are always tweaking the coaching offering and will also get a more detailed schedule for the season out that will help parent’s plan and also allow more group rides, which the kids enjoy. We’ll also be looking at maybe doing MTB Marathon Nationals and Gravel Nationals.

If you could dispel one myth about the program, what would it be?

Many coaches that I talk to from MiSCA teams feel our success at TAMJD is due to all our kids training together. That’s an important part when it happens, but is also pretty rare. The fact they are offered personal coaching through Athletic Mentors, which most take advantage of, is really where the secret sauce is, I’d say. The other thing is that we set a bar and do our best to keep the kids on task so that they can learn about meeting expectations they agree to. All of this is wrapped in an environment where we get them to feel comfortable trying new things in cycling (road, gravel, CX), and that keeps it fun and gives us more options as a team. Many people within MiSCA are surprised at how well our kids do on things other than MTB racing.

What are you most proud of looking back on the past four years?

We’ve had juniors here and there that we’ve worked with in TAM for a long time, but putting together a dedicated junior development program has been a challenge. MiSCA changed that by offering a lot of young MTBers, but we still had to work to do what we felt would make them most successful and also keep it fun. That was selling the values of personal coaching and trying different cycling disciplines. Both of those things have shown to be very beneficial for the kids goals and their enjoyment. To see that you’ve provided them with an opportunity no one else has makes management feel all the work we dedicate to the program is worth it.


Meet Charlotte Rosinski

October 21st, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By: Charlotte Wright-Rosinski

Hi, my name is Charlotte Rosinski and I’m from Highland, Michigan. I’m currently 14 years old and in 9th grade at Milford High School with a few other members from Team Athletics Mentors Junior Development (TAMJD). I’ve been cycling since I was in 3rd grade, but I guess I’ve been on a bike longer than the 3rd grade. I would say that the spark for cycling really started the summer after 3rd grade, when I joined my school district’s mountain bike club where I was able to learn skills that have stuck with me and made many friends that have also stuck with me.

I have raced with MiSCA since I started mountain biking on the Huron Valley United Racing team, and in the 2021 season I achieved the Advanced Middle School Girls Champion title. I’m currently racing on the HVUR Varsity team. This is my first year on TAM Junior Development, and I joined because many of my friends on HVUR had either joined or suggested that I should join the team. I was really drawn to the team because I felt like I had continuously been growing as a cyclist, but I really needed people to help direct my growth which I feel the TAMJD team has really helped with.

My goals for races overall this year are to try to learn a bit more about racing and place well. To be more specific, I want to do well in the elite category at Peak2peak and try to win my age group at Iceman. Similar to the non-MiSCA races this year I want to place 3rd overall and top 5 per year, but I also want to treat this year as a learning experience. I’ve been racing the Varsity category as a freshman with people who are a few years older and I guess you could say “wiser” in racing than me, so I’m really just excited to be racing people that I looked up to just a couple of years ago.

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite riding place but I would probably say either Pontiac Lake, Highland, or any of the trails the team rode in Colorado during the Fort Lewis College camp we attended this summer . My favorite race that I have done is probably the USA Cycling MTB Nationals or the USAC/UCI Englewood races that I, and the members of the Junior Development team, visited this year. My favorite thing about riding is that it has made me closer with a lot of people and I have loved the places I have gotten to go to that I probably would never have gone to, like Brevard, North Carolina where we had our TAMJD training camp in March this year.

My favorite things about racing go hand-in-hand with simply riding, but with that I have loved seeing how much I have improved over time and all of the opportunities I have gotten just from racing that I am so grateful for. This year with cycling I have been able to do my first road race and gravel races, and I would really like to try to do more gravel and road racing because so far I’ve really enjoyed them and their atmosphere. Racing has become an outlet for me and I’m so grateful for the things I’ve learned about myself from it, like the fact that I am very competitive and won’t give up, I have to use proper nutrition, and I like to be very talkative with my competitors/friends after races, not before. Thanks to TAMJD, I have noticed growth in my riding and racing that I don’t think I could’ve accomplished as quickly alone.


Catching Up with Team Athletic Mentors Junior Development

October 10th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Terry Ritter

An interview with program director Terry Ritter

The first simple question is, what is “junior development”?

In cycling, riders under the age of 19 are considered in the “Junior” class. Our program focuses on developing these athletes in this age bracket, starting at around 8th grade through 12th, to improve their racing and skill, while also giving them a variety of opportunities in cycling.

What is unique about TAMJD versus other junior programs?

It’s hard to speak for other programs, but one focus we have is on Michigan riders, right now primarily the east side of the state. We also have a coaching company (Athletic Mentors) tied into the program, which means we have the ability to offer this valuable service to the racers for a very reasonable price. And, we have an established Elite level cycling within the larger team so our kids that progress that far as Juniors can experience that aspect as well.

TAM has a history of rider development. How has the program evolved?

There was a time when we primarily had juniors that did road racing. But, our team founders and myself, though experienced in road racing, came from the MTB (Mountain Biking) side. That’s really the best place to start if you want to develop an all-around racer. MiSCA is a MTB scene, and what we do is support that discipline while giving our kids exposure to road riding. Presently, the most popular sport is gravel, and we promote that by racing some of those events as well as hone the skills needed there with group road riding. And some of the kids take to road racing from that. In many ways, this is what TAM has always done: create all around racers that compete on whatever they are riding at the time. It’s great for fitness and keeps them fresh!

Where are most of the group’s riders coming from?

With the explosion of MiSCA (Michigan Scholastic Cycling Association), which is the only resource in the state with a youth-only racing series, the JD program has been able to attract some of the more serious athletes from this large pool. One team in particular, Huron Valley United Racing, has produced 7 JD athletes over the past 4 years. We do have 2 other teams that have contributed riders as well.

What is the staff structure of the program?

While I am the head, I am fortunate to have Tina Meyer, who is a TAM teammate and parent of two of our multi-year racers, as a resource. Dan Caldwell is big with recruiting and he’s involved with the HVUR program, and Daniel Yankus helps with development as the captain of our Elite team and also a volunteer with the HVUR group.

What have the last few seasons looked like?

4 years ago we only had Kellen Caldwell on our team. He’s a once-in-ten-years rider who many of the kids looked up to in MiSCA. The next year he was joined by Hunter Post. The following year Kellen left for college and we’d gained enough recognition from serious riders that we had 6 total riders in ‘21. This season we retained those and added 5 additional members for a total of 11 (7 male, 4 female). Each year we’ve been able to do more with the group. This year included a spring break training camp in NC, a national level team MTB race in Wisconsin, a national level road criterium series, and then 9 athletes going to USAC National MTB Championships in Winter Park, CO as well as a week long camp at Fort Lewis College.

What are some of the values TAMJD imparts on their athletes?

We work to create a supportive environment, then use that to allow our athletes to try new cycling activities with more confidence. This not only expands their horizons, it gives them the experience of helping others. Also of importance is instilling the love of the bike. And, we try to show our kids the importance of helping the sport and community through volunteering requirements. They also learn teamwork and professionalism, which should help those racing in college.

Who would make an ideal candidate for the team?

We are looking for kids and parents that want greater enjoyment and support for their cycling pursuits. A good candidate would be motivated to race all season, not just the fall MiSCA slate. They may well be hoping to race in college. They’d appreciate what a team could offer them/their child. They’d see new cycling challenges, like bigger state and national racing, as something they’d like to try. Hopefully, they also want to give back to the community and each other. Ultimately, they’d see our team as a way to get closer to their potential with like-minded peers.

What does the program offer its riders/parents?

At the start, we give every Junior member a jersey, bib, helmet, socks, and a few other team items of casual clothing to help represent the team. They also get the opportunity to purchase other team items at our pricing. We also offer discounts on other products. Our program offers racing logistics and support to larger regional and national races. All our Juniors get some direction and coaching, but we also offer personal coaching at a much reduced cost. TAMJD also organizes team activities and rides so the kids can have fun together and co-mentor each other, which is beneficial for developing as a young adult.

What are the program’s greatest successes?

Kellen Caldwell has had a very good college career at one of the bigger cycling schools and he’s only a sophomore. We had one of our girls who’s 15 get 17th at Nationals, and that’s at elevation. We won the 17-18 boys junior road state championship and took 2nd in the girls. Our JD program has won the Barry Roubaix team competition and the boys and girls overall the last two years. Right now two of our seniors lead the top category (Varsity) in the MiSCA points series. The second race our girls took the top three spots on the Varsity podium (a senior, sophomore and freshman) and the boys took the top two. But I would say the fun we’ve had this year trying new things and sharing in each other’s struggles and achievements is the biggest program success. We have really had some kids blossom as riders and young people and that’s great to see by all of us.

What are some goals for the program in the near future?

We’d like to continue our selective growth and support our riders more with race reimbursement and equipment discounts. We are discussing creating a track for a select number of racers, that show more interest and promise, to gain UCI points by racing a few bigger events and be better positioned for the MTB National Championships. The program would also like to be sure we had paid and dedicated support at the races for all our riders. We also want to help MiSCA with its mission.


Fort Lewis Camp and the MTB National Championships

October 10th, 2022 by JoAnn Cranson

By James Meyer

I learned a lot during my 2 weeks in Colorado, at the Fort Lewis College Nationals prep camp, and racing the National Mountain Bike championships in Winter Park. At camp I got more experience falling and riding trails with lots of fast elevation gain and loss, which helped me improve my high speed descending and confidence at speed, as well as get used to the intense nature of the Colorado trails. I also got to meet and talk to riders from across the country to learn about their riding style and experience.

We also got to meet multiple people with cycling centered careers including the following:

  • Mechanic, who talked about what he does for the racers
  • Nutritionist, who talked about how best to fuel for a ride based on the type and length
  • Engineer, who talked about his job designing bikes and the best ways to get a job in the cycling industry
  • Pro cyclist, who discussed her races and her sponsors.

Spending a whole week with my teammates from Team Athletic Mentors Junior Development strengthened our relationship and getting to be dorm-mates with them was a great experience that I will gladly do next year if I get the chance.

At Nationals, I learned that I need to push myself harder to get to the front of the pack at the start of the race before the single track so I won’t get slowed down needing to pass later in the race. I also noticed how much my lap times improved each time I pre-rode the loop and sessioned features. The elevation was a problem at 9000+ feet as the air is much thinner than around 900 feet and I could really feel it while adjusting in the first few rides.

By the races, I had gotten over the altitude sickness but still wasn’t fully acclimated so it was hard for me to push myself to my limits.  At the end of the first of three 5 mile laps, my one water bottle fell off my bike on a chunky descent and I didn’t have anyone to give a bottle hand off. I eventually picked someone else’s up off the trail at the top of the climb on the last lap as I had no water for a lap and a half. I could feel my performance greatly decreasing and that was one of my first experiences that really highlighted the effects of dehydration and the importance of being prepared for anything.

Watching the rest of my team race and cheering them on was one of my favorite parts of each day. I’m lucky to be on a team with such great friends so I can be happy for them when they do well in a race and support them in any way I can if they don’t place well or as well as they wanted. Even after all of our races are done, it’s fun watching the other races with them, especially the pros. It’s crazy seeing the fastest racers in the country race the same course that you just raced because of how impossibly fast and they ride the technical features that are hard for a lot of people just to complete.

The whole experience inspired me and my teammates at Athletic Mentors Junior Development to go back next year and try
Nationals again.



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