PezCycling News - What's Cool In Road Cycling : A Young Rider To Watch: Kit Karzen

A Young Rider To Watch: Kit Karzen
He's young, he's American, he's cool, he does commercials for Oakley, he interviews Cav, he rides the amateur six days but wants to be in there with the 'big boys,' soon - he's Kit Karzen; and here's what he had to say to PEZ, recently.

PEZ: How did you get into cycling, Kit ?
When I was 8, I was diagnosed with a hardcore case of ADHD. Long story short, I went through years of medication programs that led me to some gnarly low points. By the time I entered middle school I stopped the meds, I was over it and just wanted to be myself...crazed and all. A few crappy years later, my dad urged me to just "try out" cycling (after just about every other sport) at the Encino Velodrome Youth Program where he used to race as a junior. Tried it. Loved it. And now we're here...

PEZ: Why track ? doesn't every US kid want to Lance or Big George or Tyler Farrar ?
This is true Ed! I'm known for my track racing background, but I do race the road heavily on the NOW-MS U23 team based out of LA. In 2010 we hit a few of NRC's, and even did the Redlands Stage Race and Tour of the Gila last year. That hurt like hell. But right now, my greatest opportunities are to go to the Olympics, even Worlds are on the track.

And in all honesty, I really do love track racing. The simplicity, yet chaos of it rocks...and traveling the world since I was 15 because of it ain't bad either. Big Picture, I am looking to pursue a bigger road career down the line, track racing has just developed a bit quicker. Not to mention the long list of riders who came off the track (including Big George and Tyler Farrar), I'm not too worried about it.

PEZ: How much support do you get from your Federation ?
USA Cycling has been a huge part of developing me as a rider over the years. I've had the honor of wearing the "Homeland's" colors all over the world, and couldn't be more grateful. Since I first started racing for the national team, we've formed a really great and dynamic relationship. If they can race me, I'm game. If they have no plans to attend somewhere that I have on my calendar, even if it means filling a void with my sponsors, we make it happen. No Opportunity Wasted.

PEZ: Who were/are you cycling role models ?
Don't have the specifics nailed down, but I get a kick out of the cyclists who are just as active off the bike as they are on the a good way, of course.

PEZ: You rode the amateur 6 at Zurich, which others have you ridden ? what about World Cups ? - what are your best results ?
I've ridden Fiorenzuola (Italy), Berlin, Copenhagen, and Alkmaar as well. Best result was this past trip in Zurich, which was 4th. We had a few great nights, getting some 2nd's and 3rd's which was real fun. Haven't done a World Cup yet. A bit harder this year as the schedules are catered towards the new Olympic format, but that'll change at some point.

PEZ: How do you feel about the amount of time you have to spend travelling if you want to be an international track rider ?
It's a total double rainbow experience, man! I am so blessed to have these opportunities to travel the world, and I've tried to take it all in as much as I can. But to be honest it can get to me at some points, like when I was in high school I missed 12 weeks of my senior year due to traveling and racing. Homeschooling was never an option for me, I'm a firm believer that Junior riders should attend High School, not just for the learning, but the experiences and relationships you get out of matter how good you are. Missing school was sick, but missing out on my friends and growing up was a tough pill to swallow. One trip happened to knock out prom, grad night, and my birthday in one swoop. Nowadays, I could care less about missing stuff. But at that age, no matter how cool of a thing you have going on, you feel like you should be there for some stuff. Being alone in a Euro Hotel, watching Facebook Prom pics of my friends start to show up the day after...I've experienced happier moments.

PEZ: Where's your favourite place to race ?
I tend to always have a blast when I race in England, but every spring there's racing in Trinidad and Tobago that's just a massive party. This past year in Trinidad, we were in between races at the Velodrome when I went up to the Trinidad Cycling President, who was coincidently acting as DJ. I asked him how it would be funny if someone started dancing with the rapper on stage, who was sort of bombing. Without hesitation, he grabbed me by the wrist, pushed me on the stage, and I was too freaked out to remember the rest. I think there are some videos of it on YouTube, try searching "Worst Dancer Ever".

PEZ: Six day organizers prefer 'national' teams - who will you ride with ?
When the IOC took the madison out of the Olympics, many national teams shut down their madison programs as they aren't leading to Olympic medals right now, which in turn would lead to more funding. This past block of Euro racing was supported by my personal sponsors, which was an easy fix. I've been seeing a trend in the UIV's and Pros that there are a usually a good mix and match with the teams, and how good you are is more important than where you come from. There are more than one ways to skin a cat, and getting into a 6 day comes down to the relationships you have with the promoters, and even riders. I know Americans like Patrik Lyons of Echelon Management Group has been doing a great job of getting riders into 6 Days as well.

PEZ: Can you ever see sixes coming back to the US ?
I think we can pull it off, but it needs to cater to the American audience really well. We're a picky group of Yanks, and like big lights, non-stop entertainment, maybe throw some explosions in there. You're looking at a tall order though, shipping everyone from riders, mechanics, derny's and drivers, etc. If there's any chance of it getting done, there needs to be a synergistic effort amongst the velodrome providers, promoters, sponsors, and overall US Cycling community. No ego's or weird agendas attached, just aim on putting on a sweet 6 day. But hey! We're America...and we like to go big. I'm game.

PEZ: Do you think that 'The Revolutions' could transfer successfully to the US ?
The same thing goes for 'The Revolutions' as with bringing 6 days over. First thing's first...I would suggest we start from scratch and perfect the experience of track racing for a spectator. All of these events in Euroland are spectator driven, and to pull off a massive event with FACE partnership (the main entity for the Revolutions), they'll have questions that we need answers to, like, "What do you find has been a successful non-race entertainment strategy for your sell-out crowds?", or "How have you found it's best to promote and sell out a velodrome?."

PEZ: You seem to have good sponsorships - how did you manage that ?
You mean the family? They're the best. The sponsors I have right now come from years of tender relationship building, on and off the bike. When it comes to my sponsors, like with bringing Sixes and The Revolutions to the US, it's about the experience. Nobody wins all the time, I get that and my sponsors get that. But our relationships aren't based on statistics and placings, they're about growth and communication and the ability for them to be taken on my journey around the world of ups and downs, wins and losses.

When a high profile rider or team goes through the year with zero communication for whatever reason, and then all of sudden says that they need "X" equipment or dollars, and they need it now...that doesn't fly with me or my sponsors. Companies, no matter how big or small, are run by people...who go through the same ups and downs as I do. A few people started asking me questions on sponsorships, so I communicated that to my personal sponsors and we published a bunch of videos on "How to Get Sponsored". You can check them out on my YouTube channel.

PEZ: I've seen some of the work you've done with Oakley - is it possible that it may be a distraction from your racing ?
Oakley has been a pretty big part of my life this year, but no distraction at all. I first got sponsored by Oakley 3 years ago, and this year I started working with the sports marketing department in producing videos and digital content. It started with a spoof cribs episode I did on the Rolling O Lab, and evolved into things like the Tour de France and Red Bull Rampage. I'm the type of kid who needs a few things going on at once, otherwise I get bored. Bike racing leads to a busy lifestyle, but there's A LOT of down time.

Steve Blick, THE main dude for Cycling at O, has been a huge mentor of mine through it all, not to mention a great friend. We talk about anything from new videos, to how much I suck at riding the Oakley Pump varies. If anything, working with Oakley has just made my relationship with the company that much stronger and non-racing life way more fun.

PEZ: What are your ultimate goals in the sport ?
Win races, travel the world, and have some fun!


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