by Jake Lanoux
Halfway through his sophomore year in the Category 1 field, new Super Squadra recruit Devin Carroll, 29, has shot out of the Texas peloton start gates, making regular appearances on podiums ranging from the Driveway Series to the Houston Grand Criterium. A licensed engineer and soon-to-be dad, Carroll grew up racing BMX, and his work ethic was evident even as a child. “I was that ten year old dragging a car tire up and down the street behind my BMX bike to train for races,” Carroll says. Recently, fellow Super Squadra racer Jake Lanoux (a communications major at Midwestern State University) sat down with Carroll to learn more about his background in the sport, as well as his analytical approach to cycling and life.
So how did all this start, where did you get your racing chops?
I’ve always been obsessed with two wheels, just always riding around my neighborhood as a kid. At eight I got a BMX bicycle for Christmas. My first BMX race was an age nine novice race and the rest is history, I raced all the way through thirteen X (expert class). I went to nationals a few times in Texas, Arkansas and grand nationals in Oklahoma.
Do you feel like BMX helped you progress through the ranks in road racing?
I would say BMX was paramount in my development, pack riding comfort, handling skills, danger avoidance, and bunny hopping was a straight carry over. BMX is on an uneven surface, and that probably crossed over into mountain bikes even better than road. Though I raced BMX for many years as a kid, I didn’t really race “big wheel” bikes until I was in college. My first mountain bike race was as a collegiate rider for Texas A&M, and I won the Men’s C category by over 5 minutes! Later on, in 2006, I won the men’s overall championship for the Southern Collegiate Cycling Conference in the Men’s A category. That was during what I like to think of as the “golden era” of A&M cycling.
Tell me more about this golden era!
It was all about the people. You end up traveling with these guys every weekend to races. We had to make our own fun, nobody is bringing fun with them, there weren’t any iPhones. There was a culture that made it really special, we would goof off…throw bananas out of the window at each other… and baking flour, too. That was a good one! I don’t know if I’d be a bike racer today if I didn’t get in with a really fun crew of people that liked to race bikes. We had a lot of fun but took the racing and the club seriously. Some of the guys from this era that I am still good friends with today, worked really hard to secure sponsors for the club, and set-up an endowment to help fund the team long-term. That endowment is fully in place and to my knowledge still helps bolster the team operating expenses today.
So at what point did you pick up road cycling?
I actually got into road cycling the summer before my senior year of high school, my first road bike was a Cannondale CAAD4 with Shimano 105 I bought on eBay. I got my dad into riding that summer, too. He bought a LeMond and we did the MS150 that year and after that, my dad was hooked. He was a career oil and gas company guy but always wanted to own a small business. So, he bought a neighborhood mom and pop bike shop and re-named it Better Bikes. The shop was located just outside of where we lived in the Kingwood/Atascosita area. He would swing by the shop every night after work before he eventually retired and ran the shop full-time. I worked at Better Bikes during the summers between school and an occasional weekend after starting my own career. I wasn’t a kid who grew up with a bike shop, I was more or less grown up already, and I remember thinking, “this is the best, but I have to spend my own money!” We had a lot of fun there, and the shop grew to the point that Bike Barn came in and bought it. Now it’s one of the top shops in their chain!
Let’s jump to the current day, how do you balance the responsibilities of being a full-time employee, marriage, and racing bicycles at the highest level in the state? How will becoming a dad play into all that?
It takes years to learn how to fit it all in—to know when to say “hey babe, I’m going out for an extra ride this week” or when to cut it short. I’ve mostly figured it out, but I’m always learning. I focus on quality over quantity, I don’t really have a surplus of time so whenever I’m on the bike I’m usually doing something specific. Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing the right thing as I’ve never had a coach and have always been self-coached. It seems to be working alright at this point. I’m sure I’ll have to re-learn this process once the baby comes. I have friends and teammates who have kids and they seem to have figured it out, so it’ll just be a transition period. Right now I usually do my workouts in the morning because then I have control over my day and can stay late at work if needed. If I get up and knock out an hour on the trainer early, I get to come home and hangout with Steph (wife) and be a human instead of a bike racer. I think balance is the key, you can’t do everything full-on at the same time. The reason I’m able to suffer on the trainer isn’t because it’s fun, it’s not. But if I want to show up and be competitive on race day I have to put in the time. You’re not going to do that if you don’t love it. The more things you have going on in life the more you have to love it to make it a priority.
What are some of the goals you set out that you’ve accomplished this year, and what are you looking forward to? Are there any races in particular you’d love to win or do well at?
Well, winning a Driveway was definitely one of my goals this year, and I’m now able to mark that one off the list! My teammates have been crucial in my success this year, and I have them to thank for the numerous podiums I’ve racked up this season. It’s been a really humbling experience to have a group of guys that will ride themselves into the ground, confident that I’ll deliver a result in the sprint. It’s pretty special. I also had the opportunity to line up with a few of them at my first ever NCC crit at Tulsa Tough in June. Although I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, it was a fun but eye-opening experience to race at that level. I’ve always been most successful racing criteriums, but with a bit of work I’m hoping to become a more all-around threat in the Texas peloton. Maybe I can snag a Pace Bend title at some point in the future?!