Track cycling involves mile after mile around an oval venue with a sharp incline that makes it impossible for riders to go under a certain speed. Cyclists will fall off if they ride too slow.
These dangers, coupled with a dozen other teams battling for space and position, don’t faze Chandler Knop. He rides to be a champion.
“It is dangerous because you will be going as fast as you can, sometimes going 30-40 miles an hour and your partner is going to drop in at that speed when he grabs your hand to throw him,” Knop said.
Knop is fresh from winning the USA Junior Track Cycling National Championships in Plano, Texas, on July 10. With the victory, Knop qualified for the Junior Track World Championships, which will take place in Moscow today to Sunday.
“It’s really humbling,” said the 18-year-old Lewis-Palmer graduate. “It’s one of those experiences where you don’t get to do it ever and to be one of seven selected knowing that you’re going for your country is amazing.”
Knop, who is from Monument, competes in the Madison, an event that requires at least two riders per team in a relay-style race, racking up points and laps.
Along with his partner, Collin Berry, 17, they are two of seven riders chosen to represent the United States at the world championships.
The road to worlds has been a rapid ascent. Knop has been riding since he was 12, but hard and competitive training didn’t start until January 2010. He sports a category-2 ranking, which places him one rank below professional.
Knop had to make numerous sacrifices to get to this point. A normal high school life was out of the question. He said he would be riding some 300 miles a week once the season starts, which was around February.
“For school, I’d wake up in the morning then ride from like 5-6 in the morning, go to school and come back and ride for another two hours then do schoolwork,” he said. “I would do that every day and ride 60 or 70 miles every day on the weekends.”
Other than affecting his education and social life, Knop’s diet changed dramatically. He said he cut sugar off completely.
“Cyclists burn thousands of calories, so we eat three times or almost four times more than a normal person,” he said. “A normal diet is 2,000 calories and we are putting in 6,000-7,000 a day so it’s just a lot of carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables.”
Going into worlds, it is difficult to tactically plan for a race, Berry said, adding that there are several factors that affect the final outcomes.
“It really depends. It’s probably like one time out of a hundred that it will play out the way you want it,” the Huntington Beach, Calif., native said. “Crashes, a flat or you’re just not feeling well, anything can happen. You got to think on the fly and improvise a lot.”
Knop is focused on having a successful race with no regrets, despite having a spot in one of track cycling’s biggest stages.
“I just want to do the best I can for the U.S. and show them I earned my spot,” Knop said.