When Butch Martin first saw Colby Wait-Molyneux race, the Vancouver teenager made an impression upon the veteran cyclist and coach.
“First thing I noticed was that he had a terrible position on the bicycle. He was kind of twisted up a little bit on the bike,” Martin, a two-time Olympian, said.
Two years down the road from that first glimpse, Martin sees Wait-Molyneux on a fast track as one of America’s more promising bicycle road racers. Wait-Molyneux, 17, recently posted a significant international victory. On Saturday he left for a month of training and racing in cycling hotbed Belgium.
On July 21 in Amos, Quebec, Wait-Molyneux won the time-trial stage of the Junior Nations Cup Tour l’Abitibi. One of the half-dozen major international competitions held each year for junior riders, the Quebec event attracted 132 riders ages 17-18 from nine countries.
The time trial win helped Wait-Molyneux earn the Best Young Rider honor for that week-long tour. He finished third overall and helped Team USA place first overall.
“Third place (overall) is incredible,” Martin said. “And winning the youngest rider award — that really bodes well for him.”
So does the chance to race in Europe, where the competition is intense.
“The 17-18 (age) category over there is incredibly tough,” the coach said, describing this opportunity for Wait-Molyneux as “immense.”
Wait-Molyneux is one of four riders representing Team USA for this month in Europe, a trip that will include several one-day races in Belgium and a stage race in Switzerland.
This is the second time this year that Wait-Molyneux has traveled to Belgium to compete as a member of the USA Cycling Junior National Team. His first trip to Europe was an eye-opening two-week trip in April where he raced in events lined with spectators.
“Cycling is just a lot more popular over in Europe, especially in Belgium,” Wait-Molyneux said.
A crash at 35 mph resulted in a wrist sprain that ended the spring trip, but the bruises didn’t slow him down.
In June he placed fourth in his age-group’s time trial at the USA Cycling national championships, completing a 30-kilometer course in 38 minutes, 28 seconds. He also placed seventh in a 96-kilometer road race at the nationals.
Wait-Molyneux started cycling competitively in 2006. He’s been a regular at Vancouver Bicycle Club events, and raced with the Vancouver-based North River Racing Team prior to joining the Martin-coached Hammer Nutrition/CMG Racing Team in March of 2010.
Martin, now based in Portland and a coach for several of the region’s top racer, rode for Team USA at the 1964 and 1968 Olympic Games, and in the 1971 Pan-Am Games. He has also served as a national team coach.
He said Wait-Molyneux has the drive and focus needed to reach similar heights.
“Physically he’s a pretty powerful young man for his age,” Martin said. “He has really great recovery powers. And a very high level of concentration, which is needed for time-trialing.”
Wait-Molyneux will be a senior at Skyview High School and takes Running Start program classes. He said he plans to attend a four-year university, but that he will continue to train for elite-level racing.
He owns seven bikes and trains on his own 15-20 hours per week. Sometimes Martin will join him, riding a motorcycle in front of his student to simulate race speeds.
The fact that Wait-Molyneux is only 17, with another full year to compete in this youth age group, also bodes well.
Next year, Martin said, “Colby should be one of our country’s go-to riders for important international events.”
Wait-Molyneux hopes to make an impression sooner. His goal is to be a member of the U.S. Cycling Junior National Team for the cycling’s road racing world championships next month in Denmark.
A strong performance on this trip to Belgium could ensure that Wait-Molyneux will experience the world championships.
Even if that doesn’t come to pass, Martin is convinced Wait-Molyneux is in terrific position to make the most of his cycling ability.
“He is on track as far as I’m concerned for moving in the direction of becoming a professional bicycle racer,” the coach said. “I am expecting him to have a big year.”