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Back 6.5.2018

Axeon's Thomas Revard - Climbing to New Heights from Indiana's Windswept Roads

Thomas Revard is climbing to prominence, literally. The 20-year-old Hagens Berman Axeon rider claimed his first pro victory at the Redlands Bicycle Classic this spring thanks to his climbing prowess. The reigning U.S. U23 criterium champ, he’s also learned to excel in flat races. Thomas grew up in Carmel, Ind., near Zipp’s factory and offices. He ran cross country on state championship teams and was involved in his family’s multigenerational bike shop, the Bike Line. We caught up with Thomas when he recently dropped by Zipp. Below is an edited transcript:

What was your expectation going into the Redlands Classic?

My role was to ride in support of Sean and Will, but heading into the final climb of stage 2 I countered a move and ended up getting a gap. It wasn’t necessarily the team plan going into it, but it ended up panning out pretty well. That put us in the yellow jersey, got us in a comfortable lead that we could possibly manage throughout the week. All around it was pretty special to me because it was my first pro win. Winning the GC would not have happened without the team.

Photo © Brian Sarno

You’re known as a strong climber but you also finish well in many criteriums. Has that been difficult to get that balance in your performance?

My recent success in criterium racing is mainly because of the fact I’m from Indiana. Being around the Midwest there’s a whole bunch of crits and not a lot of hilly road races, so I’ve kind of had to learn over the past few years to work that to my advantage and learn how to win races in a different way. Instead of just riding away from everybody up hill, I have to be a little bit smarter and be a little bit more tactically aware of what’s going on. The (Zipp and SRAM sponsored) Bissell ABG Giant Cycling Team really taught me how to race crits and helped my get a better understanding of how a race develops.

Are there any specific strategies you use? What wheels you follow, positioning? Power output?

Usually people who do a lot of crits have really high power outputs. I can’t put out 1,200 watts, but I can put out 400 watts and 500 watts for a long time. So I have to manage how much energy I’m using and decide at what points in the race I decide to attack. It’s usually from the middle until the end, because that’s when everybody is the most tired and those big power guys can’t put out as much without ‘burning matches.’

We always have wind blowing here in Central Indiana, and it’s pretty flat. How did that affect you as a rider? You’ve probably ridden a lot of miles alone over the years.

Definitely, living in Indiana teaches you how to deal with the wind. A lot of skinny guys like me don’t tend to fare very well with crosswinds and headwinds. But growing up in Indiana has got to be what it’s like growing up in Belgium. While it’s not exactly the same as Belgium, Indiana is really flat and there’s a whole lot of wind and not a whole lot of tree coverage, so you’re always dealing with the wind. You kind of have to work with the wind and use it to your advantage in training. Doing intervals into headwinds or doing intervals in crosswinds definitely helps prepare for certain scenarios for different races throughout the country and throughout the world.

You grew up in a multigenerational bike shop, Bike Line, here in the Indianapolis area. How did that influence your love for cycling?

I grew up riding really, really nice bikes! It also helped me get into racing because my dad raced when he was in college. He asked me when I was 8 years old, ‘You want to race?’ … My fist race was sponsored by the Zipp master’s team. It’s been fast forward ever since. Just growing up in a bike shop and being around cyclists really helped a lot.

When you were really young you had a nickname Little Schleck. Were Andy and Frank Schleck your first cycling heroes?

Yeah, they definitely were. When we were younger, my brother and I would ride and do little races down the cul-de-sac. We’d pretend we were in the Tour de France and we were the Schleck brothers…. The Schlecks, guys like Niki Terpstra, Fabian Cancellara, Peter Sagan, Vincenzo Nibali, all those guys were some of the riders I really liked a lot.

Beyond racing bikes, you also ran cross country at Carmel High School near Indianapolis and were part of how many state championship teams?

Three.

Looking back now, how did running at a high level with a lot of competition help you as a cyclist?

It helped build my aerobic engine. It also taught me a lot about what it’s like to be part of a team. I always excel in team environments. It’s just because I love giving leadouts as much as I love winning races. It definitely taught be how to be more of a people person and more about the team than about myself, which is a generally good quality.

Photo © Kevin Batchelor 

There can be a lot of pressure at a big cross country meets since your score helps or hurts the entire team. When you get into a team like Axeon, there also are big team expectations.

When I was in Redlands, I was asked several times how I was doing with the pressure. And my response was, I try not to think about what everybody else thinks and I try to think about what the team wants me to do and what I think I’m capable of doing. Just not letting the pressure of what everybody else thinks bother you is huge. It allows you to focus on what you’re doing instead of worrying about something that you can’t control.