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Pedal to the medal

Susan Hefler
Junior Alex Reichmann leads a pack of three while racing.

As he takes a glance at his opponents, anxious sweat drips from his face. Junior Alex Reichmann prepares himself for the 2022 USA Cycling Amateur Road National Championships. Since starting his biking career at the age of nine, Alex has been riding for Rock Creek Velo, a local cycling team based in Rock Creek Park. He has taken part in the Amateur Road Nationals the last three years and placed 29th last year. 

The Rock Velo Creek team rides in the Maryland and D.C. area, training year-round to get riders prepared to compete. Through this organization, Alex competes in road racing, cyclocross and time trials. He also mountain bikes recreationally. 

Road races typically take place on an open road that can range from 50 to over 100 miles. In contrast, cyclocross is when cyclers ride road bikes on a mountain course. Time trials are when racers, by themselves, ride as fast as they can for a certain amount of time or distance.

“Most people, when they think of bike racing, think of a big popular event like the Tour de France,” Alex’s coach and exercise physiologist Susan Hefler said. “What Alex does is really not that much different.”

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Hefler has been working with Alex for about a year and a half, and besides helping Alex become the best he can physically, she supports Alex psychologically. 

“The training itself is one thing,” Hefler said. “But then there’s also keeping check on how the athlete’s wellbeing is doing.” 

Because of the countless hours Alex spends training on the road and in the gym, he is left with a lot to manage between his schoolwork and bike work. His workout routine includes cycling for two hours six to seven days a week, including his daily bike ride home from CESJDS. In addition, he typically rides around 70 miles on weekends.

“I try to ride home from school every day so I don’t waste as much time,” Alex said. “I don’t get to go home first and then do my homework.”

Just like Alex, his family is passionate about cycling, as his sister, junior Ari Reichmann, also occasionally races. With several bikers in the family, the Reichmann household accommodates the sport’s needs.

“There are a lot of bikes,” Ari said. “We don’t really have special meals or anything, but there definitely are a lot of bikes.” 

Alex competes at the national level and has gone to national championships several times.

“It’s really nerve wracking because it’s the best in the country,” Alex said. “It’s one race where everyone is going to be faster than you or as fast as you, so it’s really difficult.”

To prepare for competitions as intense as nationals, Alex races a lot of smaller local events to gain more racing experience. Typically road nationals take place during the summer for approximately a week, while cyclocross nationals occur in December. 

This year, Reichmann will compete in road nationals in Roanoke, Virginia in June. 

“Being a great athlete takes years of work,” Hefler said. “When I think of Alex, I just think about how hardworking he is and how driven and how dedicated to the sport he is. He’s gotten some great results and I expect more to come.”

This story was originally published on The Lion’s Tale on March 18, 2023.