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Prep Magazine: P.S. with Henry Coote '24

Prep Magazine: P.S. with Henry Coote '24

Henry Coote '24 powers through a seaside portion of the course at the Antwerp World Cup last December. PHOTO: ETHAN GLADING @THEPENULTIMATESTAGE

For spectators, cyclocross is a sport that compels you to look away as much as it demands you watch. For the racers, it means rocketing through laps on a banked oval track amidst a tightly packed peloton at speeds of 35 mph or more, all of which requires bold, split-second decisions. Imagine NASCAR meets short track speed skating.

Henry Coote didn’t know any of that when he joined the Prep mountain biking team his freshman year. But times have changed for the Manchester-by-the-Sea native. Coote spent much of last fall competing throughout France, Belgium, Ireland, and the Netherlands on the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) circuit as a member of Team USA.

Earlier this year, he raced at the 2024 Cyclocross World Championships in the Czech Republic. He started his cross country mountain biking season this spring with a bang, capturing a second-place finish in his class at the U.S. Pro Cup.

Coote is headed to Colorado Mesa University (CMU) this fall—a Mecca of collegiate cycling. His private coach is a three-time Pan-American Continental Champion and a member of the U.S. National Team. Coote rides for the elite team of the trade-sponsored Competitive Edge Racing club based in East Longmeadow, MA, and he has his sights set on the 2028 summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Q: Some elite endurance athletes say success is about pain tolerance. Do you agree?

A: I definitely agree with that when it comes to racing, but for training, it’s about discipline and getting your work done—both training and schoolwork. You also have to balance the intensity of training with rest and recovery. During the race season, Wednesdays are the high-intensity training day of the week, then you race on Saturdays and Sundays. I also do a lot of cross-training in the offseason, like running or using the rowing machine, plus I do core circuits, a lot of body weight stuff, and a lot of stretching.

Q: What drives you to keep doing the work that’s necessary on and off the training surface to get better?

A: I actually enjoy training a lot. Sometimes, I find I enjoy it more than the racing, so the work is never really a problem for me. I find it really rewarding. The racing is just a way to test that and compete, which is a lot of fun. Then, there are the places it brings you—being able to travel the country and the world.

Q: How big a role did the Prep mountain biking team play in where you are today as a rider?

A: When I first came to St. John’s, I remember how nice Owen Gandt ’22 was; he was the captain at the time. I quickly knew that I’d found my place at St. John’s. Coach (Parker) Heath and his son (Jackson Heath ’17) played a massive role in my development in the sport. I definitely would not be where I am if I didn’t have their support. Owen also pushed me in racing and training. I would say this had the most impact on me during my sophomore year. That’s when I started to race at the national level, and it took off from there.

Q: Racing for the U.S. National Team in the Junior Men division in February, you were involved in a crash in the Czech Republic and sustained a Grade 3 concussion. How did that happen and does it impact your approach as a racer?

A: On a straightaway, I made a move to pass a group, then someone in that group went to pass, too. He didn’t look back when he came out of the draft and he kind of just rode right into me at 35 miles per hour. My helmet was destroyed. I’m just trying to make smarter decisions now, and I definitely take impact to the head more seriously.

Q: What does CMU have in the way of training facilities that might make you a better rider?

A: They have a velodrome, which we don’t really have here out East. My two best disciplines are mountain biking [spring] and cyclocross [fall/winter], and since those take place in different seasons, I’ll be able to ride at altitude pretty much year-round. Grand Junction [home to CMU’s campus] gets the most sunny days annually in the U.S. CMU also has advanced fitness training and testing facilities, so you can study your VO2 max and lactate levels and so on. Some students on the team are studying that stuff in school, so anytime you want to test your levels, you can volunteer and they’ll use you as a research subject.

Q: The 2028 Olympics might seem a long way off, but less than four years ago, you’d never even raced on a mountain bike. Is Los Angeles a realistic goal?

A: I think so. Colorado Mesa University will have a couple athletes at this summer’s Games in Paris. It’s definitely possible. Especially with how great the training is at my new school.

P.S. Rubik’s Cubes, ice skating, pizza. What do all these things have in common? Find out in this article from Prep Magazine.

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