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Cyclist Isaac Bryant preps for competition in Europe

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Isaac Bryant rides his road bike near his home last week. Bryant will compete at nationals this weekend. (Staff photo by Dane Mizutani)2 / 3
Isaac Bryant stands with his road bike last week. (Staff photo by Dane Mizutani)3 / 3

Like many kids, growing up Isaac Bryant wanted to be just like Dad. He would follow his father like a shadow. He would mirror his father’s every action. Anything it took to be like Dad.

“He used to compete in triathlons (they were Ironman competitions, actually) and I wanted to be like him,” Bryant recalled, rocking back and forth in rocking chair on the front porch of his family’s home in Maplewood. “So I started to compete in triathlons when I was like 8 years old.”

Now a 16-year-old student at New Life Academy, and one of the best cyclists in his age group in the state, Bryant had no idea mimicking his father would lead him to a potential career.

Bryant, who always gravitated toward the cycling part of triathlons, was recently selected to travel to Belgium to train with members of the USA Cycling’s National Development Program. He leaves next month.

“It came in an email,” Bryant said. “I was so excited. I guess I expected it a little bit. It was still a big relief to know that I got selected. I’m so excited to go race over there.”

That selection to the USA Cycling’s National Development Program is the latest achievement in Bryant’s career, which only started a few years ago. He’s already a six-time state champion in the sport. He earned a sixth-place finish at nationals last year.

“When I was 14 years old I won the state championship,” he said. “I started to realize I could be really good. Then when I was 15 years old I got sixth place at nationals. That’s when I started to realize that I could be one of the best in the nation. I’ve realized that I have the talent that I could do this professionally and that really motivates me.”

Bryant will compete at nationals in Louisville, Ky., this week.

“His goal is to win this time,” said father Michael Bryant. “He missed the podium by one spot last year.”

“It’s kind of surreal,” his mother Kristen Bryant added. “You always hear kids saying they want to be the best at something. We never thought it would end up like this. He found his niche and he’s really ran with it.”

He’s actually rode with it.

Bryant still remembers his first race. He was 8 years old and won with relative ease. Bryant said aside from winning the actual race, he got hooked because of the crowds at the event.

“It was cool because everyone was watching,” he recalled. “It was exhilarating.”

Still, it took a few more years before Bryant really started to take the sport seriously. He’d train with his father from time to time, but he never took the training too seriously.

“I wouldn’t necessarily push myself too hard when I started,” he said. “I’d go out and casually get a workout in. As I’ve transitioned to taking the sport more seriously I have specific workouts and I push myself hard every single time.”

Those workouts, coupled with school, and there aren’t always enough hours in the day. Bryant said sometimes he’ll wake up early to train before school. Other times he’ll sacrifice hanging out with friends to get a solid workout in.

“I think they know I train hard,” Bryant said of his friends. “I don’t think they really know the level I’m at, though, and how hard it is to get there.”

Michael Bryant knows those things. And he knows how hard his son trains. There is one moment, in particular, that stands out to him.

“I remember one day he called me saying he was over in St. Paul and the sun had barely come up,” Michael Bryant said. “We live like 20 miles from there. He had gotten up with the sunrise to train. No one made him do that. That’s how he trains.”

“We don’t have to get on him,” Kristen Bryant added. “He does it on his own.”

Bryant’s workouts can range anywhere from 20 miles to 60 miles. He trains throughout the Twin Cities, though he has a fondness for the hills in Afton. He knows those hills make him better in the long run.

“He’s unique in that he embraces the pain,” Michael Bryant said. “He can be 50 miles into a ride and he has a grin ear to ear. He loves to go fast. He loves to push himself.”

Bryant anticipates a ton of hills when he travels to Belgium. He’ll spend about a month there and will compete in various races across Europe.

“You learn so much racing in Europe,” he said. “There are so many amazing guys that compete there. I’m excited to learn. I’m not really sure what to expect. I know it’s going to be hard. I’d like to get on the podium out there.”

Bryant’s ultimate goal is to go pro. In the meantime, though, he’s enjoying the ride — literally and figuratively.

His father is enjoying it, too.

“It’s a little bit of bummer when he’s 14 years old and he passes me by,” Michael Bryant said with a laugh. “It’s fun, though. We still train together sometimes. I had to find him some faster friends.”