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O’Rourke mastering the criterium

Auburn cyclist ranked No. 2 in the state for Masters Criterium, training others in the sport
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Michael O’Rourke may still consider himself “a noob” at cycling, but the second-ranked Master’s Criterium racer in the state is anything but. After just six years in the sport, O’Rourke is also ranked 11th in the nation for the 45- to 50-year-old category and is a Level 2 USA cycling coach. O’Rourke switched from weightlifting to cycling after back surgery because it is low-impact, but challenging. “It is surprisingly infectious. It’s like playing chess at a 180 beats per minute,” O’Rourke said. “There is a lot of strategy involved and it is a great microcosm of life.” O’Rourke said besides the fact that it looked fun and is a great form of exercise, road racing is a spectator-friendly, spouse-compliant sport. He and his wife Suzanne own a private personal training studio in Auburn called Proactive Personal Training. O’Rourke teaches spin classes, while Suzanne uses her background as a competative figure skater and credentials as a personal trainer to help people reach their fitness goals. Her support also helped O’Rourke progress in his racing career. “She pushed me to go further than just lifting weights,” O’Rourke said. “She is a support and just a wealth of information, like a walking encyclopedia.” O’Rourke races for team Safeway/Pure Red/Bicycles Plus. A couple of days a week he commutes on his bike to Sutter Health in Lincoln, where he works as a physical therapy aide. To get in more training, O’Rourke also rides with his team on weekends. When he is not hitting the pavement himself, O’Rourke is helping his clients reach their cycling goals. Randy White, one of the cyclists he trains, enlisted O’Rourke’s help via e-mail. After several positive results based on the advice he received, White decided to make O’Rourke his coach. In that position White said, O’Rourke went above and beyond the call of duty. He would spend countless hours with White testing and developing his cycling skills, as well as planning out group rides and providing nutrition advice. In the Madera Stage Race, White finished beside, and slightly behind the national champion for the 55+ category. This was partly because of O’Rourke’s impact. “I would recommend Michael to other cyclists because he gives so much of himself,” White said. “He knows what it takes to win, but he also knows there is a spiritual aspect to cycling.” White said that his coach not only helped him improve his skills, but also pushed him to excel by honestly believing in him. Clint Hamilton, O’Rourke’s neighbor, began taking cycling classes with him at the studio two winters ago. Hamilton likes the small class sizes and road-tested approach of the classes. “He rides at a high level and is passionate about what he does,” Hamilton said. “He always talks about the math and science behind certain workouts.” Hamilton said that the Cycling After Dark classes are a way for cyclists to stay in shape on dark, cold winter days. Last Saturday, he completed his first criterium race, with O’Rourke there as a mentor. As for cyclists who inspire O’Rourke, he said he looks up to Chris Horner, who is a great but often unsung rider. O’Rourke is also looking forward to the recognition the upcoming Amgen Tour will bring to his sport. This season of Master’s Criterium racing kicked-off last weekend at William Land Park and O’Rourke hopes to continue to ascend the ranks even higher. The first local race will be held March 20 in Colfax and he encourages adrenaline junkies to come check out “NASCAR on bikes.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.