It's full speed ahead for local cyclist
Paul Rytlewski thought his son Jake would enjoy cycling, maybe even continue riding as a hobby for years.
The Bay City father had no idea his son would put the pedal to the metal and be good enough ride with a national racing team.
''I knew he'd probably ride and continue to ride and enjoy it,'' said Jake's father recalling the early days on a bike. ''I just didn't think he'd take it this far.''Probably in the back of his mind, he wanted to do something like this. But when he was real young, he didn't train a lot and when he rode, he didn't have any great results.''
Jake Rytlewski, a 25-year-old Bay City All Saints grad, is gearing up for his third pro racing season and second with Rite Aid Pro Cycling. And he's coming off a successful season that includes one national win and a local victory.
Jake won the 48th Fitchburg Logsjo Classic, Mass., on July 4. Other Fitchburg champs of note for the longest running stage race in the U.S. are Davis Phinney (American with most career wins), Tyler Hamilton (2004 Olympic gold medal winner) and Lance Armstrong (seven-time Tour de France champ).
''I was so pumped to get my first stage race victory,'' said Jake. ''I had been dreaming of this for a while. I'm just so glad to have been surrounded by people who have supported and encouraged me along the way and who have helped make this possible. Hopefully there will be plenty more along the way.''
Locally, Jake also won the Tour of Frankenmuth last May.
''I like warm and mountains. Frankenmuth was flat, windy, raining and 40 degrees,'' said Rytlewski of the 80-mile race. ''It was hard work.''
Rytlewski came from behind in the final kilometer and beat Ben Whitehead of Priority Health Cycling in the final 300 meters.
Jake also took second at the Cone Azaila, fourth at the Tour of the Bahamas Road Race, ninth at the USPRO Criterium Championships and 10th at the Tour of Virginia. He also finished 17th in the USPRO Road Race among 105 starters.
''Our schedule is pretty much the same,'' said Jake, a four-time Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference champ. ''There won't be any surprises. I will know exactly what to expect.
''Hopefully I can improve on the results I got last year.''
Jake, who lives in Avon, Ind., recently got married and re-signed with the Rite Aid team.
''It took sometime and some thought, but I feel Rite Aid will be giving me the best opportunity and best chance to have a very successful and exciting season,'' said Jake, who is waiting for his new wheels (a carbon fiber Vellum) to replace the Merlin CR 3/2.5 Titanium Works he used in 2007.
Rite Aid provides Jake with two bikes, helmets, riding shoes and apparel along with race entry fees, lodging at events and travel costs. He also gets a salary and prize money won at races is split among the team members.
''I get anything and everything that I need,'' said Jake.
Jake, an assistant cycling coach at Marian College where he competed, puts in countless hours on the road. He also rides his bike indoors when the weather is bad.
''When I'm out riding I usually have a plan and goals on every training ride,'' said Jake, who trains six hours a day during the peak training season. ''So I think a lot about the intervals I have to do and how hard I am riding
''But then I also think about previous races and upcoming races and think about how I'm going to win them or image winning them. When you're out for five or six hours there is plenty to think about.''
Jake is used to riding alone, although at least once a week he rides with a group from Marian College.
''You are usually better off riding on your own because everyone's training is different,'' said Jake. ''But I will ride with the riders from Marian and there is a group ride/race that leaves a few miles from my house and I like to join up with them at the end of my rides.''
Jake doesn't remember the first time he rode a bike or much of his early races, but he does recall that his first real bike (a Fuji Odessa) was stolen.
In high school, Jake played baseball, tennis, bowling and football in high school.
It was in high school that Jake's cycling career was really launched. He won a Category 3 race at Kensington Metro Park, his father says.
''That spurred him on to riding a lot more,'' said Jake's father. ''And he's really making some big gains.''
Jeff Bisel, All Saints athletic director, recalls Jake riding his bike from Bay City to Kingston before a district boys baseball game.
''Jake is doing fantastic,'' said Bisel. ''I remember him being just 125 pounds, but he always gave 100 percent all the time.''
Jake is gearing up for his first race Feb. 2 and 3, the Tour of the Bahamas.
But his longterm goal is riding in the Tour de France.
''Hopefully in three or four years, I'll be at that level,'' said Jake.
''Jake has goals and he's living his dream,'' said Paul Rytlewski. ''He's still very young as pro cyclists go. Physically he's not going to see a peak until 30-35 years of age.
''If Jake has the gumption to keep with it and keeps plugging away, he'll get somewhere.''