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Anchorage teen on Team USA for world cycling championships

Beth Bragg

She has a coach whom she has never met, she spends her winters going nowhere in her family’s garage, and her biggest competition in Alaska is nearly 40 years older than her.

Yet despite what some may consider challenging circumstances, 16-year-old Maddie Boutet is ready to take on the world.

Boutet, a junior at West High who has quickly emerged as one of the nation’s top juniors, on Wednesday was named to the U.S. team that will compete in the world road racing championships later this month in Spain.

“This is my first race in Europe ever, so I’m going more for the experience,” Boutet said. “Since it’s my first year, I want to find out what racing at that level is like.”

Boutet didn’t know what it was like to race at any level of cycling until four years ago, when she entered her first race — the Potter Valley hill climb, an Arctic Bicycle Club event.

“I loved it, but really it was last summer that I really started racing a lot,” she said. “I started traveling more to races and I was racing on a team, and I fell in love with it even more. And I started having good results.”

As a 14-year-old, Boutet placed sixth in the road race for 15- and 16-year-olds at the 2012 USA Cycling championships. At last summer’s national championships, she captured second place in the road race in the same age group.

This summer, Boutet moved up to the 17-18 age group — she turns 17 in October — and claimed third place in the road race and sixth place in the time trial at the national championships. The top three finishers in the road race will race for Team USA at the Sept. 21-28 UCI Road World Championships in Ponferrada, Spain.

Though it didn’t factor into her Team USA selection, one of Boutet’s biggest triumphs came last month  when she won the first race in the annual Tour of Anchorage. To win the opening-stage hill climb, she had to beat 55-year-old Sheryl Loan, one of the city’s great cyclists no matter the age division.

“It was my first time beating her,” Boutet said of the win over Loan, who went on to claim her 11th Tour title. “She’s insane.”

Last summer’s success led Boutet to connect with a cycling coach who lives on the East Coast. The two have never actually met, but the coach sends daily training plans and the two talk at least once a week, Boutet said.

Though she is still cycling outdoors, Boutet will take her training indoors when winter comes.  

“They have these things called rollers. They’re like a treadmill for bikes,” she said. “It gets pretty monotonous after awhile, but we have a TV set up, so it’s not too bad.”

The focus on cycling means Boutet won’t be able to compete for West’s cross country team this school year, which means the defending state champion Eagles will be without one of their best runners. Boutet placed third in last year’s Cook Inlet Conference cross country championships and finished 10th at the state meet.

She will race the 76-kilometer road race at the world championships on Sept. 26, the day before the Cook Inlet Conference cross country championships.

“My coach is pretty bummed," she said. "It’s all cycling for the rest of the month. It’s hard, especially as defending state champions — I really wanted to be a part of that team. We’re still friends, I still go cheer them on, but it will be hard.”