Wesley Haggstrom closed out the month of June by excelling on the national stage.
The 14-year-old cyclist, who just finished up his final year at Clemmons Middle School, claimed first place in the USA Cycling Amateur Road Nationals road race on June 22 in Hagerstown, Md. Haggstrom was one of 45 cyclists to compete in the 13-14 age category race.
But really, Haggstrom had a stellar overall weekend at nationals. He took third place in the time trail on June 20. Two days after his win, he grabbed second place in the criterium.
Haggstrom maintains a busy cycling and running schedule. He competes in cross country and track and field, and plans to continue that next year as a ninth grader at West Forsyth.
The Journal caught up with Haggstrom to talk about his win, how he was feeling heading into the weekend and why he decided to get into cycling.
NOTE: This interview has been edited for brevity.
Q: Before we talk about your national championship, I wanted to ask how you got started in competitive cycling like this?
A: I started out as a BMX racer, and my dad brought me out to Tanglewood BMX. That’s where I found my love for bikes. Then I just started to try other types of cycling.
Q: So you’re 14 now. How old are you when you start going to Tanglewood?
A: I was 4 when I started BMX.
Q: Whoa. What do you remember about being on a bike at that age riding around Tanglewood?
A: I just remember being on a bike, learning how to jump and doing things other than just riding on the road.
Q: Did it feel like a natural talent for you?
A: I kind of jumped right into it, yeah.
Q: So what made you switch from BMX to the cycling and road racing you’re doing now?
A: My coach, Jon Hamlen (who coaches Haggstrom with Velocious Sport), he became the track operator, and I got to know him. He wanted me to come out and do some road biking. That’s how I got into road biking. He got me into it. And cyclocross (races that feature multiple terrains and require riders to dismount and carry their bikes), a friend invited me to do a cyclocross race. And this friend I knew from mountain biking and BMX.
Q: I’m sure there are a ton of differences from the BMX bikes to the road race bikes you’re on now. What are the major differences you have to get used to?
A: Well, the wheels. BMX is a 20-inch wheel. It’s a smaller wheel. And then a typical road bike, cyclocross, mountain bike all have 29-inch wheels. So the wheels are bigger. BMX and mountain biking, they use flat handle bars, so they’re just like a straight handle. But cyclocross and road bike, you have these bars that are called dropdown bars.
Q: How difficult was it adjusting to the bigger wheels and different handlebars?
A: It’s not that bad going from BMX to other cycling because BMX teaches you a bunch of technical skill and bike-handling skill, so it really carries over to the other types of cycling.
Q: So looking at your win at nationals, how were you feeling before the race?
A: So that was the second race. The race before (the time trials on June 20), I got third. So I was more reassured that I could place in the top five, if not the top three again. And going in the day before, I was pretty nervous. But that day, it wasn’t too bad.
In the group, there is something called a breakaway, it’s where you want to get away from the group so you don’t have to be in a field sprint and sprinting with all the other people. Basically it gives you a great chance to win because you’re not sprinting with as many people who have the same opportunity to win as you.
So during the road race, people were trying to break away from the group, but the group would just sprint and catch back up to the and sit on them and draft them. So they weren’t letting anything get away.
I didn’t want to waste a bunch of energy trying to get away from the group, so I sat in the group and waited for the field sprint. ... I just got myself in good position and went for it.
Q: So how’d it feel to get that win? What happened afterward?
A: It felt good. I was really happy, and a lot of people came to congratulate me. Just really excited that my hard work paid off. And to wear the stars and stripes on my jersey.