Friday, August 8, 2008

Whiz Kid On Wheels

Burlington Free Press
Phyl Newbeck
August 8, 2008

He had arrived home at midnight sporting a golf ball-sized bruise on his elbow from a crash during a race in Connecticut, but Anders Newbury of Fairfield was still itching to get back out on his bicycle for a training ride. After all, the 15-year-old had only a few days to go before heading off to Europe to join the U.S. Junior National training team, an elite squad of six young cyclists, earlier this summer.

Anders got his first taste of serious cycling in 2002 at the age of 10 when he headed out on a quad bike with his parents and his then 8-year-old brother, Eric, for a cross-country tour. In 2005, he decided to try his hand at racing. In his first time trial, Anders rode his mother's old touring bike, finishing with an average speed of 17.41 mph. Three years later, he finished first on that course with an average speed of almost 25 mph.

Through the Green Mountain Bicycle Club's practice criterium series, Anders earned his first racing license, and by 2006, he was traveling out of state for races. When he was 14, he was strong enough to compete in the 15- to 18-year-old category at the Green Mountain Stage Race where, he admits, "I got beat up pretty good."

Anders learned from that experience, and one year later he finished ninth in his age group at that event. At the GMSR, Anders watched members of the Hot Tubes Junior Development Team that he describes as the top team in the country. He decided if he worked hard enough, he might have a chance to ride with a team like that, and by the end of 2007, he was invited to join.

Anders' father, Gil, said being a member of Hot Tubes has made a world of difference, particularly with regard to accommodations at races. Gil recalls one competition where he and Anders stayed in a low-budget motel. Gil went out to get ice and found himself locked out. Anders couldn't open the door from the inside. He tried to call the main office for help, but the phone line was dead. Gil trekked down the road to the motel office, only to find a woman who told him the last time this had happened, she had to kick the door down. In the meantime, Anders had used his bike repair kit to take the door apart and received a lecture from the manager for his troubles. Before another race, Gil and Anders slept in their car in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

His father notes that cycling at Anders' level has a cost in terms of time, money and pain management, but he believes "the benefits far outweigh the costs. You learn to structure your lifestyle," Gil said, "to the things that are important."

Anders has always pushed himself. After only one full year of racing, he went to the Junior Nationals competition in Pennsylvania, finishing seventh in the road race and 11th in the time trial. By the following year, he was second in his age group. Racers start in what is known as Category 5, but at 15, Anders has already worked his way up to Category 2. According to Kevin Bessett, president of the GMBC, such a jump is "unheard of" for his age.

Anders has raced in venues across the country and in Canada. This summer, Anders raced with the U.S. National Team in Belgium for three weeks, coming in second in one race, seventh in another, and assisting teammates in the remaining races. On Monday, he left Vermont yet again, this time to compete in the U.S. Cycling National Championships in California that is under way and continues through this weekend.

Brian King of the New Hampshire Cycling Club is Anders' coach. Mostly through e-mails and phone calls, King plans Anders' training schedule.

"He's got all the talent in the world and all the drive in the world," King said. "If you ever wanted to see anyone achieve, it would be a kid like Anders."

Before heading off to Europe for a month of training, Anders planned a three- to four-hour ride "in an easy gear" on a Monday; four to five hours of more intense riding on a Tuesday; a four-hour ride, including the Appalachian Gap, on a Wednesday; a longer, slower ride on a Thursday followed by a time trial race; and then easy rides on a Friday and a Saturday before flying on a Sunday.

"I don't always enjoying training every day," Anders admitted, "but I'm able to keep with it on bad days and enjoy the good days."

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