Can Tyler Locke win the USA CRITS title?
On March 30, the USA CRITS Series will kick off in El Paso, Texas at the Sun City Crit. Some of the nation’s best criterium specialists from Team CLIF Bar, ButcherBox, Legion of Los Angeles, and Texas Road House will begin their season-long efforts to wrestle the championship crown from David Guttenplan and his Support Clean Sport/BSCG/Guttenplan Coaching team. But, as threatening as these elite riders are, the greatest threat to David Guttenplan winning back-to-back championships might come from his teammate and loyal lieutenant, Tyler Locke.
Even though Tyler Locke isn’t a name that the average cycling fan knows, digging into the record books shows that he’s a veteran well-known in the peloton and in Southern California’s renowned criterium scene. In fact, having developed as a rider in Southern California alongside national champions like Justin Williams means that Tyler is probably one of the best criterium racers in the nation. In a recent phone call, Tyler reflected on the region saying, “It’s a huge community. There is always a crit available, and there is always a person to train with that also races crits. Everyone is out riding, enjoying themselves, and getting stronger for their next race.”
A few years ago, while racing for the respected SoCal Cycling Team, Tyler had a chance run-in with David Guttenplan during the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix that put the young rider on David’s radar. “Later that season, I was doing a training ride with a cyclist that races for David’s Support Clean Sport team and I was telling him how I was wanting to step up my game and he referred me to David. And here we are!”
In the seasons since being signed to Support Clean Sport, Tyler has grown into a key member of the team with his strategic mind and powerful legs. During an interview with David Guttenplan last year leading up to his 2018 USA CRITS championship, David praised Tyler’s aggression and loyalty. Seeing Tyler’s talents coming into bloom, David even set Tyler loose in the last few races to see what momentum Tyler could build going into 2019. David said, “I told Tyler to go for it and race for himself. I said not to worry about me. The best way he could help me was to do well and help himself.” Having proved himself in those races, the Support Clean Sport squad will be approaching the 2019 USA CRITS season with a two-pronged approach with both David and Tyler gunning for the championship. This move that was made possible thanks to one of the team’s sponsors, the dietary supplement tester Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG), stepped up their financial support to become a co-title sponsor.
This two-pronged strategy can be a bit of a gamble. Last year Team CLIF Bar had three riders within striking distance of the USA CRITS title, but all three were out maneuvered by Support Clean Sport’s singular focus on David Guttenplan’s title bid. It could be argued that Team CLIF Bar’s downfall came from its riders taking too many points from each other during races, a risk that Tyler doesn’t believe will hinder his title chances. According to Tyler, “We have the advantage of David and I having two different racing styles. Some races will benefit David and others will benefit me. It will be rare for us to be battling each other for points at the same race.”
With the support of his team firmly behind him, Tyler admits that his greatest competitor this season might be himself as he transitions into the role of being the team’s supported rider. “I know that I have the big engine and strong legs that I need to get results. The hardest part of this season will be the mental aspect. In racing, it’s about winning, but it’s also about limiting your losses. If you can limit your losses, you can win more and be more consistent; not take as many risks and end up in a better place at the end of the race. Last year, I ended up going down a couple of times – and David didn’t – and that cost me many months of repair and recovery that David didn’t have to handle. This year, I feel like my training has me better equipped for extreme, last second decision making. I’m better at pushing aside fear and hesitation and just going for it.”
This year might be a career-defining season for Tyler Locke. He’s stronger and smarter than ever before and has the support of his team’s fearsome fleet of Stradalli AR7s and Faenza aero bikes. And, with USA CRITS featuring new races like El Paso’s Sun City Crit and the Salt Lake Criterium to even the field, Tyler is looking less and less like a dark horse and more like a legitimate contender.
Let the games begin!