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Wheel Power

From Olympic cyclists and world-class mountain bikers to those who defy gravity on skateboards and dirt bikes, Idaho is full of wheel pioneers.

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4. Richard Feldman loves the bike. He loves everything about it; he loves to train, he loves racing and competition, and he loves just going for a ride. Committed to excellence, Richard is passionate about his riding and the entire training and racing process. His longtime friend Nate Galpin adds, “The most important thing I have learned in time spent with Richard is the respect for quality. It is his measure and he applies it successfully to every facet of his riding, in every facet of his life.”

Not long after moving here from New York City at age 12, Richard saw local rider Boone Lennon tearing downhill at full speed on a bike. “I thought it looked so cool,” he laughs. “I was hooked and knew then that I wanted to really learn how to ride.” The next year he joined three friends in Europe and after watching his first Tour de France, started looking at biking in a very different way. Returning home he found enough confidence to join a seasoned group of Sun Valley Cyclist members on weekly training rides, time trials and races. According to Tom Campion, one of those early mentors, “acceptance by older riders was heaven for Richard who had talent and extraordinary determination as a teenager.” He continued racing at Middlebury College, graduating in 1991, then moving back home to the Wood River Valley.

2011 completed one of Feldman’s best competitive seasons in 21 years. “I love to ride and train. It represents the ultimate solitary freedom to me where you can connect and disconnect; it’s a place to come up with questions and solve the equation,” Richard says. His training regimen is rigorous with combinations of kilometers, intervals, sprints and 80% of “just riding,” which he does by “embracing the real poetry of it,” attaining an almost Zen-like peaceful quality. Campion reflects on this: “Richard is really two different people and what I admire about him is how he is able to accomplish what is required for the intensity of training with a tranquility and contemplative nature in his solitary riding … and how it is completely opposite of who he becomes in intense competition.”

Charley French (at 85 years, one of the Valley’s most admired and lauded athletes) is a longtime friend and fellow rider who says, “I really respect Richard. He is such a devoted person and probably the smartest trained athlete in this Valley at all levels … that’s taking into account his intensity, dedication and energy and how completely educated he is in the sport—from the sheer physicality demanded to the nutritional and emotional balance required.”

It is hard to count or name all the championship jerseys Feldman has worn, but he only focuses forward. His sights are currently set on the 2012 UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) Masters Road World Championships, which will be held August 22-26 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, where he will compete in both the road race (126 km) and the time trial (a 22-km course). Richard won the 2011 UCI Masters Time Trial World Championships, his sixth, in Stavelot, Belgium. Although as defending champion he is already qualified, he competed in a mid-April qualifier near St. Tropez, France, as he says, “to see how one is racing and have a look at the field.” He adds that, “you have to earn the right. It is a great privilege to compete in a World Championship.”

After the Worlds, Richard will change bikes and strategy for the cyclocross season (September through January). He really is passionate about cyclocross, a sport that has grown since the ’90’s and has become hugely popular in Europe. “It is such a different discipline,” he explains, “but adding trail running to my road and time trial training gives me a great foundation.” Cyclocross is a grueling obstacled bike competition (likened to the steeplechase) stressing speed, quick power bursts and aggressive bike handling on a 2.5 to 3.5 km course with innumerable laps. The terrain is mixed: steep and gnarly climbs and descents, grass, dirt and mud, asphalt, and barriers. Racers often must run with their bikes depending on varied course conditions and they require a savvy pit crew as bikes must often be changed at speed. “Richard has nerves of steel,” laughs Charley French. “Road racing takes no nerve, but cyclocross takes all your nerve and guts as you go as hard as you possibly can, taking every and all chances.” Feldman is the current defending champion, having won the 2011 Overall U.S. Gran Prix of Cyclocross, a three-month series of eight sanctioned races in Madison, Wisc., Ft. Collins, Colo., Louisville, Ky., and Bend, Ore.

At age 43 he is a legendary rider and competitor, a consummate professional who is living his dream. He continues to create constant challenges for himself, finely-tuning his craft each time he mounts the bike. “Richard is doing what he does best,” says Campion. “His obsessiveness with bike competition is his identity. It’s what drives him now.”

Richard is proudest, however, of his family; his lovely wife Kelly still coaches soccer at the Community School and their children are happily active—16-year-old Katie chooses soccer and cross country skiing, and for son Alex, age 14, it’s riding the terrain park, playing soccer and basketball. When asked about aspirations for his kids, he is quietly reflective, “I just want my kids to do what they love, and who knows, maybe someday they will become passionate about what they do … wouldn’t that be great?” -Julie Gallagher

 

 

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