Another One Bikes the Dust: Haegan Altizer cycles across Belgium

Altizer was riding in Koolgem, Belgium, trying to rejoin the main pack. Photo courtesy of

Grimacing, Haegan Altizer lay in the nettled brush surrounding the road. Misfortune had hit three-fourths of the way into the race, forcing Altizer into the side of a car door and off the raceway.

Needing to receive medical attention for the possibility of poison ivy, Altizer was forced out of the race. In Leaving, he was unable to fulfill his hopes of finishing a single race in Belgium.

His short career had never experienced such poor results, yet Altizer’s passion for the sport allows him to look past obstacles like these.

Altizer’s cycling team, the Junior Flyers, gave him the opportunity and the will to train and race. Likewise, the Junior Flyers gave him the “better than last time” mindset that he measures his growth and progress with. This mentality allows Altizer to distance himself from poor results and remain dedicated and devoted to progressing in his sport.

It was Altizer’s dedication to cycling that gave him the opportunity to compete in Belgium.

He went with the odds against him. Racing in Belgium is just slightly faster than in the United States. The difference is apparent in the comparison of the speeds of US training and Belgian racing.

“We would train (in the states) at 20-21 MPH,” Altizer said, “yet, the racing in Belgium was around 23-24 MPH.”

Belgium also presented Altizer with a set of physical problems. The Belgian courses were better suited for a heavier racer, so the 128 pound Altizer had a harder time competing. The “fat Belgians,” as Altizer said, were simply better suited to their country’s raceways, specifically in the non-pavement portions of the track.

“I had a hard time going over the cobblestones section of the races,” Altizer said, “I would bounce [all over] because I didn’t weigh enough to keep my tires flat against the cobbles. [This meant] I was always trying to catch up in the race.”

The conditions were not a shock to Altizer, who had expected such circumstances.

“I went in there expecting to get my butt handed back to me,” Altizer said. “But, I went because I thought it would be fun and make me a better cyclist.”

Throughout the trip, Altizer had to remain level-headed to not let the poor performances affect his attitude while competing. By doing so, Altizer discovered the secret to improving, and he progressed because of it.

“I developed as a rider because of the physical inequalities that I experienced in the Belgian races,” Altizer said.“For example, I learned about how to pass riders through a curve.When the pack slows down going around the curve, I now know to maintain my speed throughout the turn.”

Altizer spent most of his off-time with his Junior Flyer’s teammate, Luke Broadwell, who elaborated on the invaluable lessons that they learned. “We learned a lot about conducting ourselves as professional cyclists as well as the importance of maintaining connections with other cyclists,” Broadwell said.

No matter the source of the instruction, the lessons learned in Belgium had an immediate impact on Altizer’s cycling. In only his 6th race at his current level of youth cycling, Altizer finished 14th out of 60 in his first race back.

“I have been racing better than ever,” Altizer said. “I’ve progressed so much in racing here in the states .”

Although he was disappointed with his final results in Belgium, Altizer continues to enjoy cycling for the sheer thrill of riding competitively. He hopes to have improved by next summer, so that he can return to Europe and succeed in the Tour of Ireland.