2/6/2013 12:00:00 AM - TEAM NEWS!
Bremerton's Owen gunning for world cyclocross title
Bremerton's Logan Owen is America's top junior rider
BREMERTON — It was a race to remember for Bremerton's Logan Owen.
Owen, 17, was at his second World Cup cyclocross race of the season in Plzen, Czech Republic, in October.
The start was probably his worst ever. After getting the green light and the 50-plus riders took off, Owen pushed down on his pedals.
"My chain comes off and I flip over and I'm laying on the ground," he said. "Everybody runs me over. Everybody's gone. ... I'm the last place rider and I literally couldn't see them."
Owen's competitive fire took over.
The Bremerton High senior found the shoe he'd lost, put it back on, attached the chain back on his bike and started pedaling despite some damage to his bike. Owen gained ground quickly, using his pure ability and wits (he ran much of the slick, muddy course) to track down the riders.
By the final lap, Owen had secured a third-place spot on the winners podium.
"That was my first podium ever in a World Cup," he said.
After that, Owen believes he can overcome anything.
"If I have a day like that, I know I could win the world championships," he said.
He'll have that chance during the UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, Ky. The men's junior race is Saturday.
He's not a longshot, either. Owen is one of two pre-race favorites, the other being current is world junior champion Mathieu van der Poel of the Netherlands.
Cyclocross, a hybrid of off-road (BMX-style) and road cycling, is a huge spectator sport in Europe. The sport draws huge crowds in Belgium, where 30,000 fans are the norm.
In cyclocross, the first lap of a race will determine — based on time — how many laps the riders will do to get to 40 minutes. The courses are technical, combining steep hills, mud, dirt and roads. Riders figure out which part of the trail works for them, dismounting and carrying bikes over obstacles, and then mounting and sprinting past other riders.
There are pits to allow riders who have damaged bikes to grab new ones and continue.
This year is the first time worlds will be held in the United States — and Owen is more than ready.
"I'm really motivated to win this year," he said. "I'm hoping for a podium or I'm definitely hoping for a win."
Owen finished 16th at worlds last year in what he calls a disappointing finish.
"It was not a good one," he said. "I didn't get what I wanted."
This year, he implemented some changes. He improved his diet, cutting out sweets and fast food to drop 10 pounds. He trained harder and smarter.
With his increased dedication came better results during the World Cup season, including two top-three podium finishes.
Now Owen wants that elusive first-place finish and figures there's no better place than worlds.
Owen's road coach and mentor, Joe Holmes of Bremerton (who runs Tete de la Course Cycling, a coaching and event management website and is a USA Cycling Level 2 coach) said his pupil has all the physical abilities, work ethic and drive to become a world champion.
"I think that he's definitely among the top four, five contenders for the title," Holmes said.
Van der Poel is ranked No. 1 in the world. Owen is ranked third.
"Mathieu van der Poel has been the kid that's been killing it all year," Owen said. "I've gotten so many seconds to him it's ridiculous."
Owen spent nearly a month in Vorselaar, Belgium, but this was no site-seeing vacation. He was part of an elite camp run by Geoff Proctor from Dec. 17 to Jan. 3. The EuroCross Camp is a training camp for the best young American riders.
Owen's days were spent eating, riding and sleeping. It was a business trip, one that added immeasurable experience to his resumé.
"He's just done a great job with it," Owen said of Proctor's camp. "It really helps get all the kids experience over in Europe. I found it really helpful last year, I did it last year, and this year."
Owen said the camp introduced him to hard-core riding in Europe, a necessity for any serious cyclocross rider who wants to win on the World Cup circuit.
"It really motivates you to work so much harder when you come back home," he said.
Motivation is something that comes easy for Owen, whether it's on his bike or in the classroom. Owen is taking Advanced Placement classes at Bremerton and maintains a 3.9 grade point average. He works with his teachers to stay current, despite missing school.He hasn't thought about home-schooling or online schooling.
"I enjoy going to school," he said. "I have a good time at school. I enjoy hanging out with my friends (and) I enjoy learning."
Owen learned to ride BMX before he was five years old.
He started winning right away.
Owen has won numerous BMX national titles and three world titles, all before the age of 12. Redline Bicycles saw something special in Owen and began sponsoring him when he was 5.
He was introduced to cyclocross when Redline gave Owen a prototype bike to try.
"My very first (cyclocross) race, I was racing 10-12 age group as a nine-year-old at the national championships," Owen said. "That was my very first race and I ended up getting second."
Owen is no stranger to the top of the podium in the U.S. He won his eighth consecutive national cyclocross championship earlier this month. In between cycling, Owen started speedskating to cross-train and was winning national titles in that sport as well.
Tim Rutledge, performance bicycle marketing manager for Redline, said while it's fairly common for bike companies to tab young BMX riders, it's not common to keep them in cyclocross.
"He is a genuine phenom," said Rutledge, who has mentored Owen since 2006. "He's special. Most kids don't make the crossover from BMX to mountain and road. Those that do carry a set of skills that are pretty impressive."
The Dutch have a phrase for it.
"You drive the bike very well," Rutledge said.
In other words, Owen doesn't just sit on the bike and steer. He is in control.
Rutledge has seen Owen crash numerous times, or deal with equipment failures, only to chase down the leaders and win.
Owen's ability to think and be strategic at crucial moments in a race is his best ability, Rutledge said.
"When you get to push-and-shove situations, I've seen bike racers do the dumbest things," he said.
With a supportive family — dad Steve, mom Kim and brother Brandon — Logan has been able to excel at a sport he loves.
"I have never seen anybody with a work ethic like Logan (has)," Steve Owen said. "From day one, it's just been amazing. He's so focused on what he loves to do. We saw the love that he had right away for this."
Because Logan Owen has been traveling across the country for so many years, he is mature beyond his 17 years. His first trip to Europe came with the U.S. Junior National team when he was 15.
"You have to be mature to travel the world," Logan Owen said. "You kind of have to grow up at some point."
"He's not a head case," Holmes said. "He's a big-game player. He's got drive. He's really good when he's backed into a corner."
Holmes said he saw a "fire in the belly" of Owen's right away. The two have been building a solid foundation for the last five years, increasing his training as his body accepts the new challenges.
Holmes has joked with others that "a good athlete will make anybody look like a brilliant coach." But Owen is the one who, when the weather is cold, windy, rainy and downright miserable, is on his bike and putting the miles in.
"This is the time of year when you really have to do the work, not during the races," Holmes said.
Because of Owen's superior skill set, he has been racing against older competition from the beginning.
"Washington state's been a great place for the cycling thing because they allow (kids) to not just race the junior ranks," Steve Owen said. "He races pro here in the U.S."
Logan Owen is not sure where his cycling career will take him.
"What I would like to see is Logan stay with the sport," Rutledge said. "He's still getting better every single year."
He's still undecided on whether he will stay with cyclocross or specialize in road racing.
Owen has a dream of riding in the Tour de France. To do that, he must be a road racer full time on a team.
"I would love to be able to make a profession out of it and be able to race on the road," Owen said. "I'd be happy with either one, being a professional cyclocross rider or being a professional road racer."
For now, his sights are set on winning his first world title and enjoying the success he's already achieved.Owen said the hard work is clearly paying off.
"The want to be the best," he said, has been key to his success. "I want to be the best and I train as hard as I can and as smart as I can."
Holmes believes there's a chance for Owen to win in Louisville.
"Logan definitely has a realistic shot at winning the title as anybody does," he said. "It's a very realistic chance."
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