NORTH BEND – Tom Peterson’s three hours on a bicycle last month may have changed his life.
By winning his 17-18 Road Cycling Junior National Championships race last month in Park City, Utah the 17-year-old Mount Si High School senior opened the door on possible professional racing contracts and potential college scholarships.
“It changed everything,” he said.
Peterson outpaced 122 other riders by 57 seconds to take home his first national championship.
In a race where fellow teammates called “domestiques” lead the pack to break the oncoming wind so the star of the team can ride behind (or draft) and save his energy for the final push, Peterson accomplished the victory as the sole rider from his squad.
Racing for Recycled Cycles of Seattle (he’s the team’s only junior racer), Peterson hunted the race’s two leaders from afar for the majority of the 75-mile trek. On the first of the race’s two loops – each contained two hills about three miles long – Peterson kept his distance huddling in the pack to maintain his energy. With about 20 miles left in the final lap, Peterson decided to challenge the leaders, assuming that they would continue to draft and fight to the finish line. When the other riders didn’t follow, the Valley rider took advantage.
“I knew it was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” said Peterson. “Basically after I’d gone by everybody it went by really quickly.”
Peterson’s interest in bike racing began about eight years ago when he and his two older brothers were participating in downhill skiing events at Snoqualmie Pass.
When his older brother Erik joined another team that had him participating on a different ski slope at Steven’s Pass, the brothers were told they needed to find a hobby that would constitute one car pool. They came up with mountain biking.
The first race in which Peterson ran was a “poker” race where every competitor was given a card. The person that finished the race with the highest value card won.
“Not the most competitive race,” Peterson said laughing.
Mountain bike races gave way to road races three years ago. Where mountain biking is a rugged race down a hill, Peterson said road racing is more of a chess match. Team strategy and waiting for the right moment to make your move are just a few of the things of which a rider must be aware.
Training finds Peterson riding about 350 miles a week over the course of 15 hours. Before a race he ups that regimen to 450 miles in about 20 hours. With bicycle race training, the weather is always an obstacle.
“Even when it was snowing out I was out riding my bike. It builds quickness,” said Peterson, with a laugh.
Although riding with some teams find participants looking to get ahead of their teammates, riding with Recycled Cycles for the past two years has been different, he said, nobody is looking to one-up the other.
“The whole team supports those who are doing really well,” said Peterson.
Much of his success Peterson attributes to his coach David Richter. Before Richter turned professional recently, Peterson asked his fellow teammate to coach him, a move that has paid off with a possible trip to the international race later this month.
Winners of the junior national event automatically qualify for the international race if they are within the top seven in overall point leaders. Because this was Peterson’s first victory in national competition, he was nowhere near that point total. With five positions available for the international competition in Italy, two spots are already filled by automatic qualifiers. With three spots open and six people vying for a spot, Peterson will find out this week if he qualified.
Until then, he’s weighing his future options and continuing to ride.