As professional cyclists from all over the world descend on Santa Rosa for the start of Amgen Tour of California this Sunday, an up and coming Petaluma athlete will be sharing the spotlight.
Ryan Eastman is just 19, but has already spent two years as a professional cyclist, jetting around the world from race to race and maintaining grueling schedule that keeps him riding more than 20 hours a week.
But what makes Eastman’s participation in the eight-day race even more impressive is that his team, Bontrager Live Armstrong based in Austin, Texas, will be the only one made up of cyclists under 23 years old.
"It is exciting to see someone born and raised in Petaluma doing the Tour of California, especially at his age,” says Andrew Christensen, owner of , a downtown cycling store where Eastman often hangs out when he is back in town.
“To be able to do such a major stage race with the best cyclists in the world so early in his career shows what potential Ryan has to become one of the future major players in the cycling world."
The Valley Oaks grad spent last year competing in Europe and ended the season racing in the Caribbean. This year Eastman was back in Europe, then doing altitude training in Boulder, Colorado, followed by the Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico. Even when he is back home, his daily routine is tough, training an average of four hours a day and watching everything he eats.
“With cycling, the mental challenge is huge, it’s as hard as the physical challenge of it,” says Eastman. “You’re out there for so long.”
But he admits that the fans who line the sides of the road during the race are a big help and go a long way toward helping cyclists “push through it.”
The Tour of California is also a tremendous opportunity for young riders because it’s a chance to be spotted by a professional cycling club. If Eastman or another member of his team does well, he has a chance to join the World Tour team and compete in the top cycling races.
The young champ got into cycling by accident. Eastman was playing soccer when he met cycling star Steven Cozza, who was dating his friend’s sister. He found that he enjoyed the speed and that he had the strength to go far and fast. He joined the U.S. National Racing Team in 2009 and went pro a year later.
Now, as Eastman prepares for a grueling ride through from Santa Rosa through San Francisco, San Jose and the Central Valley before arriving in Beverly Hills, he is philosophical about the challenge ahead.
“At the end of the day, it’s just another bike race,” he says. “It’s a different level, but it’s still the same concept.”
The race will be broadcast live on NBC starting this Sunday.