Joanie Crane

April 17th, 2024 by Jennie Schuman
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Ozzy Tobiczyk

March 28th, 2024 by Jennie Schuman
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Donald Smith

March 28th, 2024 by Jennie Schuman
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Nick Thielen

March 28th, 2024 by Jennie Schuman
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Parker Crane

March 28th, 2024 by Jennie Schuman
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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.


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.



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