ABC 13: USA cyclist, Brent Bookwalter receives warm welcome in Asheville after returning from Rio

You can read the full story and watch video interview with Brent here: http://wlos.com/sports/content/usa-cyclist-brent-bookwalter-receives-warm-welcome-after-returning-from-rio


ASHEVILLE, NC -- Asheville cyclist, Brent Bookwalter returned home to the mountains on Sunday, and was surprised to get a warm welcome from friends and family at the Asheville Regional Airport.

Bookwalter finished in 16th place in the Olympic Cycling Road Race on August 6th. Then, he finished in 23rd place in the Olympic Cycling Time Trial after he recovered from a crash early in that race.

Bookwalter says, "Not the usual welcome I'm used to in Asheville. Usually the airport is pretty quiet. Wow, I mean it's amazing to see so many of our friends and great people. I couldn't ask for a better welcome home."

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Brent will be one of two Americans representing the US in the upcoming 2016 Rio Olympics!

Brent Bookwalter’s cycling mastery continues to turn heads around the globe.

Bookwalter, 32, of Asheville, was named to BMC Racing Team’s Tour de France roster on Wednesday. On Thursday, he was added for the first time to the short list of cyclists on the U.S. Olympic team heading to Rio de Janeiro.

Bookwalter and his BMC Racing teammate Taylor Phinney of Boulder, Colo., were chosen to represent the United States at the Rio Summer Games in the time trial and road race competitions.

According to USA Cycling, Bookwalter is the only American competing in the world’s two biggest cycling races this year, a testament to his cycling skills and never-say-die determination.

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“It’s definitely a distinguished honor. To be selected for the Tour team and the Olympics is a career highlight and I’m looking forward to making the most of it,” Bookwalter said Friday from France, where he is training.

“It was definitely a goal, but it’s not the only goal. It doesn’t stop here. I have three demanding and important weeks coming up at the Tour, and then Rio is a once in a lifetime opportunity as well to represent my country. I want to perform and be confident I can do well.”

“Brent’s ability to do time trial and road race is a huge asset. Brent is a seasoned veteran and he’s equipped to handle the course and put us in a great position in Rio,” said Kevin Loughery, communications manager for USA Cycling.

“The road course in Rio is quite long and has four climbs toward back half of the race. That’s something you have to have a special skill set to be able to do. These are the two most coveted road competitions – the Tour de France is the cyclist’s Super Bowl, and the Olympics, a chance to represent your country is a huge honor. It says a lot about what kind of a cyclist Brent is.”

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The 22-day, 2,182-mile Tour de France begins July 2. The 256-kilometer (159-mile) Olympic road race begins Aug. 6, two weeks after the Tour ends. The time trial is Aug. 10.

Bookwalter admits that competing in the two races back to back sounds mind-blowing.

“It’s a challenge, but in some ways, also a positive scenario. If you look at the pro men’s cycling medals over the past couple of Olympics, all those athlete also rode in the Tour de France,” he said.

“It’s a hard to explain phenomenon. You push your body so hard and so deep for three weeks, but after one week, the body starts to compensate, you get overcompensation, and then start to get the benefits. It’s hard to wrap your head around for sure. Mentally it’s maybe harder than physically.”

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Bookwalter was on the long team for the U.S. Olympics team for the 2012 London Games, but ultimately did not make the final cut.

“It was a lot of incentive for me to work hard in the offseason, to prove to my team that my form was good and I was capable,” he said. “This is the realization of a lot of hard work and the hard work of a lot of other people as well, including my wife (Jamie Bookwalter), my parents (Connie Zinger and Harry Bookwalter, who live in Grand Rapids, Mich.), the Asheville community, my friends, teammates and coaches.”

This will be Bookwalter’s fourth trip to the Tour de France. He said he is fortunate to have the Tour and the Olympics collide in the prime of his career. He has been a professional cyclist for 10 years and has completed seven grand tours, progressing with each race.

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He said he discussed going to Rio with his wife of five years about the risks of Zika virus, which has caused some athletes to drop out of the Olympics.

Jamie is a former pro cyclist with a mater’s degree in forestry from the University of Georgia, specializing in invasive insects.

“Jamie is a scientist in her own right. We decided there were some risks, but there was also reward in taking part and representing our country,” Brent said of his wife, whom he met during college at Lees-McRae. “She has been with me through my whole professional career. This is an accomplishment for her as well that I was selected. We’re going take all the precautions. We’re excited to be going.”