Selander home on break from Team RadioShackIt is fair to say that Bjorn Selander has arrived as a professional cyclist. The 22-year-old Hudson native earned praise in his first season with Team RadioShack, the bicycle-racing world’s equivalent of the Green Bay Packers in the NFL or the Minnesota Twins in Major League Baseball.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
It is fair to say that Bjorn Selander has arrived as a professional cyclist.
The 22-year-old Hudson native earned praise in his first season with Team RadioShack, the bicycle-racing world’s equivalent of the Green Bay Packers in the NFL or the Minnesota Twins in Major League Baseball.
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is a teammate of Selander’s. So, too, are top American riders Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner.
Team RadioShack has 25 riders, in all, from 15 different countries. The team participated in some 50 major races over the course of a 10-month season in 2010.
“I had a good year, being the first year,” Selander said in a visit to the Star-Observer last week. “The team was happy. They told me they were happy (with me).”
And that was despite crashing in the first race of the season in Belgium and breaking some ribs. Then he contacted mononucleosis and was sick for the first half of the season.
But he regained his strength in the second half of the season that ended in late October.
Selander is spending some time in Hudson with his parents Dag and Heidi Selander before returning to serious training after Christmas. The 2011 race season begins in February.
Being a newcomer this past season, Selander’s job wasn’t to win races, but to help the team’s veterans such as Armstrong, Leipheimer and Horner do well.
“They told me not to worry about results,” he said. “That’s kind of what you have to do your first year — be there for the other riders before you can ride for yourself.”
For Selander, it meant being in the lead group in early and middle stages of a race in order to set the pace and break the wind for the veterans following in the peloton (the large pack of cyclists in a race).
He also helped shelter and pace the team’s veteran sprinters in preparation for their final burst to the finish line.
“I have a job to do. I do that job, and then a little more,” said the amiable Selander. He has a cheerful, friendly disposition and a ready grin.
He’s a confident young man, too.
“Oh, yeah,” he replied without hesitation when asked if he would eventually be racing to win.
Male cyclists usually don’t peak until around age 30. Armstrong is still going strong at 39.
If past success is an indication, Selander’s optimism is well-founded.
As a high school sophomore in 2005, Selander placed second in the U.S. Junior Cyclocross Championships. In 2006, he was the Junior Cyclocross National Champion.
In 2007, he won the Under 23 Cyclocross National Championship.
Cyclocross is a winter competition for cyclists. It combines elements of road racing and mountain biking, and requires racers to dismount and carry their bicycles over obstacles.
Selander was picked for the Under 23 National Cycling Team while still a student at Hudson High School. He didn’t attend his high school graduation ceremony in 2006 because he was racing in Europe.
Since high school, he’s spent about six months of each year racing and training in Europe.
He also was member of Lance Armstrong’s Trek-Livestrong under 23 development team before joining Team RadioShack at the start of 2010.
Selander is the youngest member of Team RadioShack to be offered a two-year contract.
In 2009, he had a number of impressive finishes in European road races, including second place in Stage 6 of the Tour de Beauce.
While his job in 2010 was to assist other members of Team RadioShack, he consistently placed toward the front of the pack.
A personal highlight of the season for him was competing in the Oslo Grand Prix in August.
Selander’s father, a former Norwegian National Team member and professional cyclist, came to watch the race, which was televised live throughout the country.
About 70,000 people lined the race course. The event was a fundraiser for the Norwegian Cancer Fund.
Bicycle racing in Europe is a sport on par with professional football, baseball or basketball in the United States.
Dag Selander is from Skien, Norway, a city south of Oslo close to the North Sea. Most of his family still lives there. He also has sister in Oslo.
Dag came to the United States with the Norwegian cycling team in 1980 and met Heidi while staying with her parents during a visit to Appleton. They were married the following year, and after a brief period in Norway, came to Hudson to live and raise a family.
Selander said he still values his father’s advice about cycling and life.
“He’s a great support. He’s positive. He’s definitely got a lot to offer,” said the younger Selander.
He gets his mental toughness from his dad. It’s the stubborn Norwegian in him, he admitted with a smile.
Selander considers himself an all-round cyclist.
At six feet and 155 pounds, he’s a little big to be a top climber (a cyclist who excels at going up mountains). He holds his own at climbing though. When he was younger, his dad told the Star-Observer that he climbed like a goat.
“I can sprint really well,” Selander said when asked to name his strength as a cyclist. “When it gets hard, I can really excel — when it gets really high-end.”
He can go in oxygen debt longer than most cyclists. In layman’s terms, it means he can expend a great deal of energy for an extended period.
“Cycling is so mental. I think that is actually one of my strengths – being mentally strong when it gets tough,” he said.
Pro cyclist lifestyle
During the past season, Selander’s home base was in Lucca, Italy, located in the country’s Tuscany region.
He picked the area for its training roads and facilities, the mild climate and the ease of getting to the airport.
He rented a place with another American cyclist, but the two were rarely home together. One or the other of them was usually off racing somewhere.
There are other cyclists for him to train with, but he doesn’t have any RadioShack teammates in Lucca. He grew familiar with the city while training there with the national U23 team.
He also had friends in the city and has gotten to know more people since moving there.
“It’s just a good feeling living there,” he said.
Teams usually send eight cyclists to a race. Team RadioShack often has cyclists in a couple of races at the same time.
The team makes all the travel arrangements and takes care of the bicycles. Selander just catches a flight, shows up at the race, and everything’s there for him.
He’s paid a salary to do it, too.
He has a coach, but is on his own for following the training regimen.
“That’s the hardest thing,” he said. “If you don’t show up for work somewhere, you get fired. But for me, I have to motivate myself to go to training and all that stuff.”
“But you don’t show up for a race not ready,” he added. “You don’t ever want to do that.”
“It’s just a different lifestyle,” he said. “My schedule is so busy. I’m always traveling or training.”