Carlsen jumps into the bigs at Qatar will be following neo-pro rider Kirk Carlsen throughout the season as the 22-year-old rider races and trains around the world.

2008 U23 national champ glad to continue up the ranks with Garmin


Editor’s note: will be following neo-pro rider Kirk Carlsen throughout the season as the 22-year-old rider races and trains around the world.

On Sunday afternoon, American Kirk Carlsen will pin on his first number as ProTour-level rider before the team time trial at the Tour of Qatar. After years of racing for Garmin’s under-23 team, Felt-Holowesko Partners, Carlsen said he already feels at home with Garmin-Transitions.

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Carlsen relaxes ahead of this week's Tour of Qatar.

Still, it’s a thrilling step up, he said.

“I’m not so much intimidated, but more excited,” Carlsen said. “I want to show people that I can race at this level. And obviously it’s really cool to be racing with the guys that I’ve always been watching on TV or reading about in the news.”

Carlsen grew up in New Hampshire, where his grandfather and uncle got him into cycling.

“I grew up in the projects with my mother,” Carlsen said. “I did a race as a 7-year-old and got second. Pretty much from there on I was hooked.”

After that first race on a Huffy mountain bike, Carlsen soon graduated to a road bike. He moved in with his grandparents when he was 11, and weekend training rides became the norm.

“I started doing nationals when I was about 13, and have done them pretty much every year since then,” he said.

In 2008, he won the U23 national road race after a 30-plus-mile solo attack.

Besides racing for Felt-Holowesko Partners, Carlsen earned European racing experience with the U.S. national team.

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Carlsen at Redlands in 2008 | Casey Gibson Photo

After a crash set him back in May, Carlsen had to take time off the bike, but came back to racing in time for the Tour l’Avenir and the U23 world championship. Despite the down summer, Garmin management saw fit to bring Carlsen up to the pro team for 2010.

His expectations at Qatar are simple: “just learn, and help my team as much as possible.”

One day down the road, Carlsen would like to focus on the world’s toughest one-day races, like the Tour of Flanders or Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“My goal this year is to try to get into those races, and to help out the team, but also to prepare for three years down the road,” he said. “And hopefully one day I can be in a situation where I can try to win.”

In the meantime, Carlsen isn’t the only one energized about his pro debut. His grandfather has passed on, but his uncle follows Carlsen’s racing from home in New Hampshire.

“He’s definitely real excited,” Carlsen said. “For him and all the guys back home who still ride, they’re living through me. I get to experience all this cool stuff, but it’s actually because of them. They helped me get where I am now. I never want to let them down. So I keep in touch all the time. It’s exciting for them and for me. I get to tell them things like, ‘Hey, I’m at the Tour of Qatar.’”

Carlsen and his seven Garmin-Transitions teammates start the 8.2km team time trial at 2:27 p.m., between Katusha and Team Sky.