Spencer Petrov is quickly becoming one of America's biggest names of up-and-coming CX racers in the world. With huge success both internationally and domestically, Spencer could be America's best chance at winning a CX World Championship in the near future.
2016 is setting up to be an especially big year for Spencer as he makes the jump from the junior ranks to the Elite U23 racing scene. We went one-on-one with Spencer to find out what makes him the savage racer we have come to know, and how his nutrition helps take him to the next level...
Athlete at a Glance
Current Team CX: Cyclocross Alliance
Road: Holowesko Hincapie Junior development 2016
Current Sponsors: Road ID, Enzos cycling products, Fleet Feet sports, Crankbrothers pedals, INFINIT Nutrition
Notable Wins: 2013/14 CX National Champion, USA cycling Pro CX Series 17/18 overall winner, Derby City Cup UCI race win, KMC Cycle Cyclocross UCI race win, USA Cycloscross National Team. 2015 4th Junior World Cup
How long have you been riding bikes? What got you into the sport of cycling?
I was first able to ride without training wheels when I was three. Since then I’ve done just about anything you can on two wheels from building my own jumps to motocross. I got into racing bikes when I was 11 and my mom’s friends suggested I come to a local junior cyclocross practice. I’ve been hooked since then.
Most notable result and why?
Fourth place at the Namur Cyclocross World Cup last year. It was my best result in a World Cup, and given how deep the competition was I showed that I had what it took to race at the front of the world stage.
How many hours a week do you spend training?
All depends on the time of year and what discipline. A range of 20-25 hours a week.
Who are your inspirations?
Since I was a kid I’ve been a Huge Lars Boom fan. When I was younger I thought he was a total badass, and all he has done is continue to strengthen that notion in my eyes. He was amazing at cross when he was coming up through the ranks and has the results to show, and then switched over to the road with even more strong results. Then last year I was able to watch him race the World Championships at Zolder where he placed 14th after starting second to last. Makes me wish he would come back to cross full time and be back fighting at the front for the wins.
Whats harder? Road or Cross?
They are hard to compare, I’ve done cross races in Belgium where I’ve crossed the line and collapsed because I was completely redlined. Then on the road I’ve raced in the mountains of Switzerland for hours and finished the race having spent every last ounce of strength I had. Two different ways of pushing yourself to a similar result.
Describe Spencer Petrov in 10 words or less
America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed. – Eleanor Roosevelt
Are you a natural talent or is it something you've had to work hard at?
It has definitely been something I’ve had to work at over the years. To be successful it has to be a goal that is desired by your mind and body. I don’t know about a natural talent but I’ve had a drive that helps me rise to the challenge.
How important is nutrition before during and after?
Nutrition is probably the number one thing people don’t think about. But really it is just as important as all the training you’ve done leading up to an event. Planning your nutrition starting with the day before a race then following all the way to the recovery drink after the race.
Do you take nutrition during a cx race? Many don't.
I personally don’t during a race but that stresses the nutrition before and after a race even more. I would say the recovery is the most important since it helps your body get what it needs to recharge.
"#IAMINFINIT means you are only limited by yourself. If you believe it you truly are Infinite and can achieve all goals you set your mind to."
How do you set up your custom blend?
For CX, it is best to hydrate and fuel prior to the race. Taking in fuel during a race is difficult due to the aggressive technical style of racing. I worked with INFINIT to develop a hydration blend with a moderate amount of calories that gives me all the energy needed going into my event. Because the formula is isotonic, It hydrates me faster than traditional sports drinks. I drink 1 serving the hour before my race. We also added some caffeine to give me that energy bump needed to go full throttle from the gun.
Typically before an event or for a cross race or crit. Don’t use it when I’m training.
Definitely the chocolate repair mixed with almond milk. Nothing is better after a hard ride.
What was it like racing in Europe? (i.e. language barriers, pace, length of races, home-sickness, etc.)?
The racing itself is a completely different beast whether it’s cross or road. The competition is stronger and faster and races are more active. Life over there is another stress factor. There are days that the sun is shining and your training goes well and then you lounge at a café all smiles taking in the beauty and serenity of the world around you. This can typically be followed by three days of wet. And yes I said wet not rain. It does rain but when the rain stops somehow everything is still wet and more water is appearing as if out of thin air. Everything you own and you, yourself are wet. The moment you dry out, the next “wet” spell will come.
“Do it for Trump”- spectator at Zolder World Championships 2016
What is the Cincinnati Cycling Scene like? How does it stack up against other parts of the country or even the world?
I can confidently say we have one of the best junior programs in the US. We have amazing teams, shops, and people supporting junior cycling.
Pan am champs and Cincy 3? Whats all the hype about?
The Pan Am Champ course is the best course in the US. Mitch Graham did an amazing job designing a course that pushed the riders limits.
Worst Crash? How'd it happen?
Physically and mentally would have to be the crash before the World Championships last year. I had been in Europe for two days and was out on a training ride doing intervals when my derailleur hanger snapped bucking me over the bars. I landed on my back breaking my wrist in the process. I didn’t get a cast on my wrist until after the final World Cup and World Championships and so I raced both with a broken wrist and severally injured back. Was a big blow having worked so hard to get to a moment to have that happen. Regardless I was going to race. So there I was two days after the crash lined up for the World Cup and then the World Championships a week after that.
Favorite Ride or Route?
Favorite ride would have to be the trestle ride in Helena Montana or anywhere in Switzerland.
How do you manage the physical & mental stresses of racing at such a high level at such a young age?
For me it comes down to the fact that I genuinely enjoy riding my bike. I like going hard and doing intervals and then nothing compares to the feeling of racing. When I’m off my bike I’m normal and like to hangout, and I have a girlfriend who keeps me balanced when I start to get unhinged. And then there is Netflix, I’m a big Netflix fan.
Favorite cross training activity?
I would have to say favorite training workout would be a ride where I’m out there enjoying where I am and have no pressure to push myself but I’m riding at a good pace.
Goals for this season?
As a first year U23 I’m just trying to push myself as I make the leap from junior to the ranks of the elite men.
Why cyclocross? What appeals most to you about it?
I really love off road racing. I love technical courses and that shows in my riding style. I also love the length of the racing. Going all out for one hour has a simplicity to me that I enjoy.
What are your interests outside of cycling?
I love the outdoors, definitely fits well with cycling and I think that is why I love it. I also just like hanging out with people and being a kid. I’m pretty normal off a bike.
#IAMINFINIT - What does that mean to you?
That you are only limited by yourself. If you believe it you truly are Infinite and can achieve all goals you set your mind to.
Best advice for athletes wanting to become the best athletic version of themselves?
Train smart and train hard. You have to push yourself out of your comfort zone if you want to see improvement to become the best you possibly can.
Do you use affirmations (self talk mantras) to give you that winning edge?
I personally don’t have any mantras. I just know that I have What it takes to be great if I really want it, and so I go out every day and give it my all.