La. teen blasts through racing ranks as an all-around threat

Lance Abshire will race anyone — other 14-year-olds or men twice his age.

The Baton Rouge cyclist has sprinted through the divisions of competitive racing in the past two years, dominating at the juniors level and holding his own with veteran riders.

Last month, Lance placed second in both the road race and the solo time trial in his age group at the USA Cycling amateur championship in Madison, Wisconsin, announcing his talents to the American cycling community.

Competing in triathlons since he was 5, racing hard for a win is ingrained in Lance, says his father, Mike Abshire.

“Whatever obstacle there is, you’re going to beat it,” he says. “Quitting is not an option.”

With a slight build but muscular legs, Lance looks like the pro racers he emulates. But his mop of thick brown hair and quiet demeanor peg him as a teenager.

Lance began racing kids’ triathlons when most children were just taking off their training wheels. He followed the example of his father, who completed three grueling Ironman triathlons and numerous shorter races.

“I was doing Ironman training before he was born,” says Mike Abshire. “He grew up in a stroller following us around the (City Park and University) lakes.”

A strong runner and cyclist, Lance began to focus on cycling about two years ago.

In his first races as a 12-year-old, Lance competed against other cyclists his age in the junior division, but he soon sought a greater challenge. Junior races in Louisiana are often short — 20 to 30 miles — and fewer racers compete. He was used to training with his father’s friends — adults with lots of miles in the saddle.

“I think I was racing against one or two other guys,” the young teen says. “Just three of us started together. Or five of us.”

In the past year, Lance began racing men’s races, too. Riding longer distances against stronger competitors suited him. He started at the beginner’s level, Category 5, then quickly earned enough points through strong finishes to jump another category. He is now a Category 3 racer.

In a sport where many riders specialize in one area — sprinting, climbing or solo time trials — Lance has excelled in all disciplines. “This last race I was pretty good in the sprint, but I’ve got a pretty good time trial, too,” he says. “I guess I’m kind of all-around.”

Longer races up to 100 miles seem to suit Lance, his dad says, and when a race series combines three different disciplines on back-to-back days — like the Junior Nationals last month — Lance doesn’t suffer as much as his competitors.

“People are getting tired, and he’s just feeling good,” Mike Abshire says.

In early July, when Lance competed at the USA Cycling Amateur Road Nationals, he raced against several riders who train with developmental programs — essentially semi-pro teams.

“He held his own,” says Mike Abshire. “He realized when he went to Nationals there were kids who were his age, who were 14 that are strong. They’re really strong. He’s really strong.”

Earning second place in two of the three Nationals races garnered some attention from the developmental teams that groom riders for professional cycling. But Lance will likely wait until he is 16 to commit to one.

“Hopefully, I’ll get on there and see what happens after that,” Lance says.

With that goal in mind, each week Lance trains at least 10 hours a week, riding 200 miles or more with his father’s team, Geaux Race, or his new Team La S’port.

While Lance shows great promise in cycling, his family wants him to remain focused on school, too. Entering his freshman year at Parkview Baptist High School, Lance also runs track and cross country.

Even the most successful professional cyclists need back-up plans, Mike Abshire says. After all, professional cycling careers usually end by the age of 40 — or earlier with bad luck.

“It’s a gift,” says Mike Abshire. “It’s not something that he can take lightly, and it can be gone tomorrow. A single crash can wipe out his plans for the future completely.”