At first glance, professional cyclist and Salt Lake City resident Tyler Wren exhibits unexpected contrasts. The 31-year-old competes predominantly on the road for the Jamis/Sutter Home team.
Wren races hard. Retired pro cyclist Burke Swindlehurst said, "He's suffering so much you expect to see blood coming out of his ears." At his wedding, Wren and his wife, Jennifer, danced the finale from "Dirty Dancing." He practiced for five months to get it right.
Last Saturday, in cold and rain, Wren won for the second consecutive year the 69-mile Crusher in the Tushar in the southwest Utah mountains. Swindlehurst, the race's founder and director, established the alternating blacktop and dirt road event in 2011.
Riding a cyclocross bike, Wren negotiated high-speed dirt descents better suited to fat tires and climbed 10,400 total vertical feet in four hours and 29 minutes. The winning effort "completely emptied you," Wren said.
At 5 foot 11 inches tall and 145 pounds, Wren is built to excel uphill. This year he became the U.S. national road race King of the Mountains champion. Swindlehurst described Wren as "tenacious and fearless."
Wren took to road biking in the weeks before his freshman year at Princeton University. The inauspicious beginning he crashed into the cycling team captain at a stop light in his first team ride blossomed into multiple collegiate national championships. He opted for a professional cycling career after graduating with an economics degree in 2003.
Before attacking the one remaining rider with him near the end of the 2012 Crusher, Wren considered racing conservatively to reserve energy for this week's Cascade Cycling Classic.
"But once I was there I had too much respect for the race and for Burke [Swindlehurst], so I just went for it," Wren said.
He likely couldn't accept wasting Jamis/Sutter Home teammate Jamey Driscoll's efforts to chase down riders off the front and pace him back to the leaders after a mechanical issue, either. Wren soloed for six miles into the Eagle Point finish.
"Cycling to me is not about making myself feel strong and important. It's about setting goals and working methodically to reach them," Wren said. "I love the process, I love training hard, and when it all comes together with my teammates in a race for that shared experience of winning that's wholly satisfying to me. The same goes for the dance, and that was even more special because Jennifer was putting in all the same hard work with me along the way."
The Philadelphia native enjoys Salt Lake City because it's close to world-class road cycling, mountain biking, hiking and skate skiing. That's important for a guy who trains 300 to 600 miles a week. He plans to enter Utah Cyclocross races this fall.
About Tyler Wren
The Philadelphia native lives in Salt Lake City
Won last weekend's 69-mile Crusher in the Tushar, a blacktop and dirt competition
Plans to enter more "cyclocross" races