Like many other Valley of the Sun residents, Chad Beyer arrived into town as a grade-schooler from the mid-west. Little did he know at the time that he would leave town en route to becoming the most successful professional road cyclist that Phoenix has ever seen.
Beyer may not carry the same name recognition or palmarès as Lance Armstrong or Greg Lemond, but at 25 years old, he has a lot of time and races ahead of him to make a significant mark on the sport. After spending the past five-plus seasons racing in Europe, Beyer is stoked to be coming home to race with his domestic team and build on his still-nascent career.
Cycle recently caught up with Beyer and his new team, Competitive Cyclist Racing Team, at their training camp in Tucson, the Arizona town he now calls home.
This morning, Chad Beyer is shuffling among his other semi-awake teammates through a remote desert eco-home on the western slopes of the Tucson Mountains, sipping cappuccino and swallowing some last gulps of oatmeal before the team heads out for a four-hour training ride.
"I'm really excited about racing with this group of guys," Beyer says as his slender frame sinks into a sofa in the main room. "We're set up on these amazing Pinarello bikes and supported by experienced people like Gord Fraser. It's great."
Beyer still spends regular time in the Phoenix area, visiting his mother and friends every few weeks as he is able during the off season. He even took home a race win in last month's Bicycle Haus Criterium, getting in an early top result before the season kicked off.
To many familiar with pro cycling, Beyer's move from the Pro Tour ranks of Team BMC, the team of last year's Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, to his current US-based club may seem like a step backwards, but there is no questioning Beyer's enthusiasm to be riding regularly back in the States with a distinct chance to win consistently.
"Chad's now a much bigger fish in a smaller pond," says Fraser, Competitive Cyclist's director sportif and long-time Tucson resident. "There's no doubt he's got experience and talent, but now he has the chance to go from surviving races in Europe to being a protagonist here."
Beyer, a natural climber, is not coming to an empty team either. The Competitive Cyclist squad is captained by former Spanish national champion Francisco "Paco" Mancebo, and filled with other top riders such as Columbian climber Cesar Grajales and sprinter Cole House. Fraser hopes cyclists and cycling fans across the state can identify with his talented club.
"By having this camp here in Tucson and featuring Chad as one of our leaders, we really hope that Competitive Cyclist can become Arizona's home team. Like Chad, we want to have roots here."
Beyer's roots planted in Arizona when his family moved to Peoria in 1996. Like most other 10-year-olds, the warm weather and open areas called him outside where he quickly found himself spending the days riding BMX.
"I was a total shop rat, just hanging out and soaking it up" says Beyer. "My friends and I would ride to just see how far we could get. Our longest was about 20 miles, between 3rd and Bell to around Arrowhead Mall."
This love of riding led him to the larger wheels and gears of road and mountain bikes by the time he was 12. His talent was obvious to several in the local community, but Valley cycling legend Domenic Malvestuto was the one who took Chad under his wing.
"Domenic would go out of his way to teach me. At first I couldn't figure out why he would ride really close to me, but I soon realized it was to get me comfortable on group rides. He was the first to explain race tactics to me."
Beyer raced locally for Malvestuto's Strada Racing Team through high school graduation when he was selected to ride in Europe with the US Junior National Team, a program that also developed current pro champions such as Dave Zabriskie and Tyler Farrar.
"I've probably spent more time in that team house (in Belgium) than any other rider, but those years racing were invaluable."
Those years and the relationships he built produced his first contract with BMC, just as that club was making the jump to Pro Tour status. He rode along side riders such as Evans, American national champion George Hincapie and former world champion Alessandro Ballan.
Beyer achieved success at this top level as well, taking the sprinters jersey and second in the King of the Mountains category in the 2010 Tour de Romandie in Switzerland. Last season, Beyer finished the 21-day grand tour Giro d'Italia.
But Beyer still looks back on his days riding around Phoenix as instrumental to his development.
"I love the BOS and Around the Mountain rides. I'd do those just about every weekend with guys like Nathan Mitchell and Jason Tullous. I still like them because they're very nostalgic of my Strada days."
Nowadays, Tucson has become his home, thanks largely in part to the cycling community that has grown throughout the town. And having internationally known rides such as the Mt. Lemmon climb (Beyer's favorite ride in Arizona) or the legendary Saturday Morning Shootout only helps with training while staying in Arizona's great winter weather.
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But when Beyer comes back to ride the BOS or grab a bite at one of his favorite local spots like Le Grande Orange, he feels right at home.
"I have a favorite spot in almost every corner of town," says Beyer, noting something he misses about living in the Valley. "I miss hanging out with my high school friends. I don't get to see those guys very often."
Beyer's pro cycling season begins Feb. 21 in Uruguay with the Ruta de America before coming back to the States for a pair of races in southern California. The team is hoping for an invitation to the Tour of California.