Schmidt on his cyclo-cross bike which has the rugged body and tires of a mountain bike but the handlebars of a road bike.
January 18, 2012 | 07:58 AMLINN — Not too many dads would admit losing in anything to their kids.
But that's not the case with Chris Schmidt.
His son, Andrew, isn't your average 11-year-old. At such a young age, Andrew can already beat dad in a bicycle race, and Chris has no problem with that.
"He's beat me," Chris said Friday at the family's home. "Locally, he's the fastest kid around. He's actually 2-2 against me. There's nothing like racing your 11-year-old son."
"He's faster than Chris," said Tammy, Chris' wife.
Make no mistake, this kid is the real deal. In only three years of competitive racing, Andrew is already a national champion.
An avid mountain, road and cyclo-cross racer, Andrew took part in the USA Cycling Cyclo-Cross Nationals Jan. 6 in Verona, taking the top spot with a time of 24:04.00.
With racing on a 3.8-mile course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles, cyclo-cross requires the rider to quickly dismount and carry the bike while maneuvering through obstacles, then get back on the bike. With courses on taped off golf courses and parks, the sport can throw a 90-degree turn on a muddy surface at a biker followed immediately by an 18-inch barrier.
At nationals, Andrew defeated 20 other bikers ages 14 or under, including some of the best from all over the country.
"It was a super muddy course," Andrew said of the nationals race. "There were steep hills and stairs we had to run up."
This wasn't Andrew's first trip to the rodeo. He started competitive racing at the age of 9 in the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS), consisting of 12 mountain bike races running from May through October all over Wisconsin.
Even in his first year, Andrew won first place in just about every race.
He decided to try cyclo-cross at the age of 10 per his dad's friend's advice. While it wasn't a perfect fit at first, Andrew has grown into one of the best local racers regardless of age.
"I liked mountain biking," he said. "I didn't like cyclo-cross as much, but this this year, I trained more and got a better bike. Now I'm more comfortable."
Comfortable may be an understatement. In the 2011 season, which ran from October through January, Andrew was state, Midwest and national champ. He has even dabbled in Category 4 racing, which involves strictly adult men. Tammy said a couple weeks ago, Andrew won a race against 72 men in Chicago.
At first, experienced bikers weren't exactly keen to the idea of racing with an 11-year-old.
Last summer, Tammy took Andrew to RRBcycles in downtown Lake Geneva, hoping he could ride with the Tread Heads, a local men's biking club.
"I could tell the guys were irritated," Tammy said. "They didn't know us, and they didn't want to babysit a kid. They wondered if Andy could keep up. The owner, Don, who knew of Andy, told the guys, 'I don't think Andy has anything to worry about, but you guys have something to worry about.' That was funny."
Sure enough, Andrew kept up with the lead pack of riders the entire way.
So how did he become such an accomplished rider? Well, Chris and Tammy have both rode bikes in the past, and Chris still partakes in races with Andy. But it may have been destiny for Andrew.
"He started riding without training wheels when he was 3," Tammy said. "Andrew took to it naturally. Andy has always been an exceptional athlete. I still have a video of him riding a stairmaster and a treadmill at 15 months old. He's always been very fast."
Chris took Andrew mountain biking when he was only 7, and right away, Andrew was hooked.
"I came to a log and rode right over it," Andrew said.
A future in racing
A sixth-grader at Lake Geneva Middle School, Andrew is a "straight-A" student and enjoys math and language arts. He has given up baseball and basketball to devote all of his training to racing.
He plans to attend Badger High School and eventually make a career out of racing at age 18.
"It's my favorite thing to do," Andrew said. "When I get done with my homework, I want to go ride my bike. I was riding my mountain bike in the snow last night. When I'm racing, I get an adrenaline rush. It's an amazing feeling. You can hear people screaming, then it fades away because you're focusing so much on the bike race."
In order to become pro, Andrew must keep performing at a high level and have a company sponsor him. And the sport can require some deep pockets. While it isn't costly to enter races, a good bike can cost up to $3,000 and bike parts are expensive.
According to Tammy, Andrew may even work at the local bike shop this summer.
"I built my bike, bought the parts and put it together," Andrew said. "It needed tires, a frame, handlebars and a stem. It took a couple hours to put it together."
Andrew is so dedicated, he races nearly every weekend from March to January, whether it's road, mountain or cyclo-cross racing. When he's not racing, he's training.
For training, he does road rides and mountain bikes at the Kettle Moraine trails. Also, he rides a specialized stationary bike in the winter. He even does P90X and lifts weights.
If Andrew had to pick one, he'd take mountain biking any day. Tammy said he loves the technical aspect and the terrain, which often involves trails, cliffs, logs and hills.
Lost in the accomplishments is the bond between a father and his son.
"Initially, we did it just to check it out," Chris said. "As soon as he saw the elite level riders, his jaw dropped and he wanted to do it. We've spent countless hours riding together. We've grown into it together."