By Jared Eborn — When people think about the future of bicycle racing in Utah they often look at guys like Tanner Putt, TJ Eisenhart, Connor O’Leary and Chase Pinkham.
Those people might want to turns their sites to Ecker Hill Middle School in Park City, though. That’s where Katie Clouse – a phenom who turns 12 on August 4 – spends her time waiting for that next chance to ride her bike.
Clouse, no stranger to bike races of all sorts in the region, is quickly becoming one of the most decorated cyclists in the state. So decorated, in fact, that she’s fast running out of room in her closet to hang the collection of Stars and Stripes jerseys she’s earning.
The youngster who has been beating women on the bike with frequency over the past couple of years established herself as perhaps the most promising junior cyclist in the country in July when she swept through the USA Cycling National Championships in Wisconsin.
Clouse crushed the competition from across the country to win the U12 time trial, road race and criterium national titles. This came just a few months after winning the U12 cyclocross championship.
Proving she’s not unbeatable, Clouse finished second a couple of weeks later in the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships – finishing behind friend and fellow Park City racer Sydney Palmer-Leger.
The month-long podium binge for Clouse was something she’d work hard for despite not being able to race against many kids her age in the state.
“Well I was training really hard this year. I knew that there were going to be tough girls that I was racing against. I was just hoping to do well,” Clouse said. “I really wanted to win the road race and that’s what I was training for.”
Though Clouse doesn’t have a lot of junior racers to compete against locally, she might benefit from that in a way. Instead of racing against other 10-12 year old girls, the champ lines up against grown women, her Cat 3 brother Evan and anyone else willing to throw it down and get humbled by an 11-year-old.
“I usually try to get out train as much as I can. It has been hard trying to train but my dad and my brother are really supportive and they are the ones that train with me because I have no else to ride with.”
Case in point, at the Midsummer Night’s Cyclocross race in late July at Deer Valley, Clouse and Palmer-Leger were forced to race in the Women’s 3-4 field. They crushed the competition to finish first and second.
Having big brother Evan to race against and train with has been a huge blessing, Katie said.
“I don’t think I would be doing as good as I am if he didn’t ride with me,” Katie said. “Evan is pretty fast and chasing his wheel has helped a lot.”
You might think racing so much as a young age could burn a kid out from the sport. Katie Clouse says that’s far from the case.
“I have made a lot of friends and I really enjoy seeing them at the different races and hanging out,” she said. “Racing is a lot of fun but training is kind of boring.”
Clouse said she wants to keep racing and move up into the Cat 1-2-3 fields before too long and try to secure a spot on the U.S. National team where she can race internationally.
“I love racing, I really would love to go to college for cycling and race on the US Team someday,” she said.
The changing seasons and style of racing also keeps Clouse from getting too worked over on any one type of racing – but she does have her favorites.
“Road and cyclocross is my favorite,” she said. “Cyclocross Nationals was my favorite. It was really cool racing in the mud, snow and fog.”