Athlete Spotlight: Brett Wachtendorf
One of the my favorite parts of my job is being able to witness the rise of young cyclists to the top ranks of the sport. This rise is never a straight line, but when the talent, motivation and persistence are there, success in this sport is not a matter of "if" but "when". For 23 year old Brett Wachtendorf, the 2016 had more than it's fair share of disappointments, but also it's triumphs. Riding for the Amore & Vita team in the early part of the season before transferring to the Lowestrates.com from Quebec, Brett traveled not only raced in every corner of the U.S., but also in Canada, Romania, and Rwanda over the past season.
Brett started racing in 2011 as an 18 year old junior. This can be a tough time to start competing, since many 18 year olds already have years of racing experience. Though he had little success in the junior ranks, Brett wasted no time before winning collegiate races in his freshman year of college at Pennsylvania State University, winning 6 races in the 2012 collegiate season and upgrading to a Cat. 3 in his first full year of racing.
In 2013, Brett upgraded to the A field in collegiate races and competed at his first National Championship, finishing 35th out of 165 racers in the Division 1 Collegiate National Championship Road Race. He also scored enough points to secure his Category 2 upgrade before the end of the season. In 2014, he proved that he could win at the elite level with victories at the brutally hilly Nittany Classic and a 2nd place in the Cat. 2/3 race at Bear Mountain. Though the 2014 season included a couple setbacks due to injury, Brett raced his first U23 National Championship, finishing 42nd out of 142 in the Road Race and secured a few Cat. 1 upgrade points.
In 2015, Brett won 3 collegiate A races and secured his Cat. 1 upgrade by traveling around the country to compete (and place well in) a number of regional races as well as getting experience in a handful of National Calendar races including the Air Force Classic in Arlington Virginia and the Bucks County Classic in Doylestown, PA.
2016 started off well for Brett, with a victory in the Hell of the South Road Race, a 2nd place at the Quabbin Reservoir Road Race and a top 10 in the Fort McLellan Road Race. Switching to the Lowestrates.com team after May, he traveled to Quebec for the GP Saguenay and Tour de Beauce in June. In August he traveled to Romania for the Tour of Szeklerland. Then, In early September, Brett finished in the top 10 in the Pro/1 field at the always tough Green Mountain Stage Race. The very next week, he was headed toward a top 15 finish at the Reading 120 when he was taken out by a moto official with 500 meters to go in the race. While a heartbreak like that would have ended the seasons of most riders, Brett picked himself up and began preparing for the week long "Tour of Rwanda" in November. With countless climbs, long distances, poor road conditions, high altitude and hostile fans, the race was more of a challenge than anyone could have imagined. Though missing the break on the first road stage put him far back in the General Classification, Brett clawed his was back with an 8th place on stage 2 and a top 20 in the overall GC.
The end of the 2016 season came late for Brett and he had more than earned a break. Now, after that break, it's time to start preparing for 2017. Though there are many unknowns at this time, we are all excited to see what the next step will be.