Tour of California

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

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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."

CYCLING NEWS: Bookwalter in the hunt for overall Tour of California podium

You can read the full story with Brent here:


To succeed on BMC RacingBrent Bookwalter has had to create opportunity on a team filled with stars. His work has paid off with a successful spring campaign, and Bookwalter now sits in sixth place overall, 48 seconds out of the lead at the Amgen Tour of California. Bookwalter hopes to continue his opportunistic streak in the coming stages.

"I had some good opportunity in the spring, trying to find those moments when I can step out of the team worker role, which on this team isn't easy," Bookwalter said before the start of stage 3. "I had a couple of those but didn't get a win and was close."

Bookwalter's near misses this spring include a 2nd place stage finish at the Tour of the Alps and 4th in the GC at the Tour de Yorkshire. He finished sixth in Monday's climbing stage, 37 seconds down on the lead group. With more options to moved up in the GC, including Thursday's climb up Mt. Baldy and Friday's time trial, Bookwalter is willing to bide his time before making a move for the yellow jersey.

"I'm a little farther behind than I would like to be to those guys at this point," Bookwalter said. "I'm in the hunt and looking for every moment I can coming ahead."

Bookwalter was third in last year's Amgen Tour of California, with strong performances in the climbing stage up Gibraltar Road (4th place) and in the Folsom time trial (5th place.) Leading up to this year's race he spent time doing course recon and simplifying his preparation.

"I feel strong. I was up in Big Bear training and seeing the course," Bookwalter said. "We've known all along that will be important, and I think it still will be.

"I haven't done [the wind tunnel] in a couple of years. I did it pretty heavy a few years ago and have tried to go back to the basics the last couple of years and just ride the bike."

Bookwalter also sits on the board of the Association of North American Professional Road Cyclists (ANAPRC), which helps advocate for professional cyclists on issues like the UCI's Extreme Weather Protocol. Toms Skujins' crash was top of mind Tuesday morning, and Bookwalter discussed the challenge of weighing a cyclist's desire to get back in a race against keeping the peloton, and the individual, safe.

"It's tough because it's such a fine balance," Bookwalter said. "You are ultimately deciding if you are going to pull a guy out of the race or off his bike. In those moments, when we crash, and you are OK to get back up, every second is really important. There is an urgency, and the race doesn't wait for you.

"That said, there has to be something in place to prevent guys from getting back on and hurting themselves and other guys in the race."

Bookwalter finished safely in the chase group in Wednesday's 159km stage from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita. With Bookwalter and Sammy Sanchez both in the top 20, BMC will have multiple cards to play in the time trial and Mt. Baldy. Heading into the final stages of the race, Bookwalter is just happy to be in the game. 



LA DAILY NEWS: Brent Bookwalter primed for Amgen Tour of California

You can read the full story with Brent here:


Brent Bookwalter has paid his dues.

He is in his 10th year with BMC Racing Team and is finally ready to challenge the world’s top cyclists.

“Throughout my career, more often than not, I’ve been a team worker and sacrificed for team results,” he said. “I have been happy and proud to be able to do that.

“Racing the Amgen Tour of California, the Tour (de France) and the Giro (d’Italia), I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of successful leaders. I learned a lot from them. I’ve been taking a lot of mental notes over the years. And although I still relish a role of working for others, I can now also see myself as a closer.”

Bookwalter, 33, will be competing in his fifth Amgen Tour of California, which begins Sunday in Sacramento. The seven-day race comes to Southern California on Wednesday and concludes May 20 in downtown Pasadena.

Last year, the American finished a career-best third in the race.

“I’ve really grown with the team and the team has grown with me,” he said. “When I came to the team 10 years ago, we were just growing and I was not ready for (Grand Tour events). It’s been nice to grow together and see the changes over the years. Now, we’re among the tops in our sport and competing against the best riders in the world.”

BMC, which has been one of the staples of the Amgen Tour, won the ATOC team title last year, the second time the American-owned team has won the crown. Bookwalter’s teammate, Rohan Dennis, finished second to winner Julian Alaphillipe of France. Bookwalter, who lives in Asheville, North Carolina, when not in Europe, finished 43 seconds behind Alaphillipe.

His previous best finish in the event was 15th in 2011. He competed in the Giro d’Italia in 2014 and 2015, which runs concurrently with the ATOC.