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Rider Interview: WORS champ Tristan Schouten

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |March 25, 2011 3:58 AM
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If youíre not from the Midwest you may not know the name Tristan Schouten. But you probably should. The Mafia rider has been successful racing at all levels including multiple top-10 finishes on the national MTB scene. Despite his high-end talent and national credentials Schouten chooses to focus his racing in the upper Midwest.

This week the reigning Wisconsin Off-Road Series champ took some time to chat with us. Read below and learn more about this middle-America MTB crusher and his insightful opinions on mountain bike racing at the national level.

MTB Race News: How and when did you get started riding your mountain bike?

Tristan Schouten: I got into riding from my Uncle who raced some in college. He would come home with his Trek when I was about 12 and I would just stand and look at it in my grandparents garage. I spray-painted my bike up to look like his and pretty soon upgraded to a bike with downtube shifters like his - I was pumped to have a race bike. I had a friend who I rode with a lot that got a mountain bike when we were about 14 and I had to have one too. We rode a lot and ended up meeting the local guys that raced. There was a big group of competitive guys in the area so it wasnít hard to find a ride to one and I was hooked.

MTB Race News: When did you start racing and what motivated you to do so?

Tristan Schouten: I did my first race when I was 14 or 15. It was actually a crit and I got lapped in the 5s race but I didnít care. I then started doing WORS because there were so many races close by. I was home schooled so cycling was a great individual sport to get into.

MTB Race News: What was your best race of 2010?

Tristan Schouten: I probably had the best legs all year at the Pro XCT Subaru Cup in WI. I didnít preregister so I started I think 73rd in the back row and finished 11th. Not my best result ever, but probably my best race of the year. I got a good call up in 2nd row for the short track the next day and just missed the podium with 6th so it was a good weekend.

MTB Race News: What are you plans for 2011?

Tristan Schouten: Race locally in the Midwest doing road and WORS series races again. Of course Iíll also do the big 3 Midwest Triple Crown. My focus will probably be on cyclocross this fall aiming at top 5 USGP and Nationals.

MTB Race News: Do you think anyone, male or female, will ever win the Midwest Triple Crown again? What makes it so hard?

Tristan Schouten: Iíll keep trying but I have to do better than 2nd at them to even have a chance. It will be more and more difficult to repeat as there are a lot of ringers coming in to do them now, more than you did 5 years ago. It use to be cheating to train for the Iceman, now itís a full on battle with world cup racers with $$$ in their eyes. Brian was only 2 seconds away from repeating this year. I think I have more 2nds than anybody. I would think it will be a female doing it before another guy does it.

MTB Race News: Tell us about your team for 2011.

Tristan Schouten: Iíll be riding for Mafia again this year. I get great equipment and support from David. The Felt I had last year was awesome and I canít wait to get the new full suspension this year. David puts a lot of work into developing the sport and the team and results arenít the major focus.

MTB Race News: What are your best assets as a racer.

Tristan Schouten: Persistence. I am not the guy that has maybe the best genes for cycling and I donít have 20+ hours a week to train. But, I do take training and racing seriously so every minute on the bike is important and I use what I have. I try to find a way to win every race Iím in regardless of who I am with or how badly the course or race is for me, sometimes focusing on finding a way to win regardless of how you feel doing it is important. I have surprised myself several times at races where I didnít think it was going to happen but I came through with a win by finding a way.

MTB Race News: Whatís the best thing about racing in the Wisconsin Off-Road Series?

Tristan Schouten: Itís well organized and professional. There is good competition and of course good money. There is good atmosphere and camaraderie from everyone so it makes an enjoyable race scene. Iíve kinda grown up racing in the series and we are really lucky to have a series that you know will be well run and hard racing. I get pushed every race from one rider or another so it is competitive.

MTB Race News: With riders like yourself, Brian Matter, and the LaLonde brothers Wisconsin has a lot of racers capable of competing on the national-level but most choose to stick to the local scene. Why?

Tristan Schouten: I think itís pretty simple. There are maybe 4-5 riders total in the US that can come home with a little money in their pocket from a national level mtn bike race. Everyone else loses no matter the result. You have the 4-5 riders who have national level support from the 4-5 major bike companies and they dominate. You probably have one new name in the top 5 in the last 5 years with Sam Schultz who made it through the devo program and was able to score a contract. I donít see anyone else other than the young guys who maybe are in college or living at home yet like I was when I was doing it that can realistically travel to the remote locations and be able to afford it without good monetary support. It makes no sense to me spending $1000 a race to get a 6th with no return. I did my fair share of NORBAs around "04,í05, and Ď06 with some top 15s and 10s.  One year I was 3rd place American in the Pro short track - 6th overall. I was paying my own way and just wasnít getting anything from it. I could make more money racing locally and the sport just didnít seem to be going anywhere in the US at an elite level. Maybe Iím wrong, but there just doesnít seem to be any reward other than maybe personal satisfaction, but I canít justify that with a wife and daughter at home when there is better racing with more money outside the Pro XCT. In the 90ís and early 2000s Iím sure that was different with more sponsorship available, but I havenít found it worthwhile for the effort the last 5 years.

MTB Race News: What does it mean to the you and the Wisconsin race scene to have the Pro XCT come to your state for the Subaru Cup?

Tristan Schouten: Well, for me I donít race the national mountain bike scene so I guess I have mixed feelings on it. Of course it is good for Don, WORS, and WI. It is exciting for the fans of the sport to get to see and meet the big names. It is good for the Pro XCT to see that having a race where the sport is big locally can turn out big crowds and that a small ski hill in the middle of WI can hold a WC style race course that isnít a dust bowl or 15 miles of climbing at 8000ft in the middle of nowhere. It easily accessible and it should be a model for the future of Pro racing.

For me it is fun to test myself, but I have raced with the big guys enough through the years and in the cross circuit to know what I can do. On a good day I can compete and ride from 73rd into 11th, that could be a top 5 ride maybe starting front row, but if you canít commit to the whole series it never will be without a call up so you have to take it for what it is. Normally, Subaru cup was a weekend I could win $600 easily, last year it was a national level payout and I lost money and I even had decent results. It depends how you want to look at it.

Tristan Schouten: Which state has better mountain biking Wisconsin or Minnesota? Iíve done great races in both states. MN generally uses more technical courses so that is probably more challenging as a racer. I really donít do a lot of mountain bike riding other than racing but since we have the more popular WORS series it must be WI.

MTB Race News: Where is you favorite place to ride in the US?

Tristan Schouten: I donít get out that much anymore. I really enjoyed Carlsbad, CA area when I was there. Mountain biking in Fruita/Grand Junction, CO was great. I think my memories of favorite places have more to do with the adventure involved than the actual riding while there and that is what makes one place hard to choose. I better say Kettle Moraine WI because that is where I do most of my riding now.

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