League alumnus Sam Hedlund (Washburn, then South Minneapolis Composite, Now 612MTB, 2012-2014) took an “atypical” route to a college mountain bike racing career. Rather than head to Colorado like many League graduates, Sam elected to attend the University of Vermont in Burlington (UVM) and shred the slopes of the eastern seaboard. This decision paid off. Sam took second place in the Omnium and his UVM team won the club level championship at the 2017 USA Cycling Collegiate MTB Nationals this past October.
Sam is a Junior at the UVM, studying Community Entrepreneurship. He leads the school cycling club as its president, while racing mountain (cross country, downhill/gravity), road, and cyclocross.
We thank Sam for taking time from a very hectic schedule to share his insights about college, racing and riding out east.
What was your athletic background/history prior to cycling?
I played team sports all through grade school, but was never that good. During my sophomore year of high school, I needed a fall sport, so I decided to try mountain biking.
When did you fall in love with mountain biking?
My dad took me out to Wirth and Leb a couple times a year growing up, but I was never super into it. Then, when I joined the Washburn team during my sophomore year of high school, I quickly improved and became obsessed. I loved riding laps at Wirth, trying to go faster every time.
Why the east coast for college?
I love Minneapolis, but I’ve always pictured myself living somewhere else, at least for a while. I figured if I went to school in the Twin Cities, I’d end up staying there, so I decided to go far away. A big part of choosing UVM for school was the mountain bike team. I also liked the academics, student demographic, the town of Burlington, etc.
Are there many MTB clubs/teams in the East?
Yes, but UVM’s is by far the largest. We bring around 40 people to each race. Each Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference mountain bike race has about 200 participants across a few categories. They’re mostly comprised of club teams of about 10 people.
What’s the MTB “vibe” like compared to here?
Much more “trail” oriented. The terrain is much gnarlier, and more conducive to longer-travel bikes. There is plenty of XC racing to be found, but the culture is more oriented towards trail riding, “sending”, and enduros.
What’s your training schedule like
I train hard, but because UVM is a club team, it’s a challenge by choice. I ride 6/7 days a week. A lot of base miles and intervals on the road bike, but also a lot of relaxed coffee rides and riding singletrack.
How do you balance school/sports/social life?
It’s not easy! In season, I work my butt off during the week. This way I can neglect my homework on the race weekends and focus on racing and hanging out with the team. It’s a lot of work, and can be overwhelming at times, but it’s all worth it. Collegiate racing is an absolute blast.
Favorite MN HS League race/moment?
During my senior year, I took 4th at Jail Trail in the varsity category. The 3 guys who beat me were all named Sam too! We took a “Sam” podium picture together. In general though, I loved racing the same folks every weekend. Making friends with them was great, and getting to know each person and their riding style was fun.
What’s your favorite place to ride?
Minnesota: Theodore Wirth, baby! The tight, twisty singletrack keeps you on your toes and makes you quick.
Vermont: Cochran’s – “Rake and Ride” singletrack – super rooty, loamy, loose, steep, and sketchy at times.
Where’s your “bucket list” ride?
Moab. I’ve been lucky enough to ride much of Colorado with the 612MTB team, but I’ve gotta get out to Utah. Also, I’d love to ride Whistler.
After graduation plans?
Move to a bigger city and keep riding all the time!
Get Loose and ride fast! Create a cycling-oriented clothing company. Not sure where life will take me, but I’m excited for it! Confidence and motivation will take ya far.
Any words of wisdom for MN League riders?
College is hard! It may seem like your peers have everything figured out, but in reality, everyone is lost and confused at times, and that’s completely OK. Keep your mind on the money – if there’s something you want to achieve, make moves towards it NOW. The longer you wait, the less likely it is to happen. If you’re thinking about taking a gap year, do it!