Ask-A-Pro with Isaac Howe
Steven Hopengarten of awesome ECCC staff recently caught up with UVM Alumnus Isaac Howe, a pro racer for Team Mountain-Khakis/Jittery Joes.
Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Isaac Howe and I am from Concord New Hampshire.
Do you have any nicknames?
The only appropriate nickname that I have is llama. I was awarded this name after Nordic ski racing with this denim trucker had that had a llama patch on the front of it.
At what institution of higher learning did you race bikes and what did you study?
I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont. I received a bachelors of science in Biochemistry.
How long have you been riding and racing?
Well, I have been riding bikes for a long time, but it has been only recently that I have gotten any good. I started racing when I was 12, doing the EFTA (eastern fat tire assoc.) races, but I picked up road in my junior or senior year in high school. I sucked though. It took me a long time to figure out how to train.
Why are you being interviewed, are you even a pro?
If by pro you mean that I ride for a pro cycling team, than yes. I ride for the UCI pro team mountain khakis f/b jittery joes. I take my job seriously, but I’m still that crazy guy who won’t hesitate to throw poop at UNH.
How did collegiate play into developing you into a pro?
Collegiate cycling was crucial in my development as a cyclist. When I was a freshman I used to get so pissed at the older guys on our team who just goofed off all the time and then would go on to win every race they entered. I had that cat 3 “pro” seriousness syndrome; I was determined to beat the Luke Krishs of UVM cycling. It wasn’t until I just let go of everything and just had a good time that the results started to come my way. I feel like collegiate racing more than anything taught me that bike racing is just a game, and when you stop enjoying it, it’s time to quit. UVM cycling made me love bike racing and love the people that I trained with, if it were not for that than I would have never made it this far.
How do you feel about varsity programs for cycling? Do you wish you had been part of one?
I absolutely HATE varsity cycling teams. They think they’re so sweet that they have to have a trailer to tally all the times that they have won nationals, it’s pathetic. It is easy to win when you are spoon fed everything and all you have to do is saddle up and race. They win only because they have numbers, not because their programs foster talent. Varsity cycling programs are nothing like the real world. Cycling is a back ally sport and the sooner people realize that, the less likely they are going to expect to be treated like Tour riders when they make it to elite/pro teams.
What is the greatest thing about collegiate racing?
The fact that races cost 13 bucks, and that there are 3 every weekend. Collegiate racing is the best opportunity to discover yourself as a bike racer because there is so little risk in each race. You can try a different things each race and you don’t have that much on the line. Hell, I found out that I was not a climber when I attacked Showman at the beginning of triple hump in Pittsburg and he proceeded to eat my lunch and go on to win… I never attacked him on a climb again, or anyone for that matter.
Any thoughts on the Aero Gear ban in collegiate TTs?
NO AERO GEAR! UVMers are to poor to afford to send multiple bikes to nationals. Eddy Merckx style is the only way the poor schools will be able to compete with MIT.
What is the biggest thing that you did to get better?
I just rode my bike harder, longer and more often. Cycling performance is something that takes time to develop; it takes years to become a good bike racer. Setting small achievable goals kept me satisfied and motivated to keep racing each year.
How do you guys get fast living in Burlington during those long and cold Vermont winters?
It’s hard to explain. To sum it up, we basically rule. If you can ride hard up app gap in a snow storm, everything else seems easy.
Tubulars or Clinchers?
Clinchers. I only trust things that I can train on before I race and I don’t want to risk looking like an a-hole so I would never train on tubulars.
Steel, Aluminum, or Carbon Frames?
Kazane Aluminum frame with carbon fork. MSRP $850 bucks and even cheaper if you tell Stratton I sent you. http://kazanebikes.com/. Our team rocked these cheap frames last year and we still won everything. Technology is so advanced these days that the more replaceable a bike is the more useful it becomes.
What’s your favorite Pre-Race snack?
Coffee or purple NOS. I don’t like to eat much before races, only gives me more food to puke. There is nothing that food can give me that coffee or NOS cant.
Pro race or college race?
Last season was a trip. Having the opportunity to race with this team was truly the best feeling I have ever had, but my last year in collegiate was pretty memorable too.
What is your favorite memory from collegiate cycling off the bike?
Probably when JPS was DQ’ed from the Beanpot road race because he peed in public and then for the rest of the weekend the team wore around adult diapers. Classic UVM harmless mischief.
What is your favorite memory from collegiate cycling on the bike?
Probably when I was wearing both the leaders jersey “series leader” and the sprint jersey “super fast” and I zipped them together so it said “super leader”. Showman (Army) got so pissed at me, oh man that was funny.
What was the longest single trainer/rollers ride during the winter, and how did you maintain your sanity?
One winter Alex Cox and Vinnie Scalia and I did a 5 hour roller ride. It was absolutely stupid and ever since that season I decided that no more than 90 minutes on the rollers EVER. I just don’t like riding bikes enough to sit and stare at a wall; I’d rather do something else and just save my sanity so that I can train more when the weather gets better.
How is UVM Cycling so dang good?
We don’t have anyone “coaching” or “leading” us around. We are a self sufficient team and we do not have time for dead weights. Every person is 100% committed to the team, and those that are not get left behind. We probably solicit 50 people for every 1 rider that we get on the team, but those that join can hold their own.
How tall are you and does it affect your racing?
I am 5’11 and I’m pretty sure it has no impact on my racing other than that I ride a 55cm bike.
Can you be a pro cyclist and weigh more than 100lbs?
Weight definitely plays a bigger role than height, but it depends on your body structure. I think that it’s more important to be an overall healthy athlete and let my riding style be dictated by my resulting form, rather than idealize a figure and always strive to achieve that which might be outside my control. That doesn’t mean I think it’s okay to be fat, you still have to be skinny. I just think I have a muscular build and I am better at sprinting, so I am not going to mimic Michael Rasmussen training and start focusing on climbing.
What does the ECCC need to do to continue to flood the pro ranks with our Alumni?
I think that the biggest mistake that I could see being made is that by trying to make collegiate racing more legitimate, it is becoming less fun. The more rules and restrictions that govern the conference, the more seriously people take it, in turn making it less fun. In order to produce good athletes this conference need to make people fall in love with the sport.
What are your plans for life and bike racing?
Well for right now my life is bike racing, but after bike racing I will be attending medical school. I’m prepping for the MCAT right now, it’s terrifying. So, if anyone knows anyone on the acceptance committees through me a bone!
Do you have any tips/tricks/secrets for those up and coming racers out there?
Keep working man and don’t let college slip away just because you want to be a pro. If you are in college, you are still very young and you have plenty of time. Your professional career is not going to be over if you don’t always live and breathe cycling. Your biggest threat is your own motivation, so don’t bite off more than you can handle.
Isaac Howe is a pro for Team Mountain Khakis/Jittery Joes, you can follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/isaachowe.