If you have been around the CCNS Community in the last 12 years, you probably know who this coach’s highlight is about. Towering above the rest, this gentle giant has cut his teeth in the world of cycling for most of his life. He is a mentor to many of the CCAP riders and coaches and a friend to the New England cycling community. We are proud to feature “Big Ben” Wolfe in this week’s coaches' highlight.
Born and raised on the Old Lyme, Connecticut, bikes were a way to get around; to his friend’s house, to the beach, and everywhere in between. He was often found on the soccer pitch in the fall, ski mountains in the winter, and baseball diamond in the spring. Cycling as a sport was a distant thought.
In ‘06-07, when he was in middle school, he and his friends would ride their mountain bikes into school, then join the after-school bike club to ride around and explore (and avoid doing homework). It was in 7th grade that his science teacher, Courtney Harris, suggested that he try a mountain bike race since he was always competing with his buddies on the trails. On a brisk Saturday morning in the spring of 2007, they loaded up the car and headed to the Winding Trails MTB race. He finished 2nd place. Cycling as a competitive sport was now all he could think about.
The following year, at 15 years old, he signed up for his first road race in Stonington, CT. Riding on an 80’s steel bike with 10-speed downtube shifters and 36-spoked wheels he finished 3rd in the 15/16 age category and won $20. To 15-year old Ben, winning money was the pinnacle of competition. He was hooked, and he wanted to see how far he could take it.
In the Fall of 2010, he decided he wanted to graduate High School a semester early so that he could go out to SoCal and train for the winter at his Grandmother's house. His parents and the school both agreed and in January of 2011- he set off on his first winter away from home. His goal was simple, train hard and win the Junior National Team selection race, the Tour of Battenkill, to secure a chance at racing in Europe for Team USA.
The spring of 2011 was a big learning curve. After winning the Tour of Battenkill, Ben was on his way to Europe. Full of excitement, ignorance was bliss. He had no idea what he was in for… Every race he got dropped. He was shattered just finishing in the grupetto. However, he was not defeated, rather hungry for more. His coach, Aidan Charles, told him it was time to buckle down and get a power meter, so for once he listened and stepped up his training to the next level during the winter of 2011/2012.
2012 was the year it all came together. He was working and training under the CCNS way. A slew of results got him noticed by the Jelly Belly Pro Cycling Team. He couldn’t believe it, he had a chance to turn professional. However, a few weeks later, he crashed and broke his pelvis… just days before he was supposed to sign the contract. Luckily, the team believed in him and still signed him. He had made the step to a professional cyclist.
On a career that spanned 2013 through 2021, he has had plenty of ups and downs. Many setbacks and injuries, but equally as many breakthrough rides and results. Time representing Team USA, alternate for 2 world championships, podiums at u23 Nationals, a USPro National Title to his name, jerseys from world tour races, and much in between. For Ben, cycling was a trial by fire. The lessons learned in sport are skills that can be translated to real life. His attention to detail, incredible depth of experience in racing, and turning power into speed; mixed with his light-hearted manner make him a cornerstone CCNS Coach and an unparalleled mentor for the young riders in the CCAP.
Ben: It really all started back in 2009, I found CCNS and Aidan. When I graduated from High School early, Aidan really helped me reach my goal for that spring of winning Battenkill and going to Europe with the National Team. In the fall of 2011, I started working for Aidan at the office, helping out with things and it grew from there. Over my whole racing career, Aidan always kept me on as a coach and kept me involved in the community. I honestly don’t know where I would be without CCNS and Aidan’s guidance throughout it all.
CCNS: Sounds like the CCNS kool-aid is a good one! What is your favorite part of working with athletes?
Ben: There is so much I love about being a coach. Cycling is a difficult sport and being able to pass on my tricks and tips in both training and racing, but also lifestyle to help athletes jump through the learning curve as quickly as possible to achieve their goals is probably my favorite part. I have found a lot of aspects of cycling, and sport in general, translate into day-to-day real life. We often try to compartmentalize aspects of our life, but in reality, it all goes hand in hand and the process practiced in training transcends to all aspects of our life. Just like in training, balance is key to happiness and happy riders go faster!
Ben: Ha! Yeah. I guess I can’t stay away. Cycling has always been a focal point in my life. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. For me, training and racing help give me focus and structure on a daily basis. It’s the one thing I know I can control. It’s a type of meditation for me. My goals in racing have changed though, I go to races to help others, whether that’s delivering teammates to results or helping CCNS athletes, my reason to race is to be a resource to learn racecraft from.
CCNS: We love that! Any other words of wisdom for athletes?
Ben: Be patient. I have done over 1000 races and events, and every single one I learn something new. Focus on being consistent, and controlling the controllable (ie, your training, the way you ride an event) and soak in the little wins along the way.
CCNS: Thanks, Ben! Now a few “rapid-fire” questions for you…
- What would 10-year-old you think about the current you? I still feel like a 10-year-old! I don’t think I could have even imagined where the last 18 years would have taken me. I just took every opportunity presented to me and gave it my best. I think the younger Ben would be proud.
- Favorite food? Burgers and fries.
- Non-cycling hobby? Long Hikes, and being in nature. Nature is Neat!
- Favorite Music? I’ve been playing a lot of country music recently, but it changes on a weekly basis.
CCNS: Thanks, Ben! It’s been fun to watch your development over the last decade. We can’t wait to see where it goes!
17-Year-Old Xander Beck:
"I believe that Ben has definitely pushed my riding to the next level. Not just with workouts and training plans but also with nutrition and learning how my body works. Ben and I both share a love of snowboarding in addition to bikes, which I appreciate as well of course. Ben was able to tailor a program for me in the winter that allowed me to get stronger on the bike while also being able to snowboard on the winter. He understands that a person can have more than one passion and helps me follow my passion for snowboarding."
“As a 44 year-old athlete, I’ve worked with several coaches. Ben has been the best. I really notice how much attention he pays, and how much he seems to enjoy coaching. I had been pretty sure for a few years that my strongest days were behind me. So, I’ve really been pleasantly surprised at the power profile I’m seeing after a year of working with him. I’d recommend him to anyone."
If you have any more questions for Coach Ben (like that time he beat Peter Sagan in a wheelie contest), just shoot him an email here.