MICHIGAN LIVE: Cycling great Brent Bookwalter enjoys nostalgic visit to Grand Rapids

You can read the full story with Brent here: http://www.mlive.com/sports/2017/05/cycling_great_brent_bookwalter.html


Cyclist Brent Bookwalter, fresh off a fourth-place finish at the Amgen Tour of California, is spending a couple of days back in Rockford, in the home he grew up, and enjoying some nostalgia.

"I'm just trying to catch up with family and friends and do and see as much as I can," said the 33-year-old, a 2002 Rockford High School graduate.

Bookwalter is in town to speak at Tuesday's MSU Gran Fondo Five kickoff event. The event is 6-8 p.m. at L3vel at The Bob at 20 Monroe Center.

A four- time Tour de France rider and a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team, Bookwalter was last in West Michigan briefly for Thanksgiving, but hasn't been able to visit old friends or haunts in a few years. This is the chance, as he made the trip solo following the week-long Tour of California.

"It still feels familiar and still feels like home and in some ways I appreciate more than when I was younger and in high school here," Bookwalter said. "Back then, as a young rider, I craved the mountains and challenges. Now, I have a different perspective after traveling and competing all around the world to see what we have here - which is a lot."

The visit also made good timing for the question about his future. After 12 years as a rider on the professional circuit - and dating back even further to his days as a mountain biker in West Michigan - how long does Bookwalter want to continue, or think he can continue?

"I love riding my bike as much as ever and I think that keeps me going - the love and passion - to push my body," he said. "I'm inspired by the competition, too. But the races are dangerous, there's a lot of pressure and a lot of sacrifice to be competing at this level. And I still do enjoy it.

"But it's really a factor of staying healthy, staying safe and continuing on a team environment where I'm fulfilled as much as a person as an athlete - and I am still ... I definitely feel I have a few more good years in me, but sort of need the help of other variables lining up right, too."

This season, Bookwalter, a member of the BMC Racing Team since 2008, also had a fourth at the Tour of Yorkshire and won the time trial stage at Volta a Catalunya in Spain.

Last year, he was the only American rider to compete in the Tour de France (he finished 117th) and the Olympics (16th in the road race and 23rd in the time trials.

Bookwalter became a mountain biking star as a teen in Michigan, became a regular on the pro circuit in 2005 and won the U.S. national Under-23 time trial championship in 2006.

The 2010 Giro d'Italia was Bookwalter's coming out party as a pro. He never had a top 10 finish and, starting 144th out of 198 cyclists, Bookwalter came in second in the opening-day individual time trial.

Since, aside from the Tour de France, Bookwalter has emerged as a successful, steady figure in the world of cycling.

The passion, he said, is there. But there is also the risk that comes over the years - even if it is put aside during competition.

"I think as I get older in my career and seeing the value of other races and other opportunities that might be less known but provide a chance to perform more for myself or with the support of the team," he said. "That is gratifying in a different way."

On Tuesday, Bookwalter will speak about his career before fundraisers who have raised at least $50 for skin cancer awareness ahead of the June 24 event in Grand Rapids.

"I just wanted to find a way to work it out that I could at least be here and help them with the event," he said. "What they are doing for cancer research with MSU is incredible and I'm happy to spread the awareness and help the (cycling) community as well."