Stephen Hyde sits down for an interview about his rise through professional cyclocross ahead of this weekend’s US National Championship in Reno, NV. He took home last year’s title in impressive fashion racing tactfully on a precarious, snowy and icy course. He shares his insight into nutrition, speeding up and slowing down, and of course, maple syrup.
Everyone has an interesting story in how they came to cycling. Anyone who follows cyclocross knows that you weren’t mixing it up on the ‘cross course as a junior, yet you’ve risen to the top and are our US National Cyclocross Champion. How does a kid from Florida come to find cyclocross?
One does not simply find cyclocross, cyclocross finds you. It’s been a long mixed bag of bike shops, bike touring, ally cat races and exploring my CX-uality. Ever since watching my first race on YouTube with my friend Cody and making our own courses in parks in Pensacola (one day I will bring a race to this city) I have been fascinated. It seemed like all the fun was had in one hour of terrifying bike driving madness. Count me in! It’s such a great mix of all of my background in bikes. Lots of BMX handling, MTB love and at the time it was my new found fondness for criterium racing. I have been all in from the start.
The internet was ablaze when photos emerged of you fueling up on the great American breakfast of pancakes and maple syrup with your friend and current world champion, Wout Van Aert. We know you appreciate wholesome, complete, real foods to fuel your training rides and races. You’ve also spent a lot of time in Belgium where you wisely pack UnTapped for these trans-Atlantic trips. How are Europeans taking to maple?
The northern European part of the world loves a this sticky, sugary goo called “Stroop Syrup”. It’s a concoction of mostly beet sugar and fruit flavoring. Not my thing. If it doesn’t flow from a tree for a few weeks every year, it’s not going into my stomach! I am, however, slowly converting our muddy brethren of the fields to real maple syrup.
Stephen completes a last minute motorpace session and tops on on ride fuel before the 2016 National Championships.
We’ve seen other terrific photos of various states of your magnificent mane. Some early days on a BMX bike reminiscent of Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused, some big burly mutton chops early in your career, and of course the Fu Manchu facial hair with exquisite mullet of late. The term ginger is used describe a person with red hair. We will soon be launching Ginger Mapleaid where we use only organic powdered ginger paired with maple sugar and sea salt in our new drink mix. What is your stance on ginger?
First, I have to say that I’ve tried the new Ginger Mapleaid and I LOVE it. Not only is it tasty but it actually pairs well with super hard CX efforts where your stomach might not be super happy with you afterward without something to calm it down. As far as the term ginger? What can I do? It’s just who I am. You gotta run what ya brung!
Cycling can be a monastic sport — train, eat, sleep, repeat. It’s taxing, both mentally and physically draining. A two-part question: when you’re in the thick of the race season, besides maple-inspired interviews of course, what do you do for fun? And when you’re in the deep in the off-season what do you to decompress?
It’s difficult to have a life outside of the racing. You always get caught up in the “Oh, I’ll do that in the offseason” mindset. Fitness and progression are a fleeting and sometimes fickle thing. I try to make sure that every day is an adventure and take advantage of being in all of these amazing places we find ourselves in. It’s hard when you do it on other peoples’ dimes though, always being rushed from one hotel to the next without any accommodating exploration or chill time. It’s all about getting to the next stop to maximize recovery and get ready for the next race. So, you take it where you can get it. I read a lot, both fiction and non-fiction. I play guitar a little bit, so I make sure I have one with me on the road when I can. I have a cheap parlor guitar in the Netherlands where I stay most of the time overseas. If I am going to be somewhere for more than a month I might make a $40-50 guitar purchase and give it away at the end of the trip. It’s an investment in my brain.
I also really enjoy learning about nutrition and training. So sitting down to learn more and talk about any of the things I already do professionally all day is fine by me. Getting out of the house is always good. We tend to travel in the worst conditions for whatever area we find our selves in, so it becomes hard to just get outside. Making the effort to leave the house is all the difference in sanity sometimes. I do a lot of meditating as well. For me, being alone all of the time hasn’t been the easiest, however, I have found some real peace and progression in my life with the help of mindfulness practices. I also really enjoy cooking and lately have found myself even going through recipes instead of winging it all the time.
At home, I collect records and really enjoy being in my space. My home to me is such a great place. I’ve learned to really love it there and make the most of my time. Being away and seeing new places also gives me ideas on how to set up my living spaces as well. I guess I might get into interior design? I don’t think I have ever said that out loud…
In three sentences or less, paint the picture of your perfect ride.
In the woods.
Very fitting! Please describe your proudest moment on a bike.
Part of my philosophy is to always come away with a positive. No matter the ride, be able to come away from it with both something to improve upon and also to celebrate. However, winning Nationals in Hartford takes the cake for me. Winning Nationals is obviously high on anyone’s list but for me, it was realizing that the progression I set out with from the start and the steps I have taken to make sure I am always giving my self the best possible resources and advantages was correct. It was so validating to know that I could win under conditions that I hadn’t had a lot of practice in. That I could win after an initial disaster and keep a cool head even under the worst race scenario. I both was and am so happy to be able to have that moment with my friends and family there to watch. I was a little too cold to make tears come out of my eyes but they were there. I’ll never get that moment again.
That’s such a special moment. Congratulations. As a result of that race, for the past year as our national champion you’ve been able to wear red, white, and blue spandex and fly around the world for a living. What is your real-world superpower?
I think my ability to stay calm in the face of adversity and just do what needs to be done. I haven’t always had it and sometimes it needs to be coaxed out, but its there and I use it often.
Then what is your other-world ideal superpower?
Easy, to be able to eat everything I want and not gain weight. I would become SUPER-FOOD-SMASHING-GUY.
Smash food like pizza! We know you’re you’re asked this all the time, but we want to hear it straight from the source: what do the image of pizza and “YEAH!” tattoos on your legs mean?
They’ve certainly served to remind me that the things you say and do are more permanent than you realize and if you dwell on the mistakes that will inevitably rear their ugly heads, that you will forever be their slave. So, do what you want to do as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else or yourself, you’ll be just fine. You can’t make everything you do disappear but you can own up to them and live with humility.