A Few Good Questions returns from a lazy Memorial Day to recognize one of the best young cyclists in the state. Alex Vanias, the Lion of Leroy, spent his holiday wiping the Iowan roads with the competition, picking up a win at the Melon City Crit over four days of intense racing. Alex joined the Bissell ABG Nuvo squad this season after rising through the ranks with PriorityHealth. Vanias, I’m sure, also knows some great Greek recipes.
1. First off, who are you? That’s asked in a philosophical sense, sure, but where are you from, what do you do, who do you care about and what do you enjoy?
To start things off, I was born in Thessaloniki, Greece, where I was named after Alexander the Great. I lived there until 8th grade. Fast forward to now, and I live in Leroy, MI. I go to Ferris State University for Mechanical Engineering. Instead of riding a horse into battle like Alexander the Great, I ride my bike instead… I love racing bikes. I race both road and MTB. This year I am on the new Bissell ABG NUVO domestic elite road team. I also love hanging out with my girlfriend Kaitlyn.
2. What got you into biking? What got you into racing? What is your proudest two-wheeled achievement?
I used to be one of the top high school runners in the state and went to college on full scholarship for it, but I was injured a lot and somehow ended up bike racing instead because my body could handle it. My proudest moment on the bike was winning the 2011 Category 2 Tour of the Battenkill with a solo break.
3. What kind of bike(s) are you riding? Do they have names?
-My team road bike is a Giant TCR with Sram Force, Zipp 404 Firecrest wheels, Zipp Service Course bars, Fizik Arione saddle, and Quarq Power meter. It’s a really sweet ride.
-I just got a Giant Trinity composite that I am building up. I wanted the Trinity Advanced, but the UCI legal nosecone is literally impossible to get…
-My MTB is a carbon Specialized 29er Stumpjumper with Sram XO, Reba fork, and Stan’s Crest wheels.
4. What are your big goals for 2012? Who do you want to beat this year?
My big goals for 2012 are make the top 5, or even podium at the U23 National Championship Time Trial and/or Road Race. Of course the ultimate goal is to be professional.
5. What is your favorite place to ride in the world? In Michigan?
The coolest place I have ridden is in Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains. I love climbing! Mountain scenery is great too. In Michigan, the Leelanau Peninsula is really, really great. I need to ride there more often. It is like no other place in Michigan. (I concur. Ed. Note)
6. If you had to compare yourself to a pro, who would you pick?
I’m not sure what pro I am like. Any hard working breakaway artist would do…
7. Who is your favorite person to ride with?
I love riding by myself. On easier days I like to ride with Kaitlyn. She is fast, but keeps me from riding too hard, and I give her a bit of a workout. Win-win situation.
8. If you could design a bike race in Michigan, where would the finish line be? Who would you have as podium girls? (Celebrities are in play)
I would like to see a Mountain Bike race similar to the Chequamegon 40 close to my house. There are lots of great seasonal roads and forest roads around Luther in the Manistee Forest. The Finish would be in Luther. It would be cool to get a big event there.
9. Thank somebody:
I owe a lot of my success to my parents. Bike racing was hard to get started into because of the costs and they helped me out a lot. I had a job to pay for my first bikes, but there were still entry fees and travel costs… Thanks Mom and Dad!
10. Any last words?
Get out and ride!