Student Features

PA Cyber senior accepted into Olympic cycling program

Oct 12, 2018

The Whitehall Township athlete is among only a handful picked from over 80 youth

Nathan Roberts of Whitehall Township was picked to attend the track cycling camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado.

A PA Cyber senior was selected to attend the USA Cycling Olympic Development Program Selection Camp in November.

Nathan Roberts, 17, of Whitehall Township, was among more than 80 talented youth from across the United States who applied to attend the track cycling camp Nov. 1-6 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. Only a handful were chosen to attend.

Participants at the Olympic Development camp will be vying for positions in the ODP for 2019. This selection camp provides a pathway to identify, prepare and develop youth athletes, and represents the first step in earning the privilege to represent the U.S. at the Junior World Championships and other international events.

When asked what it would mean to him to be part of Team USA, Nathan said, "It would be the most amazing thing that I have ever done in my life. It would mean the world to me."

"It's really an amazing thing," added his mother, Rosanne Roberts. "This is a great opportunity for track cycling athletes. We pray that Nathan is selected to fill a position in the ODP for 2019."

Acceptance to the program represents a major step toward Nathan's dream to someday become part of the U.S. Olympic pursuit team — a four-member group that essentially races against a clock. Track cyclists compete on fixed-geared bikes that have no brakes, their feet clipped into the pedals.

Nathan's path to track cycling began when he tried a free local children's program. Kids received a helmet and track bike, and learned the basics. He competed for fun in local competitions, but didn't get serious until the past several years. He now participates in track cycling, road cycling, and cyclocross, competing in regional, national and international competitions.

"It's something that he started doing, enjoyed, and started doing well," his mother said. "I think once you start doing well, you start thinking about being competitive."

A couple years ago, Nathan began working with Gilbert "Gil" Hatton, former Olympic coach and track cycling legend who coached Olympic gold medal-winning cyclist Marty Nothstein.

"Working with Gil and training seriously started really getting him thinking about what he wants out of this," she said.

Over the past two years, Nathan has won two national championships, and his pursuit team won silver at the USA Cycling Junior Track National Championships last July. Nathan won gold during his individual pursuit, which got him identified for the Olympic program.

The Valley Preferred Cycling Center is Nathan's home track. It is a 333-meter concrete, specially built track with 28-degree banked turns. Some of the tracks he has competed on, such as a track that he raced on in California, are even steeper with 42-degree banked turns. Tracks are steep to support speed while racing. Not every race results in winning, she said, and riders learn a lot from failure.

"I can't even tell you, as a mom, how hair-raising this sport is now. It's a tough sport," she said.

She would know. Last year in May, prior to the championships, Nathan lost control of his bike during training and sustained a fractured nasal cavity and occipital lobe. His jaw was broken and had to be wired shut while he healed. It wasn't easy, but he recovered, got back on his bike, continued training and won a national championship in July.

"We didn't even think he was going to race," Rosanne Roberts said.

Nathan trains every day, putting in hundreds of miles on his bike each week. He hits the track two to three times per week. Sometimes he does two hours of an easy 30 to 35-mile spin. Most days, he rides 40 to 60 miles on the road bike, building his endurance for longer races. One scratch race, the most common in track cycling, can be 60 to 80 laps on the track, and some road races are 80 or more miles.

He currently belongs to the team Young Medalists, a premier junior development cycling club supported by Lehigh Valley Cycling Club. In July, a six-rider team participated in the seven-stage Tour de L'Abitibi in Ontario, Canada, where eight countries were represented.

At Tour de L'Abitibi, Team Young Medalist raced 640 kilometers in six days. Riders must meet a time cut at each stage and Nathan's results got better. Out of 144 riders in stage one, Nathan placed 52nd overall and 21st in his age group. By stage four, he was ranked 16th in his age group. But in stage five, he and two teammates crashed. The crash took out at least one rider on every team. Nathan got out of the collision, back on his bike, and finished within the time limit. He was able to finish all seven stages.

Five members ultimately finished on Nathan's team, which ranked eighth best out of 25, including six national teams. Two on the team finished in the top 25, the best Americans after the national team.

"They did great, especially given the crash," his mom said.

PA Cyber gives Nathan a chance to travel and practice the sport he loves. He typically rises at 6 a.m. and hits the track at 8 a.m. for warm-ups to prepare for his 9 a.m. start. Rising early gives ample time to load up his bike and equipment, drive to the track, and wrap up practice by noon. Sometimes, he does another afternoon or evening training session. His teachers are accommodating at PA Cyber, where he's attended since in preschool.

"He chooses PA Cyber because it provides him with a flexible schedule," Rosanne Roberts said. "One of the assets is that they record the live classes. He can watch the playbacks when he gets home. In the evenings he can do his homework, if he needs to. When he travels, he can log in."

When he did the Green Mountain Stage Race in Vermont at the beginning of the school year, Nathan was able to log in, on route to the race. He didn't miss a lesson.

"He was in class, sitting in the car with his notebook."

Watch Nathan win first place in the Scratch race:

Start Time on Video: 2:07:10 

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About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.