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American Neo-Pro Carlsen returns to racing at Criterium International

After training hard all winter in anticipation of his ProTour debut, New Hampshire native Kirk Carlsen came out flying at the Tour of Qatar in February.

Editor’s note: This is the second installment in an ongoing series on first-year ProTour racer Kirk Carlsen. The first can be read here.

Carlsen
Kirk Carlsen, seconds before the start of his first race as a ProTour rider. | Ben Delaney photo

After training hard all winter in anticipation of his ProTour debut, New Hampshire native Kirk Carlsen came out flying at the Tour of Qatar in February. Then, barely three days into racing in his new Garmin-Transition kit, Carlsen hit the deck and snapped his right collarbone and scapula. It was a rough but realistic introduction to racing in the big leagues.

After some time off the bike, Carlsen slowly built back his form and will return to racing at the three-stage, two-day Criterium International this weekend.

“I tried the best I could to remain positive,” Carlsen said of his time off the bike. “The hardest thing for me was knowing how my form was before the crash, knowing how hard I worked in the off season, then watching my numbers diminish each day I was unable to train properly. That was the hardest part; you put in the time and effort to be fit and cannot do anything but think the racing and training you’re missing. Luckily, I have a great coach who helped me get back on my feet and pushed my limits in training to get back my fitness.”

Carlsen began working with Jim Lehman of Carmichael Training Systems in 2008. Lehman said that he coaches a number of younger athletes, and has been impressed with the maturity the 22-year-old Carlsen shows.

“Kirk has had to overcome a fair bit of adversity in his personal life to arrive at where he is today,” Lehman said. “I believe that this has shaped him and continues to help drive him towards success, both on the bike and off the bike.”

With the broken bones mended, Carlsen is putting the crash in the rear view mirror.

“The last few weeks I’ve been working a great deal on raising my threshold power again, as well as trying to get speed in behind the motorbike,” he said. “That is the one thing you lose quickly, is the speed in your legs. No matter how hard you train, you can’t get the same benefits as you can racing. I feel as though I have done everything I could to prepare properly to be race ready.”

On Saturday Carlsen will line up alongside teammate David Millar, Dan Martin and Danny Pate, each of whom could contest the overall with two road races and a time trial on tap.

On the other side of the world, the American race scene is officially underway at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, an event where Carlsen captured the KOM title in 2008.

“Redlands is a great race,” he said. “France is a long way away from Redlands, in terms of type of racing, but you only can progress with your career, no going back.”

Lehman said that he has to remind himself, and Carlsen, to be patient.

“It’s important to remember, for him and me, that even though he has a great deal of experience and he is riding at the ProTour level, he’s only 22 years old,” Lehman said. “He is in the early stages of what will likely be a long career, so we need to approach things with caution. As he matures, both physically and mentally, he’s training program will continue to evolve, but for now we are taking things conservatively to allow for this growth to happen. It is difficult for the younger guys to be patient, especially when their teammates have 15 years of ProTour-level experience, but Kirk is approaching this with a level head and the understanding that you have to lay the foundation in order to build a champion.”

Follow Carlsen and the rest of the pro peloton at Criterium International this weekend at VeloNews.com.