Riding high: After a milestone victory in Quebec City, Norwich’s Rhim enjoys a little home cooking

  • Norwich’s Brendan Rhim, center, wears the yellow jersey after winning the Tour de Beauce on Sunday in Quebec City. At left is runner-up James Piccoli, and third-place Nicolas Zukowsky is at right. (courtesy photograph)

  • Rhim, first bicyclist on left, trails second-place Ben Wolfe, second from left, and Piccoli, front, on the Stage 5 breakaway.

  • Diego Milán, on orange, wins State 5 of the Tour de Beauce on Sunday in Quebec City, Norwich’s Brendan Rhim was second. (courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/27/2019 9:53:51 PM

NORWICH — Norwich native Brendan Rhim might want to consider stopping by his hometown a little more often. It might just be a good luck charm.

Rhim, a professional cyclist for the biking team Arapahoe-Hincapie, is coming off one of the biggest weekends of his career, winning the 2019 Tour de Beauce in Quebec City, Canada, last weekend.

It was the Hanover High graduate’s first victory in a race of that magnitude, a multi-day five-stage race that features a 4-mile ascension up Mont-Megantic National Park — the highest elevated road in the Province of Quebec.

Rhim put himself in a favorable position and pulled away in the race’s final stage, taking second behind Inteja IMCA-Ridea’s Diego Milan-Jimenez; Rhim finished as the Tour’s overall winner at 15 hours, 27 minutes and 51 seconds, with one stage win and top-five finishes in four of the five stages.

“Our director (Thomas Craven) from the start … was telling us all week to wait until the last day,” Rhim said in a phone conversation from the road on Monday. “You can’t win a race early on; you can certainly lose it, but the race is won on the last day. I kept that in the back of my mind.

“It came down to the wire,” he added. “Three guys were ahead of me, you never really know. There were at least one or two who had consistently beaten me throughout the week. … I wasn’t really confident until the last 2K of the race.”

What may have tipped the scales this time, Rhim said, was a little home cooking. Arapahoe stopped by Rhim’s home in Norwich on Sunday night for a quick rest before the team took off for Tennessee early the next morning.

In the past, the team has usually flown to Quebec City before traveling to Knoxville, Tenn., for the annual U.S. Pro Road Championships, a plan that has consistently turned into a logistical headache for a professional cycling team trying to move several bikes and lots of equipment. This year, said Craven, Arapahoe-Hincapie’s chief sports director, the team wasn’t having it and decided to drive.

Stopping in Norwich on Sunday night, he said, made the trip a whole lot easier.

“This year, I just wasn’t going to put up with it anymore,” Craven said with a laugh over the phone on Thursday. “Our budget had gotten a little smaller but we have some nice vehicles. We just said, ‘Why don’t we go to Brendan’s house? Spend the night?’ I didn’t expect him to win.

“We got to Norwich, had a great rib dinner at their house. I stayed in a bed and breakfast on Main Street. The next morning we stopped, loaded up some coffee mugs and fuel and busted out 10 states, 999.7 miles to be exact, to Knoxville. We got there at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.”

Rhim’s career has started to find some traction. He graduated from Furman University this past May, finishing a health sciences degree that has fit in nicely with his budding professional cycling career. His education now wrapped up, Rhim has found a lot more time to focus on his cycling — an increased mental awareness that has helped him start to find more and more success.

“It’s a little bit of a mixed bag,” Rhim said. “School gave me a lot of structure. It forced me to manage my time well. … It’s definitely been a challenge (since graduating). I won’t say it’s been easy. But I can sleep in whenever I want to. That’s the biggest thing.”

The education, he said, has been crucial to his progress.

“I’m interested in everything related to what we do on the bike,” Rhim said. “I’ve taken a lot of knowledge that I’ve learned in classes and applied it to my life: how we approach training, how you prepare yourself while you’re training, what you’re putting into your body, hydration, recovery, all those little things. … School has definitely made a big impact on the little things that can make a difference at a high level already.”

Craven said he’s seen a more focused athlete and a more mentally focused rider since Rhim graduated.

“We totally wanted him to finish school. He took semesters off here and there. He was able to apply himself and pound through his requirements at school.” Craven said. “The maturity level I’ve seen come out of him since graduating from college has been monstrous. He’s made incredible leaps and bounds in the last eight months.”

Those leaps culminated in yet another strong race at the Tour de Beauce. It was only Rhim’s second time doing the race; this time he was doing it in front of his family, who had made the trip north to see him compete.

“The Tour de Beauce is a difficult race for North Americans. ... It’s a premiere race on our calendar,” Craven said. “The terrain is very European. The roads are rough, the weather can be difficult. … I had some insight on how it unfolds.

“(Rhim) was just patient. That’s something that I’ve been able to teach him. Maturity and patience. Inexperienced riders want to make things happen. … He is a biological monster. He’s a big guy with big lungs, big feet. The guy is a perfect cyclist. But the perfect cyclist doesn’t win, certainly not the guy who rides the hardest. It’s the guy who rides just as hard as he needs to win the race.”

Rhim said he certainly has noticed a difference this year. The focus that’s come from graduating has translated into calm patience in races, a mental maturity that’s helped put him in the best chances to start winning bigger events. But the victory, he said, has helped lift his team, Arapahoe-Hincapie.

Rhim hopes a win — and a taste of Vermont — can help spark the group as a whole ahead of the U.S. Pro Road Championships, which began on Thursday.

“We had a lot of bad luck on the team this year, spread amongst everyone,” Rhim said. “People getting sick, having some kind of mechanical issue mid-race, just plain bad luck. (The win) was really big for the team. We had been struggling a bit to pull off that big result.

“We’re really happy with it.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.

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