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Welcome to Gran Fondo USA >> Interview with Brent Bookwalter Ahead of the Summer Olympic Games

Interview with Brent Bookwalter Ahead of the Summer Olympic Games

Brent Bookwalter will soon be making his first appearance representing the United States at the Summer Olympic Games. Here are his thoughts before he departs for Rio this weekend. 

Interview with Brent Bookwalter Ahead of the Summer Olympic GamesWhat will you be doing between now and your departure for Rio?

"My wife, Jamie, and I have been kind of moving back into our house and getting lots of stuff on the to-do list done and then obviously the Olympics are on the horizon. So I am just trying to balance all of that. Jamie and I have been seeing a couple of our friends since we returned from the Tour de France earlier this week. But we are also trying to lay under the radar and not over-commit to things."

How are you feeling coming out of the Tour de France?

"In the past when I have done the Tour de France, I have normally had some upcoming event - be it the Tour of Utah, or, one year I was scheduled to compete at San Sebastian but ended up being sick. This is the first time I have come out of and had a goal for myself so soon after the Tour de France. The good thing about that is that it has inspired me to keep the wheels rolling and stay motivated and keep riding and take care of myself. That is a tricky balance because there is a huge lead up to the Tour - training camps and sacrifices and hard work and all the training equates to months on the road in France. I would have liked to have kicked back this week and sort of gotten out of the training schedule bubble and live a little. Instead, I am trying to keep things running. So far I am feeling pretty good about that. So I am looking forward to meeting up with the team, Team USA, this weekend."

What does your training schedule look like leading up to your first event, the road race on Saturday, August 6?

"On Friday, my last day full day in Asheville, l plan to do a little longer ride of about four hours with a little bit of moderate intensity to kind of wake up my body a little bit before I travel. Then I will be looking to do one or two good quality sessions once I am in Rio - including course reconnaissance and then racing. So I am really just letting my Tour de France form marinate while I do a little bit and balance the recovery with keeping my body going."

What about the logistics of getting to Rio?

"I fly to Houston on Saturday, arriving in the afternoon. As I understand it, there is pre-event processing which includes things like orientation to the people I will be working with, clothing distribution and alteration, some brief media training and some Team USA Ambassador training - some of which we have already done online. Sunday evening we get on a flight to Rio and arrive there Monday morning."

How do you think competing in the Olympics will differ from some of the usual races you compete in throughout the season?

"The Olympics are unique in the sense that it is a different team and that team is one that is my country, essentially. Team USA is one I am super proud to be a part of. Not that I am not proud to be part of the BMC Racing Team. But with BMC, I prepare for races with them which I have done almost every week of every year for the past nine years. Preparing and looking ahead to a race with the national team and where I am representing my country, I have only had the chance to do a handful of times, like at the the world championships.

"It is a little bit surreal to be going to the Olympics because the Olympics are one of these ionic events in my mind. From my memory of my childhood, I have watched and have been passionate about them. Now, to realize that I am going and I am going to be part of that center stage and taking part in the racing, is really inspiring and motivating and encouraging. I am trying to let that not detract from my preparation and stay confident in my own preparation. That is something I know has worked for me and that I have developed over the past 10 years in racing professionally."

Are you at all concerned about the conditions in Rio that are being reported at the Athletes' Village or about concerns with the Zika virus?

"I have definitely heard some rumors about less-than-ideal conditions in Rio - whether it be the Athletes' Village or whether it be some of the Olympic venues. Honestly, I am not thinking about that too much. I am just really excited to show up there with Team USA and be part of it. I am not going to Rio for luxury accommodations and a utopia competition environment. I am going to compete for Team USA and race against the fastest athletes in my sport in the world and I have done that in a variety of different environments before. So I think that experience will serve me well.

"As far as the Zika virus, it is definitely on my mind and I have talked to some of the medical staff about it and what they recommend and their precautions. I have also done my own research on it a little bit. I am quite content, confident and comfortable with what precautions that we can take - things like being vigilant with bug spray and wearing protective clothing and staying in an-air conditioned environment when possible, while limiting my time outside in the evening hours. So I feel like I have a decent handle on my plan of attack to mitigate that risk and that concern. And the rest we will see when I get down there. It is hard to really know or comprehend what I am getting into without actually seeing it. So I am trying to be open-minded and stay positive and get excited about a little bit of the unknown and what is going to happen down there."

Competition-wise, what are your expectations for your events? (The road race is Saturday, August 6. The time trial is Wednesday, August 10.)

"I think the road race is definitely a little more open because of the dynamic of it - the sort of atypical team sizes and team management. I think the road race is fairly open to play out in what type of rider can be there for the podium and medal. That is not to say that the time trial is not important. But in comparing myself to my teammate, Taylor Phinney, he has kind of foregone any racing the past month or two to just specifically prepare for the time trial. That is a lot different path than I have had. I have not done a ton of hours on my time trial bike like Taylor, so I know going in he is putting a lot of expectation and hope on himself for the time trial. I am  just trying to keep an open mind on both events and I will be relying more on my general fitness and physical level from having done the Tour de France the past few weeks and benefiting from the form I have got from there."

About Brent Bookwalter

Residing in Asheville, North Carolina, Brent is a professional cyclist riding for the BMC Racing Team, in 2016 Brent placed 3rd Overall in the Tour of California.
 
Olympic Sport: Road Cycling
Events: Road Race, Time Trial
 
Married to Jamie Dinkins he is co-founder of the Bookwalter Binge, a nonprofit Gran Fondo cycling event which is donating all 2016 proceeds to benefit the Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy.