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
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
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.