I recently had a chance to talk with Taylor Shelden, professional road cyclist with the 5 Hour Energy presented by Kenda cycling team. Taylor grew up in Breckenridge before the call of a professional cycling career took him down to Boulder. His first taste of competitive cycling was with the Brckenridge-based Maverick Sports Promotions’ MTB Junior League program.
Breckprocycling: How did you get into cycling?
Taylor: As you said, first races I did were the MTB Junior League program, put on by Mike McCormack and Jeff Westcott. My dad had just gotten a mountain bike, I think I was 15 maybe. And I was old enough at that time that we were pretty much the same size, so I fit on it well enough. I just hopped on it and really enjoyed it, and I wanted to get into competition. So yeah, the Wednesday night local series was the beginning.
Breckprocycling: Knowing your mom & dad a little bit, you obviously come from a very athletic family. Were you into any other type of competitive athletics before you hopped on a mountain bike?
Taylor: No, I played soccer, soccer was definitely my major sport from when I was 5 or 6, all the way through high school. And I played other sports, baseball and basketball, but I never really had great hand-eye coordination. And I did some running, cross-country running in middle-school, but that wasn’t very much fun compared to cycling.
Breckprocycling: So you finished school a couple years ago, tell us a bit about that. Where did you go to school and what did you study?
Taylor: University of Denver, graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. It took me 5 years, but I got it done. Um, cycling held me up a little bit in the end, but I had good time management skills and made it happen.
Breckprocycling: Nice. I’m sure it’s not like basketweaving, I think there are some pretty serious classes involved like calculus, and physics and drafting. That is not an easy major from what I understand, so hats off to you!
Breckprocycling: So we’ve been following you since you left town, from when Vaughters first gave you a chance with the Slipstream program. Last year, you were on the Competitive Cyclist professional racing team. Is this your first season on the 5 Hour Energy Kenda team?
Taylor: Yes, our team last year, Competitive Cyclist, merged with the 5 Hour Energy p/b Kenda team. Some of the same riders from last year, the same management and some of the same staff all hve come together this year.
Breckprocycling: So it looks like the team is based around Francisco Mancebo and going for General Classification (GC, overall wins), or are there some criterium specialists also? What’s the makeup of the team?
Taylor: That is spot on, #1 goal is Mancebo getting the GC wins on the NRC (National Racing Calendar), and also the team classification.
Breckprocycling: So is the team broken up into diff travelling components, like 1 group racing in one region, and a different group in a different part of the country?
Taylor: The team is a little bit too small to run a split squad, so we have our kind of core group of 8 guys, and then a couple other guys that will sub in as needed if someone is sick, injured or tired. And that works pretty well.
Breckprocycling: How has the season been going for you personally?
Taylor: It’s been really good. The team has won some races. We had an opportunity to go over to Spain for a race ov there, and that was my best race result. Since then, been back for a couple months. Lots of good racing. Had a teammate win a stage at the Cascade Cycling Classic, and another podium result too. Our GC guy, Mancebo, is leading the individual for the NRC series, and we’re 2nd in the team classification.
Breckprocycling: So between seeing your dad in the grocery store throughout the winter and in the spring, and also by reading your blog posts, I know the team’s invitation to the Amgen Tour of California was a big deal, probably one of the highlights of the season. I know with you personally, it looked like you had a tough time with the excessive heat down in the valleys one day. Can you tell us about that?
Taylor: For me, yeah, not the best. I came into it with some pretty good form and some high hopes, and, yeah, just suffered pretty hard in the heat. I had a critical meltdown of my body in the heat. But the team overall rode well. I think we had 1, maybe 2, podium spots. Finished in the top 10 in GC, and a couple days we had a guy in the most aggressive rider jersey. So overall, a lot of exposure for the sponsors and the team rode really well together.
Breckprocycling: Excellent. Was the team hoping for an invite to the USA Pro Cycling Challenge back in the winter or spring?
Taylor: Yeah, we certainly were. We thought that after getting invited to California (the Amgen Tour of California), that we had a pretty good chance. But there are a lot of good domestic teams this year, so we knew it would be challenging for sure. We had our fingers crossed, but will have to look forward to next year.
Breckprocycling: With that said, are you going to be in Colorado during the USA Pro Challenge, or will you be out racing?
Taylor: I think I will be around in Colorado, so yeah, we’ll see…maybe get out and watch a couple of stages.
Breckprocycling: So what are the major races left on the schedule for the team this year?
Taylor: We have about 10 days until the Tour of Utah, and then the last season-ending race for the team is the Tour of Alberta up in Canada.
Breckprocycling: And that will conclude the season, maybe around Labor Day or in early September?
Taylor: Yeah, maybe some local races after, mountain biking here or there, but that will be the last race.
Breckprocycling: Are there any events in particular remaining this year that the team management may have given you a little bit more freedom to pursue an individual result, or does that always take a backseat to the team’s overall objectives?
Taylor: I think that in Utah (the Tour of Utah), a climbing race, we’ll be looking after Mancebo. But at the bigger races, we are given a little bit more freedom. We don’t seem to have to ride at the front and control things like we do at some of the smaller races. And then, the upcoming Tour of Alberta, the characteristics of the race suit me well, so I hope for a result or two there.
Breckprocycling: Speaking beyond this season, are you 25 or 26? And what are your long-term goals in cycling?
Taylor: 26. Definitely racing over in Europe is a dream of mine. I’ve done it pretty much every year the last 5 years or so. But just a race or two each year. Being able to get over there and race in a full-time program would be pretty awesome.
Breckprocycling: You live down in the Front Range now?
Taylor: Yes, Louisville.
Breckprocycling: Do you do the majority of your training alone, or with some friends or teammates? Fav rides on the Front Range?
Taylor: I’d say I do the majority of my training solo. Just easier to focus on intervals or efforts that way. But yeah, there are lots of pro cyclists around here and in Boulder. So there are a couple guys I try to get out with once or twice a week to mix it up and keep it fresh. For rides, any of the climbs in the foothills are solid. Coal Creek Canyon might be my favorite climb around here.
Breckprocycling: Do you remember, I think in 2003, when they had the Boulder to Breckenridge race, the Saturn Cycling Classic? Did you ever go and check that out?
Taylor: I was living in Breck then, so right about when I was just getting into cycling, so I wasn’t following it much. I did watch the finish in Breckenridge once. But it did help spark my interest in road cycling.
Breckprocycling : Which riders were most inspirational to you? Any one individual figure that was most instrumental in your success so far?
Taylor: I didn’t really follow cycling much when I got into it. There is no 1 person that I was enamored with. If anything, probably my dad, he was always getting out and training. As far as a coach/manager person, Roy Pickivens (sp?), he worked at Howard Head Medical Center, and he got our first road team together, sponsored by Century Tel. He did the professional cycling thing when he was younger, and he wanted to bring a team to the highcountry. So probably the most influential person that got me into road cycling.
Breckprocycling: So you are married now?
Taylor: Yes, 10months now, her name is Courtney.
Breckprocycling: How did you all meet?
Taylor: We were both on ski teams at the University of Denver, she was on the downhill team and I was on the cross country team. Not too much interaction, but both teams would go to the same races. We’d see each other outside of the locker rooms, but yeah that’s how we met.
Breckprocycling: To conclude here, a couple last questions…what do you miss most about Breck?
Taylor: The mountains for sure, just being able to walk out your door and go ride on trails. Not that Louisville is super populous, but the small town feel. The views, the mountains.
Breckprocycling: Was there any certain road ride or route that you would hit up when you are back here in Summit?
Taylor: I like the Loveland Pass climb, down to Loveland Ski Area, and flipping it back up and coming back over again. Riding past A-Basin and the scenery is incredible.
Breckprocycling: A fav mountain bike ride?
Taylor: There’s this one trail, I believe it’s the Aspen Tunnel Trail, pretty short little singletrack, go up there in the fall, amazing colors and a fun downhill.
Breckprocycling: What do you recall as your best local race experience?
Taylor: I’ve done a lot, but I think it was the Tour de Trash (a local Mavsports Promotions race) in, maybe, 2005? The first time I won one of the Pro/Elite races. I remember doing the race with Brett Morgan, it started snowing on us some, and on the last lap I was able to ride away from him. It was my first win at a top level local mtb race.
Breckprocycling: Thanks again for spending some time with us today Taylor.
Taylor: Thank you!