Julian Kyer thought he was going to have to flee his home state of Colorado at the end of August. The 24-year-old from Boulder was afraid that watching the USA Pro Cycling Challenge roll through the state Aug. 20-26 without being able to participate would be too much to bear. Now the newest Bissell Pro Cycling Team rider is planning how to attack the race that once seemed out of the question this year.
“I didn't even consider that as a possibility,” Kyer said this week at the Tour of Utah, where he is riding with his new Bissell team and sits 13th overall after four stages. “So just the fact that I get to do it is massive.”
Although he only recently signed with Bissell through the end of the season, Kyer is no stranger to pro cycling. He rode for the former Trek-Livestrong team in 2009 and 2010, and then moved on to the Kelly Benefit Strategies team in 2011 when he aged out of the U23 development team. But Kyers' time at Kelly Benefit Strategies was short-lived and disappointing. He didn't get enough results to be asked back for a second year.
“Last year I was anemic all year, and I didn't know until two days before USPro, basically,” he said. “I just couldn't get out of my own way last year, and I didn't earn my keep.”
After failing to secure a contract with any UCI Continental team for 2012, Kyer signed with Colorado's Juwi Solar squad, a USA Cycling Domestic Elite amateur team that allowed him to compete in NRC races. For a rider who shined throughout his junior career and during his years with the Trek-Livestrong, stepping back to the amateur level was a bit of a blow. But Kyer used the disappointment to push himself back to the top.
“Because I was a new rider and low on the totem pole, I'm not sure [Kelly Benefit Strategies] realized what a hole I was in,” he said. “They decided to sign some different guys, and that's fine. I was for sure disappointed, but it also really motivated me to get healthy, step back up and prove that I could be competitive regardless of what team I was on.”
Kyer wasted very little time sending out those signals to whomever might be paying attention. He stormed out of the blocks at the National Race Calendar opening Redlands Bicycle Classic with a second-place ride behind eventual overall winner Phil Gaimon (Kenda/5-Hour Energy) during the prologue time trial. Bissell team director Omer Kem was paying attention.
“He was really good in March,” Kem said. “So we were kind of like, 'OK maybe he's got a point to prove. That's fantastic, let's see where this goes.' At [Tour of the] Gila, he was not quite as good as he was at Redlands, but that's probably to be expected if you're that hot in the early part of the year.”
Kyer cooled down briefly but got hot again just in time for the June USAC Elite National Road Championships in Georgia, riding away with wins in both the time trial and road race. Kem called Kyer the next day and asked him if he'd like to ride the races in Utah and Colorado with Bissell.
“For us it was, 'OK, he lives at altitude, and we know we have this big block of altitude racing coming up, let's let him do Cascade [Cycling Classic] with his amateur team to make sure he's there and has the preparation, and then he'll do the UCI races for us,'” Kem said.
Kyer said the Juwi Solar team helped him out this year by providing him with a chance prove that he really did have a problem in 2011, and it was legitimate, and that what he did last year wasn't really reflective of the type of rider he is.
In his first race with his new pro team he hasn't wasted any time continuing to prove his point. He stuck with the lead group during the difficult stage 1 road race at the Tour of Utah, and then he contributed to the Bissell squad's fourth-place finish at the team time trial the next day. It was that result that lifted him to his current position in the top 15, directly behind teammate Chris Baldwin. Both riders are 53 seconds off the pace of race leader Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp). It's a result that pleases Kem but didn't take him by surprise.
“To make the front selection of 40 in what's basically a ProTour race, and then to be a big factor in the team trial the next day, especially on a bike he's only seen the afternoon before, it just shows what type of rider he is,” Kem said. “And I think that he's just going to get better. I think he's got some growth in terms of form, and this race is going to bring him up another level for [USA Pro Cycling Challenge in] Colorado.”
Kem said he believes Kyer's motivation will be through the roof for the Colorado race, which he says is the pinnacle for any up-and-coming cyclist from the Centennial State.
“For a kid who lives in Colorado to be able to do the tour of Colorado, that's a really big deal,” Kem said. “And I think we'll see him rise to the occasion even more. It's huge. It's a chance to race in front of his family and friends and all that; that's all you can hope for, really.”
Kyer agrees. His parents live in Colorado Springs, where one of the stages will finish. Kyer has also lived there. He has family in Denver that live just blocks from the final day's time trial course. He said the race will pass directly by one of his old apartments, and he'll get to race through Lyons, where he went to high school. “Being the local kid and having one of the biggest races in the US go through is really, really special to me,” he said.
But before he gets to race in front of his friends and family in Colorado, he's got to get past Utah's two toughest stages – the Saturday romp that finishes at the Snowbird Ski Resort and the final day of racing on Sunday that will take the riders over 162.8 km and 3,048 meters of climbing. It's a daunting task, but Kyer said he doesn't feel a lot of pressure at the moment. His goals at the beginning of the season were to get a good result at Redlands and win the Elite national time trial. He did both of those and one better by winning a stars-and-stripes jersey at the road race as well.
“Even though I've had a reasonably successful season, it's easy to look at whatever your last race was and think about that, or think about all the times that you didn't win,” he said. “So I've been trying to remind myself lately that I've already accomplished the three goals that I set out for myself and exceeded in some way what my expectations for the season were. And so now everything is kind of icing.”