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Mar 6, 2024

In this episode, host Craig Dalton interviews professional cyclist Andy Lydic. They discuss Andy's journey in the world of cycling, from his early days in high school to his decision to pursue a career as a professional cyclist. Andy shares his experiences racing for amateur teams in Spain and his transition to gravel racing. He also talks about his participation in the UCI Gravel World Championships and his goals for the future. The conversation highlights the growing popularity of gravel racing and its potential as a pathway to professional cycling.

Episode brought to you by AG1.

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About the Guest(s):

Andy Lydic is a professional cyclist from Boulder, Colorado. He began his cycling journey in high school, transitioning from track and cross country to mountain biking and road racing. Andy joined the Boulder Junior Cycling team and quickly progressed in the sport. He decided to pursue a career as a professional cyclist and moved to Europe to race for amateur teams in Spain. After facing challenges with team closures, Andy shifted his focus to gravel racing. In 2023, he participated in the UCI Gravel World Championships and had a standout performance as the unofficial under 23 world champion. Andy continues to pursue his passion for gravel racing and aims to make a mark in the professional cycling world.

Episode Summary:

In this episode, host Craig Dalton interviews professional cyclist Andy Lydic. They discuss Andy's journey in the world of cycling, from his early days in high school to his decision to pursue a career as a professional cyclist. Andy shares his experiences racing for amateur teams in Spain and his transition to gravel racing. He also talks about his participation in the UCI Gravel World Championships and his goals for the future. The conversation highlights the growing popularity of gravel racing and its potential as a pathway to professional cycling.

Key Takeaways:

  • Andy Lydic's passion for cycling began in high school when he transitioned from track and cross country to mountain biking and road racing.
  • He joined the Boulder Junior Cycling team and received mentorship from experienced cyclists, which helped him progress in the sport.
  • After facing challenges with team closures in Europe, Andy decided to focus on gravel racing as a pathway to professional cycling.
  • Gravel racing offers a unique combination of physical and technical challenges, making it an exciting and competitive discipline.
  • Andy's participation in the UCI Gravel World Championships showcased the potential of gravel racing and its ability to attract top-level riders.

Notable Quotes:

  • "I want to use gravel as my pathway to pro... I want to write the story of what is the future of gravel." - Andy Lydic
  • "Gravel racing is a true test of a rider's strength, endurance, and technical skills." - Andy Lydic
  • "The U.S. has limited opportunities for young American riders to race in Europe, and gravel racing can provide a unique pathway to professional cycling." - Andy Lydic


  • BMC (Andy Lydic's bike sponsor)
  • It Could Be Me (Andy Lydic's title sponsor) 
  • Maurten (Andy Lydic's nutrition sponsor)
  • Northwave (Andy Lydic's shoe sponsor)

Don't miss this engaging conversation with Andy Lydic as he shares his journey in the world of cycling, his experiences in gravel racing, and his aspirations for the future. Tune in to gain insights into the growing popularity of gravel racing and its potential as a pathway to professional cycling.

Automated Transcript (please excuse the typos):

[00:00:00] - ():  Craig Dalton: Andy, welcome to the show.
[00:00:04] - ():  Andy Lydic: Thanks so much for having me. I'm stoked to be here.
[00:00:07] - ():  Craig Dalton: I'm excited to get into a little overview of your career and What's in store for you in 2024. I always love to start these conversations by just learning a little bit more about you. I mean, you've been involved in bike racing for a long time since your junior days, but why don't you just say, you know, where did you grow up and how did you originally get into cycling?
**** - (): And we can kind
[00:00:26] - ():  Andy Lydic: of go from there. Yeah, totally. So I'm from Boulder, Colorado, grew up here in Boulder, Colorado, and got into cycling in high school, probably my junior year of high school. I used to run track and cross country, and I used to also be a downhill ski racer previous to that, and I was pretty burnt out on track and cross country as a high schooler, just didn't find it that fun.
**** - (): And a bunch of my friends were doing high school mountain biking. A couple people that I knew, but weren't really my friends at the time were doing road racing as well. And my dad was pretty into the cyclocross scene here in Boulder. We've got quite a few local events in the front range area. So he got super into that and there was sunshine hill climb my junior year.
**** - (): Sunshine's a big climb here in Boulder. It takes like 45 minutes or an hour or something like that. And he was like, yo dude, if you go right up sunshine during this hill climb faster than I do, I'll take you out for a burger and some ice cream. And I was like, yeah, totally. I want to go get a burger and ice cream.
**** - (): So I love those dad
[00:01:23] - ():  Craig Dalton: incentives. I feel like I had one of those similar ones from my dad to run cross country one year. And it was like, that works for me. It doesn't have to be a big incentive. Just a little one works as a high schooler.
[00:01:34] - ():  Andy Lydic: Yeah, just something. So from there, I did the Sunshine Hill climb. I actually thought I was wearing a kit for the first time.
**** - (): And I think I was wearing tennis shoes on my mom's road bike. And I was like, you know, it's kind of strange, you know, you're wearing tight clothes biking out in public. But then I thought about it and I was wearing short shorts running. So it's not all that different from there. I decided I wanted to do the high school mountain biking team.
**** - (): So I told the cross country coach that I was going to stop running cross country and go to the high school mountain biking team. And from there, I've had a bunch of my core friends who are still a bunch of friends. Now, some of them are really high level racers, mountain bike and road just across the country and across the world.
**** - (): So they got me into mountain biking for the first season. I was borrowing bikes from people from, I don't think of the five races in the Nike league, I use the same bike twice my first year, just because I was borrowing bikes from people. And from there, I progressed into, I joined the Boulder junior cycling team and had a pretty good time there.
**** - (): I did. Like three races of a cyclocross season, my senior year of high school. And then also did high school mountain biking again that summer following, I was like, yeah, I'm going to get into road too. I'd been training on the road a bit and done a couple of road races with the Boulder junior cycling team and decided from there, like.
**** - (): Yeah, let's see what I can do with this bike racing thing, but was still pretty focused on going to college. It was COVID when I chose where I went to school. So I ended up going to CU Boulder. I was debating between a couple schools in California and a couple schools other places in the country and mid COVID I was like, you know what?
**** - (): I'm just gonna start here at CU. See how I like it. It'll give me the chance to keep riding and see how much I like riding and from there my freshman year of college. My dream of being a professional cyclist kind of really took off. And from there on, I was like, that's what I'm going to do. I want to be a professional cyclist.
**** - (): I want to race on the road. And I want to see how high of a level I can get to at this store.
[00:03:28] - ():  Craig Dalton: Interesting. So going back to those Boulder junior cycling days, is that the type of program that is, you know, giving you guidance and really trying to create elite level athletes? I think of sort of the NICA program as like, Great jumping off point, obviously a lot of infrastructure to bring people into the sport and create good vibes around mountain bike racing.
**** - (): Was Boulder Junior Cycling kind of a next level of that, which is a little bit more intentional to create elite level cyclists?
[00:03:57] - ():  Andy Lydic: Yeah, I think it's a bit of a step up. It's not like what you would see with the old team that used to exist, Lux, or what you'd see with Hot Tubes or something like that. But there was definitely like a lot of really talented guys from Boulder or the front range area who went through the program, guys and girls who went through the program and have stepped up to pro road level racing and pro mountain bike level racing.
**** - (): You see a couple of those guys and girls are over racing in Europe now on professional teams. A couple are gravel privateers now. So I don't think the team's intention is to create elite athletes. But I think the Boulder community and some of the mentors like Joe Lewis was my first coach there and he was a pro for quite a long time and had a lot of really cool experiences that he was able to share along with us.
**** - (): And it provided the platform of inspiration so that riders like myself and riders like like Bjorn Reilly or Mattie Monroe or Riley Sheehan, all those guys came through Boulder Junior Cycling and now they're racing at the top level of the sport across the world. So it's a bit of the team and I think also just a bit of the Boulder community, pretty high achieving people here.
[00:05:03] - ():  Craig Dalton: Yeah, that makes sense. That makes sense. I remember moving out to Boulder from the East Coast and immediately being knocked down a peg because there's got such a great scene and such great riding out there. You mentioned starting CU Boulder during COVID. Was the CU Boulder cycling program able to be active during that first year?
[00:05:24] - ():  Andy Lydic: They weren't. I don't think or not at least that I was involved with because we started in 2020 fall and then 2021 spring there wasn't really road racing here in Colorado and at that point I was also racing with a club team, the cinch elite club team here in Colorado so I was just racing with them. I was a cat three and then upgraded to cat two my freshman year in college that spring.
**** - (): So I don't think the CU team did a whole lot that year, or at least I wasn't super involved with it if they did. And then the fall of my sophomore year before I ended up moving to Europe to start racing, I did collegiate mountain biking. I did like two races just because it was a way to keep me motivated and have fun and been doing mountain bike racing in high school.
**** - (): So I was like, I want to keep doing this. It's fun racing on the dirt. I like it.
[00:06:13] - ():  Craig Dalton: Yeah. Yeah. So, uh, it sounds like that experience racing kind of with, with the cinch program and you're moving up through the categories at least said, Hey, I've got some, I've got some potential here taking that potential and then saying, I'm going to move to Europe is a little bit of a leap.
**** - (): So can you just talk through like what that looked like and did you just move and then try to figure it out or do you, is there a way that you contacted some programs over to Europe to help you at least have a focus point?
[00:06:43] - ():  Andy Lydic: Yeah, I sophomore fall was sitting in my dorm room and I was like, I want to go move to Europe and be a professional cyclist.
**** - (): Like that's what I want to do. I don't want to go to school this spring. I want to be a pro cyclist. So I went on the databases of email contacts for all the teams in Spain, all the teams in France and all the teams in Italy. And I think I sent like 400 emails to every amateur team I could possibly get the contact to saying, Hey, what's up?
**** - (): I'm 19 years old. These are my power numbers, I'm looking to move to Europe, I want to start racing, what can I do? And I think of the three or four hundred emails that I sent, I got like 16 total responses, and of 16 total responses, maybe like five of them weren't immediate no's. And from the non immediate no's, I had like a couple people entertain the conversation.
**** - (): They're like, yeah, we might be looking for an American writer. I was like looking at France. I was looking at Italy. I was looking at Spain. I kind of knew I wanted to go to Spain because I speak a bit of Spanish just from high school. And so I was like, yeah, that might be easy. And then I connected with an agent who works with a bunch of the amateur teams in Spain.
**** - (): And he got me placed on a team and he was like, yeah, man, like you fly out in February and this team's got housing for you. They'll take you to a bunch of really high level Spanish cup races and stage races across Spain. Like all you got to do is just be ready come February. And it was kind of, it was pretty uncomfortable at first cause I'm sending all these emails to a bunch of people.
**** - (): I have no idea who they are, no idea what language they speak. And I'm just the silly American sending English emails saying, what's up? Here's my power file. I don't actually know how relatively good it is, but I'd really like to come race in Europe for you guys. Because that's the dream, isn't it? Like go racing for a European team.
**** - (): So then from there, I ended up moving to Northern Spain and racing for an amateur team. And unfortunately that amateur team folded in March, which would be kind of set a precedent for how my amateur racing experience in Spain went on. So I raced with that team from. End of January, beginning of February, until the end of March, they folded.
**** - (): I moved from northern Spain to Girona. Started racing with another team and got a really cool experience to go race in Denmark at some UCI races, and also do some other cool Spanish races with that team. And then they folded in July, sitting in Girona, just not sure what to do. And that's kind of what led to the whole gravel idea.
[00:09:16] - ():  Craig Dalton: And was that July, 2022, just to try to timestamp it? Yeah, July, 2022. Okay. So you're sitting in, you know, the, the road aspirations are having some, some, uh, detours and some challenges along the way. You're sitting in Girona in July. Um, yeah, talk us through, how did you spend your time the rest of that year?
**** - (): Yeah. So.
[00:09:38] - ():  Andy Lydic: In the midst of the teams falling apart, I'd moved from the team house in Northern Spain to a friend's apartment in Girona. I was connected with a couple of different people who lived in Girona or spent time there just through Boulder, the Boulder community. A bunch of pro cyclists come and spend time here in Toronto Altitude while they're in the U.
**** - (): S. And then one of my friends, Sean, was at CU Boulder and he had an apartment in Girona. So when this team folded, I was like, Hey man, can I come crash with you for a couple of weeks? And in that time, I was just training, hanging out in Toronto, get to meet a whole bunch of pro cyclists, which is really cool.
**** - (): And at that time you're enamored because you're like, wow, like everybody here is a pro cyclist. Everybody here knows what's going on. And you found out after a couple months that all factor wears off and you're like, wow, like I'm, I'm just living here. This is pretty sweet. So from that time after the team folded, I came back.
**** - (): Or after the second team folded in July, I came back to the US and I knew I had a prospect with a team that was hopefully gonna be starting in the fall of 2022 and gonna be officially a UCI team in the spring of 2023. And so I had that idea in my back pocket, came back to the US when I was back in Boulder for, I think it was like a month and a half total of 2022.
**** - (): I raced Steamboat Gravel. I did a pretty decent ride there and that was my second time doing Steamboat Gravel and at that point I was convinced I was racing with this team that was going to be a Conti team. I had a good ride there, went back over to Europe, moved into another apartment in Toronto where I was living with some of the guys that were going to be on that team.
**** - (): And we're supposed to be going to university in Girona, and the whole premise of the team was like, you're part of the team, you're going to university, and you got to learn how to become a professional athlete and somebody off the bike as well, which is super cool idea, super cool concept, and I think there's definitely space for a program like that in the sport.
**** - (): This one just. Didn't end up working out. So they then fell apart in the fall. And while that was all happening, we were, me and the other guys who were supposed to be routing for the team were kind of like, okay, well we're gonna have to figure out what's next. And some of these guys were like, oh, just gonna go back to the us.
**** - (): Other guys were holding on seeing if they could race with other Spanish teams. Spanish amateur teams. 'cause we were all in Spain already. So it just makes sense too. Yeah. And I was like, you know what? I've done gravel a couple times. I've done Steamboat gravel twice, and I did a local race here in Colorado.
**** - (): That's pretty fun. And those races are really hard. So I want to see, you know, there's privateers popping up in the U S and there's a booming scene in the U S and there's a couple of races in Europe. What can I do to make, make that an actual thing? So then in the fall of 2022, I got a pretty good result at one of the UCI qualifiers and was able to go to the first ever UCI gravel world championships in Italy.
**** - (): And that was a super cool experience because, you know, it was my first ever world championships, my first time ever seeing a bike race at that high of a level. And I was able to ride for the elite team because there hadn't been a whole lot of people who were super interested. Everyone, all the American riders were like, Oh, this is a test event.
**** - (): We're going to see where this goes. And I had qualified and I was like, I want to see if I can race for the elite team. So sent some emails back and forth with you and say, cycling, they made that a pretty easy process, but it wasn't really team oriented that year. So we all just showed up, got our own accommodations, our own hotels.
**** - (): I traveled with some of the friends I was living with in Toronto and yeah, just had a blast. Like, yeah. What an amazing experience. That whole trip. That race was super cool. And it was my first time getting to race against guys that were that high of a level you got to race against. Yeah. Like Matthew Vanderpool and wow.
**** - (): Then our, and Greg Van Avermaet were all there. And then I'm at the back of the field. I didn't know how sick I was, but I had COVID it ended up and I was super sick, ended up DNFing the race. But I look back at that experience and I was like, that was. One of the coolest races I've ever done like standing at the start line, looking at my superheroes.
**** - (): That's
[00:13:43] - ():  Craig Dalton: pretty sweet. Yeah, it sounds amazing. So it sounds like, you know, you had, it's the end of the season. I think October 2022 would be the timeframe of that UCI world gravel championships. So then you're looking at 2023. Your road program has dissolved at that point. What were your plans for 2023?
[00:14:05] - ():  Andy Lydic: Uh, I think it was officially December 15th or December 12th or something like that, that we were told the road program wasn't going to go on, wasn't going to exist.
**** - (): So then we were all kind of scrambling and I was, the UCF just announced they're going to do this European gravel series. And I was just kind of stubborn, told my parents multiple times, I was calling them every day, like, I don't know what I'm going to do. And like, well, like you can talk to other teams, start racing for amateur teams again.
**** - (): And I was like, no, I'm going to another team that's going to hold again. Like. That's just not something I wanted to keep doing because it while the racing is really cool The life off the bike when you're racing for these amateur teams is it's pretty tough and it can be really isolating and lonely Just you know, you're sitting in a team house Don't have a whole lot of access to a social life a social experience and I knew I was having a really good time in Girona, so I was like I'm gonna stay here in Girona and chase these gravel races So from that point, I was like, okay, well to race gravel, I have to have a bike to do it and I have to have sponsors to support me and I have to have a mission and a vision for what I'm going to do.
**** - (): And at that point, I had just started working with a new coach and my new coach at that point was like, yeah, man, like I think there's definitely an opportunity to get to a really high level if you're racing gravel. It's the first time there's like a full UCI series, but. Check it out. Let's see, let's see where you can go.
**** - (): Let's see what you can do from it. So I had a lot of really good support from my coach. I had good support from my parents. Um, the first people I started working with were BMC, who I just met in Toronto from just being in Toronto. It's, it's such a funny, small place because. So many people in the bike industry and the professional racing industry live there.
**** - (): So being there and that one of the guys who works in marketing, I was able to get a deal with BMC to ride their bikes for the 2023 season. Just having that kind of gave me the confidence that, you know, I'm worth something. I'm able to go out and build my own program and build my own sponsors. And I've been learning how to make sponsor decks from my friends, from my parents.
**** - (): I've gotten really good mentorship and how to put together. Like a pitch to a sponsor and say, Hey, this is who I am. This is my mission. This is how I think I can add value. This is what I want to do. And this is who I want to be. Will you help me tell that story? And from there, then I started working with on a roadway safety organization from here in Boulder, who was my title sponsor for last year.
**** - (): They're called, it could be me. And they work on. Improving the relationship between roadway users, cyclists, runners, and drivers, and improving safety protocols, local legislation, and stuff like that. And I had those two in my pocket, and they were my biggest supporters through last year, and then I added a couple other sponsors to the line and was able to put together a season that, at first, I was really, really nervous about and really hesitant about.
**** - (): And now, I look back on it with a lot of pride, being like, wow, like, It was December 20th, and I had no idea what I was doing. And then by the end of January, I had my first sponsor. And by the end of February, I had two more sponsors. And then the beginning of March, I actually went and raced with an amateur team, some UCI road races in Greece.
**** - (): And then flew back to Girona from there, and here the gravel season is. Yeah.
[00:17:27] - ():  Craig Dalton: Amazing. I mean, kudos to you for pulling that together after such a tumultuous year. I know how tough it can be for American riders living abroad and especially when you're the team you're trying to ride for, in this case, multiple teams folds right underneath you and you're sort of left with, you know, are the gods telling me something?
**** - (): Should I be quitting the sport? Is there no future? So yeah, huge kudos for kind of pushing through that. I'm curious about, you know, awesome that in 2023, you kind of, you know, built this plan and you got some sponsors together. And I know you're going to be pursuing gravel pretty hardcore in 2024 and we'll get into it.
**** - (): Is your mindset that You know, there will be multiple pathways for you in the future. Like there's still this idea that you could go race professionally on the road.
[00:18:14] - ():  Andy Lydic: Yeah, I think that's the big story that I want to tell right now. I think right now gravel is a lot of guys exiting the world tour exiting pro teams, whether it's for mountain biking or cyclocross or other pro road teams.
**** - (): And they use it as like a stepping stone out of their careers that gives. gravel a lot of validity in the fact that there's a lot of really high level, really talented riders that are doing these races. Like I'm getting to race against Val Verde and I'm getting to race against, um, riders on plenty of world tour teams from Israel to, uh, Alpes and Phoenix.
**** - (): Like all these pro world tour teams are sending riders to these gravel races as one off expose. And then you see that at the world champs this year. And so the whole story now that I want to tell, and I knew this since last year as well, like I want to use gravel as my pathway to pro, but now that's kind of the big story I'm trying to push.
**** - (): And I've been using this hashtag future of gravel that I've kind of coined and I've got a personal email address, Andy at future of gravel. com. So I'm trying to write the story of what is the future of gravel. And what I believe that to be is because the racing is at such a high level, you get. A really high level physical performance out of a gravel race.
**** - (): You know, you're racing for three, four, five, six, seven hours full gas. Like it's a spring classic, but you're also on tricky technical terrain where the requirements, not just that you're a strong bike rider, but that you're. A capable bike rider as well that you're technically skilled and technically talented.
**** - (): And I think there's definitely I don't know of anyone who's used gravel to get into a professional cycling organization yet, but I definitely think there's room for it. And if the directors of pro road teams are the directors of pro mountain bike teams. Are taking a look at what is really required to win these races.
**** - (): They'll see the power numbers required to do these races is equal to and or greater than that of some of these really high level road races, as well as the fact that. You're getting a really good router if you pull a gravel rider out of the gravel along the road.
[00:20:21] - ():  Craig Dalton: Yeah, I think it's a super interesting discussion, Andy.
**** - (): I think, you know, for, for listeners who maybe aren't familiar with the road scene, there used to be this tried and true pathway that involved a lot of development programs. And then maybe you get on the development team of a big pro tour team. And then maybe in your mid to late twenties, you were given a shot on the elite level team.
**** - (): And the last number of years, obviously on the roadside, we've seen a lot of young athletes just kind of come out of nowhere, whether it's a Pogacar or Tom Pickock, all these riders who they clearly didn't come out of nowhere, but they didn't go through that traditional pathway. So I do think it's fascinating for you to kind of hold up your hand and say, like, I'm going to I'm going to go all in on this gravel in a world where data files can be readily shared with coaches and would be agents and teams.
**** - (): They're going to see the amount of power that you can put out there. And to your point, the technical nature of a lot of these gravel races is going to showcase, yeah, you may not be racing, uh, you know, in a one day classic, but you're. On varied terrain with various technical challenges in a big group and a lot of undulation, a lot of technicality, clearly it's showing your professionalism as a, a by Candler.
[00:21:37] - ():  Andy Lydic: Yeah, totally. And I think also as an American writer, especially it's, it's incredibly valuable opportunity right now because the U S only really has two development teams, two under 23 development teams for young American guys to get the chance to go over race in Europe. And. You know, as cool as it is to race crits, I'm A, not built to race crits and B, that's not the kind of racing I really want to do.
**** - (): And that's really the only professional level of racing that you can do in the U. S. The U. S. is so crit centric that these development teams, which only have a certain number of spots for riders, can only send so many people over to Europe. So, You know, as an American rider, the pathways to getting too professional in Europe, which is where, you know, the money in the sport is the visibility and the sport is the fame and the sport is.
**** - (): The pathway to that is pretty limited just because, you know, each team has 10, 12, 15 riders, and there's only two of them. There's one that's purely American and one that's got four or five American riders, but that's it. So I think having gravel as an opportunity to progress to professional could be a really unique, a really unique pathway that won't end up being that unheard of in the future.
**** - (): I think if one rider can do it, I'll set a precedent. And then once the precedent's set. You'll see guys who went from high school mountain biking to gravel racing to pro teams more and more because the level of riders in America is really incredible. There's just not a whole lot of road races and there's not a whole lot of opportunity for those riders to get to the European road races where there is the opportunity.
**** - (): Yeah,
[00:23:15] - ():  Craig Dalton: yeah, yeah. That's super exciting. Continuing on your 2023 campaign, you got selected for the United States World Championship team once again. So you got to attend your. Second world championships, you mentioned in that first one, which I recall, there wasn't a lot of team camaraderie, um, or alignment with the people participating, but it sounds like from talking to a few of the, of the other athletes in 2023, there was much more of an alignment.
**** - (): So can you talk about what it was like racing with that crew and how the day unfolded for you?
[00:23:48] - ():  Andy Lydic: Yeah, it was a super cool experience having USA Cycling step up and say we want to go to this race and we know we have riders who can perform really highly in this race. So the US National Championships for gravel was an auto qualifier for the top three positions at that race to get to be on the Elite World Championships team.
**** - (): And then everything else was a petition process and going into the petition process, I knew that I had raced more of the UCI gravel races than any other American had. So I thought I had a leg up there, but it ended up being a pretty tough process. And I think it was a tough selection process from USA cycling, because there was definitely a bunch of really deserving guys who applied to be on that elite team and who wanted to go to the world championships that applied for it, but didn't get selected because you know, the team only gets a certain amount of slots.
**** - (): And so it was definitely. Definitely fortunate that I was able to get that spot on the elite team again. I think, I think I had earned it just because I had done so many of the UCI races and I had gotten pretty good results at some of them. So from there, the USA team put together an email list and we're all on the same page of Okay, we're going to this race and we want the USA to show up and show up.
**** - (): And we knew we had Keegan. He's one of the most talented and one of the strongest riders in the world, just bar none. So we all showed up and USA Cycling had organized a hotel, so a bunch of the riders stayed at the hotel and, you know, they had food and everything for us. We had soigneurs, we had mechanics, and they did a really good job just organizing, putting together.
**** - (): Look, we want to perform. This is what it takes to perform. So it was almost like being in a professional team for a week because, you know, staying at the hotel with the guys on the team, that was super inspiring getting to hang out with guys you've raced against, but don't really know was super fun. And then going into the race, we had a plan to ride for Keegan, which everybody was on board with.
**** - (): Cause everyone's like, you know, Keegan can podium or if Keegan can win, that means a lot more than. A whole bunch of us getting 30th place. So yeah, it didn't end up working out incredibly well to ride for him. Just because in gravel, I think the nature of the sport is, you know, it is more of an individual race.
**** - (): It's more of an individual sport, but we went into it all knowing, like, we're going to try and get our best rider as high up as possible. And that result, Deacon had a really great ride. He finished fifth on the day. And then the other American boys had a really good ride and I had a ride. I'm super proud of.
**** - (): I call myself the unofficial under 23 world champion in gravel because I was the first under 23 rider in the elite field to cross the line. So while it's not something UCI gives a Jersey for yet, uh, I'm hoping they're going to give an under 23 world champs Jersey next year, I'll still be eligible for that, but I had, I had the ride of my life too.
**** - (): There was a point in the race where I'm riding next to. Wout van Aert and Matej Mohoric, and I stick both my elbows out to see if I could touch both of them at the same time and just because it was such a surreal experience that I was riding elbow to elbow with Matej Aert, I was like, this is crazy. I had a really good ride there that I was super proud of.
**** - (): And I think the course designers did an awesome job of making a course that actually really was a feeling of a gravel race course. Like we have hard gravel climbs, hard farm roads. There was flats, there was climbs. There was two river crossings in the race. Like, it definitely wasn't just a one day classic disguised as a world championship.
**** - (): It was a true gravel race, and I think it spoke a lot to the riders and gave a lot of validity to the sport beyond the fact that Some of the world's best riders were racing
[00:27:26] - ():  Craig Dalton: it. Yeah, I agree. I think, you know, they continue to improve the format. Obviously, they're melding what we think of gravel in the United States with what Europeans think of gravel and UCI has their own perspective on how long events should be And what they should look and feel like, but clearly like in 2023, it did capture the attention of both male and female elite level gravel racers in the United States.
**** - (): And there was this dramatic shift in desire to actually go attend the worlds, which I, for one, I hope continues on. I do think it's important for us to have enthusiasm for the world championships. Cause I want nothing more than to have the rainbow stripes on an American at some point in the gravel
[00:28:09] - ():  Andy Lydic: discipline.
**** - (): Yeah, totally. And I think, you know, to speak to the validity of the race in the Europeans mind, like I think there was 50 plus pros in the race of including pro Conti and world tour riders. And then you add in continental riders and that's another 30 And then you have pro mountain bikers and pro cyclocross racers on top teams in the world.
**** - (): Like the field was. Completely stacked. And it was really cool to see all these super high level riders there, as well as the U S putting in a really good result. Like I know Keegan was hoping to win it and I really believe he was capable of it, but you know, it's a race races don't always play out how you expect.
**** - (): And I think it won't be too far in the future when we see an American wearing. I
[00:28:57] - ():  Craig Dalton: love it. 2024.
[00:29:02] - ():  Andy Lydic: Yeah. So I started the race season two weeks ago at one of the, at the Low Gap Grasshopper race in Northern California. Had a pretty fun ride there. It was for being a, one of the smaller season opener races.
**** - (): There was a pretty strong field. We had Chris Blevins and Pete Stetna. Uh, Brent Wurtz and John, no, not him, but a bunch of really high level riders, super cool. So started the season there, got 7th place after a silly little crash, 4k from the line, but then Looking forwards in two weeks, I'm going to fly over to Greece and start my racing season in Greece, actually racing on the road.
**** - (): So I'll do a stage race in a one day in Rhodes, Greece. And then from there, I start with the UCI Gravel World Series race. So I'll be hitting, I think, six races in Europe over a seven week period. I'll do a UCI gravel race in Austria, a three day gravel stage race in Spain. A one day UCI gravel race in southern Spain and then up to Netherlands for a one day back to Spain for Traco, which is one of the biggest gravel races in the world now, but it's, I'd compare it to like, it is the, it's the unbound of Europe and then I'll finish the season off in Scotland at the UCI gravel race there.
[00:30:22] - ():  Craig Dalton: Amazing. And then will you be dipping your toe back in the United States throughout the season? Or are you mainly focused on the UCI gravel events internationally?
[00:30:31] - ():  Andy Lydic: Yeah, after that race block, I'll come back to the U. S. in mid May and kind of refocus as the American season gets going. I think the American gravel season.
**** - (): Gets going slowly. And then through the summer, it picks up quite a bit. So I won't be doing some of the big American stuff. I won't be doing Unbound, which I'm pretty happy to not be doing, but then I'll do Crusher and the Tusher. I'll do Steamboat. I'll do a couple of marathon mountain bike races. I'm hoping to go to.
**** - (): Marathon mountain bike, national champs. I think that'd be a super fun experience. And then some local races here in Colorado and then the rest of the lifetime Grand Prix races after unbound.
[00:31:11] - ():  Craig Dalton: Okay. Yeah. It's interesting to me, you know, I remember sort of historically speaking, they would often try to keep younger riders away from the super massive distance races, like an unbound 200.
**** - (): And that's what was curious, you know, in the UCI vision of what gravel distances should be, they're not, they're not going 200 miles. They don't want it to be sort of an ultra endurance fest. They're, they're looking for it to be more active racing. How do you feel about, like, it sounds like. Not doing a 200 mile gravel race sits okay with you for this next season.
**** - (): But do you think about it like that? Do you feel like 200 miles is too much for you as a younger professional?
[00:31:53] - ():  Andy Lydic: I think it's hard as such a young guy to compete with the likes of Keegan or the likes of the other world tour pros coming from Europe to the U S to do onbound because These guys have lifetime miles, which gives them a level of durability that it's really hard to have as a young rider.
**** - (): And so beyond the fact that it's just a long day in the saddle, I think it's hard for young riders to really perform there and you know, it's well doing as a career changing result. But that said. I really like the UCI format of the shorter races. I like racing for four hours. I like the four hours to be really hard.
**** - (): I like it to be really tactical and it feels like a road race that's more technical because you've got the gravel and you've got the, you know, whether it's a tricky descent or a river crossing or something like that. It's still a hard gravel race, but you're not out there for seven or eight or 10 hours.
**** - (): Yeah, like you would find in some of the longer American races. So it's nice. It's nice to get the speed from the European races and hopefully I can get the speed from the shorter races and then take it into the endurance that the longer American races later in the season will
[00:33:02] - ():  Craig Dalton: require. Yeah, I think it's fascinating.
**** - (): I mean, look, there's, my opinion is there's room for all these types of events on the calendar. But it is interesting. And after talking to the UCI about like their perspective on the format, I have to acknowledge that like the dynamic racing element of a four to five hour race is just higher than a, a 10
[00:33:23] - ():  Andy Lydic: hour race.
**** - (): Yeah, totally. And it's not, not that the racing in the U S is like not tactical because I think it's completely tactical, but it's just a different way. Whereas, you know, if the race, if you know, the race is 130 K or it's only going to be a four and a half hour race on the gravel guys are going to take much bigger poles, have much bigger attacks and yeah, it's going to play out more like a race that you'd want to watch on TV.
**** - (): Whereas, I didn't really think it'd be super interesting to follow unbound for all 200 miles of it, just because, you know, things happen a lot slower because it's a much longer race. Riders have to think a lot more about conserving. Riders have to think a lot more about whether it's their fuel strategy, their nutrition strategy.
**** - (): I think, you know, that's still equally important in the shorter races. How good your pit crew is doesn't determine your result in a UCI race, because you don't have a, that's not a thing that doesn't exist. It's you go out there, you race full gas for four hours, and then when you're done The race is over and, you know, some guys are wearing hydro packs.
**** - (): Some guys are not, but it's not so much a war of attrition as much as it is like a proper race. Yeah.
[00:34:32] - ():  Craig Dalton: Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. Um, how are you supporting your 2024 campaign? Do you have a set of sponsors that are carrying over from 23?
[00:34:42] - ():  Andy Lydic: Yeah. So I'm working with quite a few of my sponsors from 2023 continuing into next year.
**** - (): And I've added a couple other sponsors as well. I think this year has been definitely tricky to get sponsors and to work with sponsors because it's so such a difficult bike market right now. You know, I've heard all across the industry, like, Oh, 2023 was a really tough year and that really impacts marketing budgets.
**** - (): And marketing budgets is where, you know, privateers and writers like me get the finances to do the season. So it's actually not a complete process for me right now, figuring out how I'm going to pay for the entire season and pay for my living and everything. That's an ongoing process. And I think looking outside of the industry is something I've been doing recently as to how can I get some money and how can I share my story and how can I provide value to brands inside or outside of the industry?
**** - (): While it's this late. The other hard thing for me was, you know, my best result, the unofficial under 23 world champion wasn't until October when a lot of people have already signed their contracts for next year. So my best results did come late. Moving into next year, I anticipate I'm continuing to work with BMC.
**** - (): I'm continuing to work with It Could Be Me. I'm now working with Morton as a nutrition sponsor, which is really exciting and that's honestly a grail sponsor to me because I've been using their products. Been buying them for two years now and it's really exciting to get to work with the brand now. And I work with Northwave for shoes and Getting helmets from them.
**** - (): So it's really cool that the product support I'm getting is really strong and fairly well covered when it comes to product, but definitely still trying to tie up some ends when it comes to financing the whole season. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:36:19] - ():  Craig Dalton: Got it. Well, I love that you're forging your own way and you know, you've got a unique racing calendar that should appeal to some sponsors and wish you best of luck and certainly hope you're wearing the stars and stripes Jersey for us in the world championships again,
[00:36:35] - ():  Andy Lydic: in 2024.
**** - (): Yeah, that's the goal. I'd love to go back and double love it if the UCI offers up a jersey for the under 23. And even if they don't, I'm going to go and see how good I can do in that elite race. So that's the goal.
[00:36:49] - ():  Craig Dalton: Amazing. Thanks for the time today, Andy. Great to get to know you.
[00:36:53] - ():  Andy Lydic: Yeah. Thanks so much, Craig.
**** - (): Have a good one.