Hudson produces another rising cycling starJordan Cullen had a very good 2011. The 16-year-old Hudson High School sophomore won 24 bicycle races —including the Wisconsin state road race championship, the Minnesota state cyclocross championship and the Chequamegon Short and Fat Bike Race.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Jordan Cullen had a very good 2011.
The 16-year-old Hudson High School sophomore won 24 bicycle races —including the Wisconsin state road race championship, the Minnesota state cyclocross championship and the Chequamegon Short and Fat Bike Race.
Furthermore, the state championships came in the Category 1 and 2 races, the top levels for adult riders under the USA Cycling ranking system.
Cullen competed in the 16-mile Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival race because you have to be 18 to participate in the 40-mile race. Still, his victory came against some of the best junior riders in the region, as well as many serious adult riders.
And he won in convincing fashion, finishing nearly four minutes ahead of the next-closest rider in the field of 900 cyclists.
Now Cullen is in Belgium, having been invited to participate in a cyclocross camp and European races with some of America’s best young riders.
Cullen and his father, Jim, sat down for an interview the night before he flew to Izegem, Belgium, on Dec. 15.
“My pure dream (is) to be 100 percent professional,” Jordan said. “But I realize that is really, really hard to do. If I can stay close to the Europeans, I’d love to race over there professionally. But if I can’t, I’ll go to college and race in the U.S.”
Cullen is the latest in a string of young Hudsonites — Brian Zeuli, Bjorn Selander and David Hackworthy — to achieve a high level of success as cyclists. Selander has reached the greatest heights, racing in Europe with Lance Armstrong’s Team RadioShack.
Both Selander and Hackworthy also participated in the EuroCross Camp where Cullen is now.
Cullen is acquainted with Hackworthy having traveled with him to the U.S. Road Race Nationals, but his father has been his cycling role model.
Jim Cullen was an endurance athlete during his years at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Minn., and did some cross-country skiing at the University of Minnesota.
Jim said he had gotten out of shape after college, until joining a group of co-workers at Medtronic who were into cycling. He went from biking with them over lunch hour to serious training and competing in weekend road races.
When Jordan was nine years old, he and Jim started competing together in road races on a tandem bicycle. Jordan was racing on his own bicycle at age 11. When he reached age 13, he was competing with the men as a Category 4 cyclist.
But Cullen’s love for the sport is his own.
“Not at all,” he replied emphatically when asked if he felt pushed into the demanding lifestyle of a serious cyclist.
“That’s what I like about it. He actually pushes me,” said Jim, who still races, too — albeit not as fast as his son.
Competing at the level that Cullen does takes a lot of expertise, discipline and hard work.
Three years ago, his parents hired professional cycling coach Gordy Paulson of Madison to guide his development.
Paulson stays in daily contact with Cullen via e-mail, sending him training instructions in the morning and receiving feedback from Cullen in the evening.
Electronic equipment on Cullen’s bike measures his heart rate and the power he is exerting. The data is recorded by a device on the handlebars, downloaded to a computer and sent to Paulson.
“He can tell if Jordan is tired based on his heart rate and his power during the ride, without Jordan telling him,” Jim said. “It’s gotten fairly scientific.”
Cullen competes with the Clif Bar Development Team in cyclocross, a wintertime form of bicycle racing that includes dismounting and carrying the bike over obstacles.
Jim and Jordan competed together on the Flanders Cycles team out of Minneapolis in road racing the past three summers.
But the younger Cullen will be moving on to the Garmin-Chipotle Junior Development team based in Texas for the 2012 season.
A busy schedule
Cullen competed in 64 cycling races in 2011 (not including his recent European races), and that was fewer than in each of the previous three seasons.
He was just back from a U.S. Grand Prix of Cyclocross race in Bend, Ore., when he talked to the Star-Observer. Earlier races in 2011 had taken him to Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana and Quebec, to name a few places.
“He’s getting to be an old pro at travel by himself,” Jim said.
The busy schedule requires some sacrifice. Cullen can’t remember a Hudson High School homecoming football game that he’s been able attend. He’s always been someplace racing.
He missed six days of school for the current trip to Belgium, but had done most of his homework before leaving.
“That’s been kind of hard, but not too tough,” he said of keeping up with his school work. He’s a straight-A student.
“That’s a prerequisite,” his dad said. “He’s well aware that being a good student is important to us, too. And it needs to be important to him. He doesn’t get to do the cycling and doesn’t get to do the traveling if his grades aren’t up.”
Cullen works just as hard at school as he does on his bike, his father added.
Cullen has an older sister, Maren, who is a freshman at the University of Minnesota. His grandparents (and his mother Carla Cullen’s parents) are Tom and Connie Nielsen. Tom Nielsen is a well-known Hudson real estate agent.