Writing a profile on someone you've never met can be a tricky proposition, but in the case of this Sam Bassetti interview we were lucky enough to make contact with one of Sam’s best friends and riding partners, Tyler Williams. They are both from Santa Rosa, California, they train together and they have both spent time racing at the pro level. Tyler does great job of introducing us to Sam, so here goes.
“I would describe Sam as being a pretty quiet, shy, and soft spoken guy, generally,” said Tyler Williams. “A very good friend who can handle being the butt of pretty much all the jokes. However, he has an amazing self-confidence and self-belief that allows him to be the athlete he is. He isn't a guy who runs around telling everyone what he is doing or how hard he is working. Rather, he goes about his work quietly and performs well. His self-confidence is his most powerful trait and something I admire about him for sure."
"We have an underlying (sometimes not so underlying) competitive friction with each other but I value that a lot because it certainly makes us both better athletes to challenge each other constantly," said Williams.
"We all joke and have this perception that he is this big guy," said Williams. "Which I find hysterical. He really isn't that big actually. He just has a powerful bottom half and he is a bit on the taller side. But, we certainly don't let that get in the way of giving him a hard time about it."
First off all, when you cross the finish line with your hands raised over your head, which you have done a few times here recently, you look like a giant. What is a young man from Santa Rosa, California, who looks like he could be pretty good basketball player, doing riding around with shaved legs on skinny tires?
Good question. I played all sorts of sports growing up: basketball, soccer, baseball etc. Once I got to high school at Sir Francis Drake High, at the foot of Mount Tamalpais (the birthplace of mountain biking), I joined the mountain biking team. At first I was terrible, but once I started putting more time in I improved quickly and started to love racing more and more. My teammate Tyler Brandt raced a lot with the Team Swift Junior Development team out of Santa Rosa, so I joined that too, and started racing on the road. It was easy to fall in love with the sport with such positive experiences early on.
You recently took the overall at Tulsa Tough, inluding victory on the Cry Baby Hill stage. Can you tell us when you realized you were going to take the stage, as well as the overall and what that felt like?
I knew fairly early that I would win the overall, as I was out in a big break that got lots of time. As the break whittled down I kept finding myself at the front, driving the move with fantastic legs. I knew that winning was a matter of tactics and timing, rather than whether or not I had it physically. Winning Tulsa was a fantastic feeling. The entire Elevate KHS squad was so committed all race. It's always extremely satisfying to pay off that commitment with a great result. I also had a really rough winter of training this year, I was off the bike for almost three months, and only had a couple months and a few races before Tulsa. To be able to come back to racing and win such an iconic race was really special
You’re coming up on almost 10 years of bike racing, can you share with us the three things you have done right to remain in the sport this long?
I fell in love with the process of training. Being able to go out and grind is so important, and early on I learned to love training.
I learned to turn my failures into learning opportunities. While some failures hurt more than others, I have been able to look past the immediate failure and look at the big picture.
I learned to race and train for small improvements, and small victories. Sometimes improvement in cycling takes a long, long time. It's very important to be able to celebrate even small successes to stay motivated.
Cyclist are renowned for having brutal training plans and even more regimented diet, can you tell us what a typical week, both on the bike and in the kitchen, looks for you going into the end of the season?
A typical week right now only involves around 15-20 hours of riding, but it is fairly structured. In the kitchen I am actually not extremely regimented. I focus on getting enough lean protein and fueling for whatever my upcomming training is. I find that I do better when I allow myself to eat without too many restrictions in general, then I can buckle down when it really starts to matter.
So many cyclists spend years trying to break into the professional ranks and can spend their entire careers training intensely and racing with passion, but never actually win a stage. How has winning changed the way you do things and how you see the sport?
They say that success breeds success, and that is absolutely true. I used to find myself just off the podium in almost every race I did, but after a few successes with Elevate KHS last year, my whole mindset changed. I really started to focus on the small details within a race, because suddenly those were the only things holding me back. Going into a race truly believing that you can win is a very important mindset to have.
Do you remember your very first bicycle and can you tell us a little story about it?
I had a kids bike early on that I took to my brother's school. I was such a terror that they made a rule banning bikes on campus.
What did your parents think when you told them you wanted to be a professional cyclist?
My parents have always encouraged me to do what makes me happy. They have been very supportive and are a huge reason that I have been able to race this long
If you weren’t racing your bike and coaching other cyclists for a living, what would you be doing?
Good question, likely pursuing a higher level of education.
What is the best excuse you have heard for one of the riders you coach about missing a workout?
I'm really lucky to have a lot of really dedicated athletes, "school" is a pretty common excuse though.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be? And would you use it for good or evil?
Flight. Probably for good...
Breakfast, lunch or dinner?
Coffee, tea or beer?
What are the last three albums you listened to?
Random Access Memories, By the Way and Alphabetical.
King Ridge or Cry Baby Hill?
Can you share with us the three things you find most rewarding and/or exciting about being a professional road cyclist?
1. Being a part of success, personal or otherwise.
2. Having a big goal to work towards at all times.
3. Having a fairly direct correlation between work put in and results.
On the flipside, what are the three things that make it annoying and/or difficult?
1. At times the work doesn't pay off, bad luck, bad legs etc etc.
2. Missing friends birthdays or other social events can be tough.
3. Sometimes training isn't fun, at all.