A quick chat with Ben Wolfe:
by Hunter Pronovost
Sure sure, You may not have ever heard of Ben Wolfe, but here in the Northeast area of the USA, he has quickly arrived on the scene of elite bike racing. Just barely 19 years old, from the small town of East Lyme, Connecticut, Ben has done his fair share of racing. After early teen years spent with all the best junior teams from the Northeast and a stint with the USA Cycling Junior National team. Ben found himself this year on the strong regional team - Aetna Cycling pb\ Charles Coaching & Nutrition.
|Eat, ride, sleep, repeat. Ben puts in the time.
Midway through this season he went online and scored an impressive win out of a long breakaway at the Nutmeg State Games Criterium, with plenty of New England teams out in full force and some of NYC's best fastmen. On the same course 4 weeks later he nearly did the same thing again, only by himself, solo style.
11 times more impressive than these feats was a solo victory ahead of a field even more stacked with exceptional talent at the Beverly Grand Prix, outside of Boston. Ben solo'ed away for more than half the race on the somewhat technical course in front of thousands.
|Victory in Connecticut
With all the fans believing they are witness to the start of something special, Ben sat down and talked bike racing and the future for a bit.
H- First off, congrats on a great season... Did you see it coming?
B-To be honest, I thought it would be a good season with the focus, training, and the new team but i never thought that it would be this good. I couldn’t really ask for more (hopefully a good Catskills this weekend).
H- Do you feel any pressure to really cap things off for the sake of next year?
B- There’s always the pressure I put on myself to "keep up the good work". But as from anybody else, there hasn’t been much pressure. Nobody could have seen this season coming out of me from the past couple of pretty lame years.
H- You are on terrific form right now for sure. At what point in the season did you turn that corner from "Lame" to so strong? Can you point to one specific thing (training wise ) that has allowed you to become such race crusher?
B- Thanks! It was really last fall. I really got all my stuff together and put the main focus on being able to ride my bike. Then this spring at the Johnny Cake races ( a spring training series outside of NYC ) I thought "Hey these races aren’t that hard! I may be getting fast".
That confidence is really all I needed to really get "un-lame". The training that helps the most has really been off the bike, eating right, sleeping enough. On the bike I have been doing a lot of miles, but at this level (and trying to make it to the next) what can you expect.
H- When did it become apparent during this year that a move to "the next level" was possible? Is there any specific race you can remember?
B- Yeah definitely. The Bennington Stage race ( In May '12 ) where I finished 2nd overall was a huge step. Thinking to myself "maybe this is possible". Then the Nutmeg Classic Crit and of course the ride I pulled out of god knows where at Beverly.
|As the pros fought behind him,
Ben tapped out the needed power to win in Beverly.
H- You've had a pretty wild few months... Ok, to ask a question that everyone must be wondering:
At this point in the year, after some incredible races, do you have offers for next season besides continuing with Aetna \ CCNS?
No need to name names.... Just offers... large or small.
B- ( laughs ) There are a few different offers on the table that would all be amazing and of course riding for The Aetna Cycling Team again next year would be great as well. It’s a good group of guys and we have a lot of fun. I'm hoping to have it all sorted out by the end of August.
H- Ok... well I'm gonna push for something more. Anything from teams larger in scope then New England? Because honestly, the public \ supporters will be disappointed to hear that you won't make the jump to the national stage very soon. But if it takes more time then one great year, people should recognize that.
B- There are conversations from US teams as well as some European based teams. CCNS would definitely be the only New England based team I would want to ride for.
H- So in addition to fielding interest from Euro-based teams, staying with CCNS is a possibility? That speaks a lot about the Aetna \ CCNS team.
B- Yeah. honestly, I owe a lot to Aidan ( Charles ) and the rest of the team. They showed me how to race with balls and how to keep it fun. As a developmental team, I would say it doesn’t get much better. A lot of "development" teams just get a lot of money and throw it toward the riders. Sure money does help, but racing style, the mentality, and keeping it fun is what makes a rider rather then the money.
H- Ok, switching to something a little more somber, what happened during the U23 Elite Road Nationals back in late June?
B- Well in the TT I was the youngest in the top 20 and the 2nd amateur I believe. I was really hoping for a top-10 in the TT but 14th was all I could get. The time gaps between me and the top-10 were mere seconds. But I gave it all I had for 30k and came up short. The criterium was fast, but in the closing laps I got caught up in a little tussle and ending up almost meeting face first with the barriers, so any chance (even though it was slim) I had to win was shot. Then the road race.... it was pretty long, but the part that killed me was the 100+ degree humid head on a wide open course. I missed the early move and then tried to bridge with a few other guys. we made it about half way across and then the field got frisky and chased us while attacking each other. I was blown.
H- Sounds like it was better experience then just a DNF in the RR, which many people may simply see on the surface.
B- Yeah it was totally experience building. I found this year, either I podium or finish last place. I think it goes with the "racing with balls" mentality. when it works, its freakin great. when it doesn’t, everybody who just sees the results asks "what happened?"
H- Describe the scene for those U23 races... Are guys out there trying to impress scouts? Where there even "Scouts" there? And if not there, have there been any other races this year where you knew someone from a larger organization was watching?
B- Yeah I mean the directors from the bigger teams such as Bontrager\Livestrong and Garmin are there watching. But its definitely not like those silly ball sports where teams have scouters. A lot of getting onto a team is impressing the fellow riders by tearing their legs off.
H- Big-picture-stuff question: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Cycling wise...
B- Honestly I have no idea. in a picture perfect world i would be riding professionally but only time will tell.
H- Do you feel like you have a specific skill-set that you are confident you can develop or are you simply concerned with getting stronger for right now?
B- Right now its definitely steady state, riding hard for a long time. But really I'm trying to work on everything (except sprinting, I cant do that) to get stronger all around.
H- Going back to the 5 yr question, I think a lot of people would say the odds are heavily in your favor for a serious pro career.... 19 years old and beating guys who have been domestic pros for the better part of a decade. What is something that will hold you back?
B- The only thing that could hold me back would be myself. If I lose sight of the goal, then it’ll get lost. I have a good balance of riding, work and living a blissful life. If I keep that, then nothing should hold me back.
H- Sounds like you are pretty confident
B- It's not necessarily confidence. I just believe if you really want to do something, just keep your mind to it and you will do it.
H- Doping and cheats are in the news constantly, but I hate to bring it up, so it will be brief. At what point in your cycling career do you think you will be affected by a dope cheat? Or has it happened already?
B- If it ever gets to the point where it is either take this pill or step down. I will gladly step down. I know a lot of people say that, but you have my word.
H- Well, certainly there are lot of guys who turn it down and still race with success. Do you believe it is problem?
B- Yea its a problem. I was pretty sad when Frank (Schleck ) tested positive. He was one of my favorite professional riders.
H- Fill in the blanks-
Cycling success is:
____ % Genetics
____ % Training
____ % Mind Games with yourself
25% 25% 100%
25% 25% 50%
H- I think people will be interested to know what the next step for you is. And in most people's minds, it's easiest explained by what team you are going to be on next year.
B- (Laughs ) Honestly me too... Its all up in the air.. I want to know just as bad as they do...
H- Last time I remember a 18 yr old smashing it up in such a way, it was Tim Duggan... And we know where he is now.
B- Damn, well that’s good to know! Hopefully Hunter. I would love to get to the point where I can say "I was a professional athlete".
We're betting you will