Riding for the future of cycling

  • Published
  • By Dave Smith
  • 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
Following a full day of work developing Air Force models, Maj. Ian Holt, the Headquarters Air Force Space Command vault concepts lead, mounts his Felt bicycle and starts pedaling on a three-hour training ride. It's all part of the regimen prescribed by his coach leading up to the sixth Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM) - the international military sports championships.

Holt is an elite cyclist and participated in the previous five CISM events. The next gathering of military athletes from around the globe takes place Oct. 2-11, 2015, in Mungyeong, South Korea.

Dreams of playing hockey at the U.S. Air Force Academy were not to be, launching Holt into his cycling career. He now represents the Air Force at the highest levels of competition. Holt is preparing to take his efforts to the race track once more at the CISM, an event that may be his last competition of this type before bowing out to allow younger riders to take the lead.

Holt, the 2009 Air Force Athlete of the Year, almost stopped competing when he was an operations group executive officer. Keeping up with a busy work schedule and intense training was a tremendous challenge, but he said he was able to regulate his schedule and continue his cycling career.

"This will definitely be my last hurrah at this level," Holt said. "I am trying to develop younger athletes."

Holt is supporting and mentoring some athletes right now as coach of the Academy cycling team. Some of those riders have great potential he said, and could surpass what he's accomplished. Presently getting other military cyclists motivated for the World Championships is important for him, and this year the cycling event is taking place in conjunction with the world games - only the Olympics are bigger in terms of sporting events.

"It's a little different this time," Holt said, "I do not know really what to expect. I am not sure if more or less riders will come."

Come what may, Holt wants to encourage military riders to step up their games a bit. There was no military cycling championship internationally last year and, along with some retirements, the U.S. team is losing some expertise and experience.

"I want to motivate them to push themselves. They need the learning experience," he said of other military cyclists.

It is possible the CISM team could consist entirely of Air Force riders. Should that happen it would be a unique occurrence and largely due to efforts of the Academy's team. "It will be interesting to see (what happens) this year," he said.

Personally, Holt said he counts the opportunity to represent his country on the U.S. Armed Forces cycling team as one of his greatest experiences. Riding against cyclists at such a high level of ability improved his skill and ability. The work is difficult, but pays off.

The conditioning leading up to a major event like this is critical and requires more than 20 hours of training.

He said his Air Force experience aids him in his competitive cycling life, and in his opinion the two go hand in hand. Team work is involved as well as a strong individual effort.

"Training is 80-90 percent individual effort about making your body perform at the highest levels," he said. "With the right time management and effort all our guys can compete at that level. If you put in the time, and want it, you can. Even in the military. It's hard but you can."

It all boils down to having a good plan and sticking to it, a good coach and the ability to adapt, all things his Air Force career helps him with.

"People who can excel at cycling can excel at almost anything. Cadet cyclists are usually at the top of their class," he noted.

Holt's years of competing at the highest levels of cycling in both Europe and America, position him to provide valuable insight to other riders heading to Mungyeong. Primarily a road racer over that time, he fared well in individual time trials and, more recently, in the velodrome. Holt became involved in track racing when some of his cadet riders did.

"I got into it because cadets were doing it, so to coach, lead and mentor them I had to know what was going on," Holt said.

After the first couple of races on the track he was hooked and now focuses most of his racing on endurance track events lasting 15-45 minutes. He is not sure if track events will be held during the CISM.

Information about the team for the championships will go out soon according to Holt. The criteria for selection will be available in the next couple months and from there the team will get together toward the end of the summer, riding as a team in a stage race to bond and develop cohesiveness.

"I was 11th in Belgium," at the 2013 International Military Cycling Championships, Holt said, "I would love it if we could get a younger guy higher. My sand is running out."