Bay Port’s Sylvester on the fast track to stardom
By Rich Palzewic
Bay Port High School junior Cohen Sylvester said he dreams of becoming a professional cyclist someday.
He just doesn’t know if that will be on the road or the dirt.
“That’s a tough question,” Sylvester laughed. “It’s a goal of mine to turn pro, so I have to keep my options open. I like being multi-dimensional – if one option doesn’t work, you can always go a different route. Right now, I’m trying to get stronger.”
Sylvester and dozens of other cyclists recently challenged themselves to a 12-hour cycling endurance event on one of the most famous racecar tracks in the United States – Road America in Plymouth, Wis.
Held during the weekend of Aug. 12, the four-mile course hosted a variety of events over three days.
The 16-year-old Sylvester’s main event was the 12-hour road race, which began at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, and concluded at 7 a.m. the next morning.
Sylvester, who weighs about 105 pounds, was credited with 43 laps completed in more than nine hours of riding, totaling 172 miles.
Among the 200 participants who logged miles, Sylvester finished ninth overall.
“The weather wasn’t great,” he said. “We had to deal with winds and rainy conditions. You throw in the few big hills (each lap), and it made for a hard ride.”
Hayden Pucker, a 20-year-old, won the event by completing 64 laps (256 miles) in almost 12 hours of riding.
Another Bay Port junior, 16-year-old Dylan Hoard, won the fat tire division by completing 39 laps (156 miles) in more than 11 hours of riding.
Participants were required to have working lights on their bikes to navigate the 14 turns of the track at night, which opened in 1955.
About three miles of the course are flat and downhill, but the last mile is more hilly, Sylvester said.
After a ceremonial first lap with the group, riders could ride as much – or little – of the 12 hours as they chose.
“I rode from 7 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. without stopping,” Sylvester said. “My main goal was to stay with the front group until there was no front group. My first break was only about two minutes – enough time to use the bathroom and grab another water bottle.”
Sylvester then rode another two hours straight after his initial break.
“That second block of riding was all on my own,” he said. “I tried to find (Pucker) and ride with him, but I couldn’t find him. My second break was probably 5-10 minutes because I was hurting badly. Then I went out for my last block of riding.”
Sylvester put in a final hard effort at the end of his final lap – winning the King of the Mountain (KOM) Sprint in 14.4 seconds up the 20%-grade hill.
“I had a bigger guy lead me out for the sprint up the climb,” he said. “After I won the hill sprint and with how I was feeling, I decided to call it a day. Before my first break, I was feeling good and was on pace for 245 miles. After hour seven, it got hard for me – I couldn’t warm up.”
Sylvester, who took part in the Road America time trial Friday, also started the 12 Hours of Dirt Saturday morning.
“After a few laps, it was evident the course wasn’t going to hold up,” he said. “It became so muddy we could barely ride. I stopped after a few hours.” After riding about a dozen hours combined in the three events he participated in, Sylvester said he went to bed at about 2 p.m. after his last race was done.
“I slept about 16 hours straight,” he said. “I wear a WHOOP, which tracks your heart rate and recovery. When I woke up Monday morning, my recovery rate was about 60%, so I took that day off. By Tuesday (of that week), (my recovery) was up to 85-90%, so I got back on the bike. I still rode about 10 hours that week.”
Sylvester plans on having the road events be his main priority next year.
“I’ll prepare more next year,” he said. “Leading up to this event, I had done more shorter races and rides under three hours. Next year, I will do some longer training rides – like eight hours – to prepare.”