Steamboat native Tanner Visnick self-trains to top podium at Stinger
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs native Tanner Visnick, 21, passed the leader of the Steamboat Stinger mountain bike race on the first climb of the first lap.
“A lot of the people told me in town I had a pretty good shot of doing well in this race,” Visnick said. “But the guy that was in front of me on the first climb said, ‘It’s a long race. Don’t go out too fast now,’ and I was like, ‘Who is he to say that?’”
Like many young cyclists, Visnick had made the mistake of trying to hang with the front group at the start of the race many times before.
But this time, he’d hold the lead for 49 miles of the 52.4-mile course to win the race in 4 hours, 7 minutes and 53.4 seconds.
“I feel like I’ve always had that mental toughness to do the longer events, which is why I’ve gravitated toward those,” Visnick said. “It’s just a battle with yourself; I’ve just kind of thrived.”
With the victory, Visnick has become the first Steamboat man to top the podium in the solo pro/open division of the Steamboat Stinger mountain bike race.
“Tanner is an amazing individual,” Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club cycling director Blair Seymour said. “One of those quiet individuals you don’t really know about — right up there with well-known pros that have been competing for years, which is truly amazing. He’s just this college graduate back in town.”
Visnick was a part of Seymour’s inaugural high school mountain bike team as a senior five years ago. The team, which started with six members, has grown to 30 members and competes through the National Interscholastic Cycling Association.
“My first year doing it, I really loved the races, and it’s kind of cool looking back now because they were 12 miles and they seemed so long,” Visnick said. “I was doing a couple of the town races on Wednesdays also, and that was kind of my first exposure to racing.”
Visnick would move to Bozeman, Montana, for college, and despite Montana State University not having a large club, he pursued mountain biking as a hobby.
“I just kind of rode on my own and started training on my own — really developed a passion for it,” Visnick said.
That’s what gave him an edge in the Stinger. Visnick knows how to push himself without others around him. His mental toughness would show on his second lap, when the temperature heightened and the dust particles permeated the air.
“I know where the tricky spots are,” Visnick said. “I don’t really like hot weather, and the heat was getting to me. The lower part of Beall Trail is kind of steep and a little bit dusty and sage-brushy, Aspen forest. I was just thinking in my head, ‘This is horrible,’ but fortunately, the aid station on the other side was cheering like crazy.”
The people at the aid station told Visnick he had at least a 3- to 4-mile lead, and his confidence was restored.
But what also sets Visnick apart as a racer is his passion, which he says is fueled through coaching. After graduating from Montana State in May, Visnick has spent his summer giving back to his hometown by coaching the youth mountain biking program for riders age 7 to 17.
“These kids love training,” Visnick said. “The most important part about racing is enjoying the ride, and if I’m not enjoying racing, there’s no point.”
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