Joint Base Andrews

 

811th Airman pursues cycling excellence abroad

By Ms. Amber J. Russell | 11th Wing Public Affairs | September 26, 2013

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- A world away from his hometown in Eauclaire, Wis., Senior Airman David Flaten found himself tracking major trails above an old mining site during the 2013 Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM) cycling competition in Leopoldsburg, Belgium.

Flaten, an 811th Security Forces Squadron protective service member, was one of nine athletes selected to represent the United States Armed Forces at the CISM championship event held from Sept. 2 to Sept. 6.

In an effort to contribute to world peace by uniting armed forces through sport, CISM annually organizes more than twenty Military World Championships for various sports for all member nations to take part.

A week prior to the event, Flaten and his team attended the CISM cycling training camp at Ramstein Air Base, Germany from Aug. 26 to Sept. 1.

"I was really excited to be among the few men and women road cyclists and mountain bikers selected to represent the Armed Forces Cycling team in Belgium for the 2013 CISM Championships," Flaten said.

To be selected, one must be a professional mountain biker, or category one of five in road cycling.

Flaten said he is part of an extremely elite group of professional mountain bikers in the United States Air Force. With seven years of mountain biking under his helmet and eight months of professional riding experience, the 2012 Air Force District of Washington Athlete of the Year said he felt prepared for this global event.

During the race, he and his mate, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Jenkins stationed out of California, took on the "A" line cycling track, fit for hard-core experienced cyclist; leaving the "B" line, a.k.a, the 'chicken line' to less experienced riders.

His ability to compete at this level did not come easy, he said. To endure six, three-mile laps on the curves of Belgium's mountains in nearly 90 degree heat; training must be backed with passion.

"In the off-season winter months, I train 18 to 25 hours a week," said Flaten. "Around the end of April, race season begins and I increase my workout intensity but lessen my training time to about 12 to 15 hours a week. I try to get in as much time as my Air Force will allow."

His drive to compete comes from growing up in the homeland of one of the biggest off-road mountain bike events in the Midwest, he said.

For the past 31 years, nearly 2,000 cyclists a year have participated in the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival , a 40-mile, off-road competition through ski and snowmobile trails, forest roads and wooded lanes in Wisconsin.

Flaten competed in the event last year and came in 87th place and planned to do even better this year, he said.

A mere week after returning from CISM, Flaten competed in the 2013 Festival and came in 16th place among 1,768 other participants.

"My goal was to make it in the top 20; mission accomplished," he said.

No matter when or where, trekking trails to get this far ahead can come with bumps and bruises.

During the race in Belgium, he admittedly crashed three times but did not 'bonk,' or give up; he said he persevered after each wipeout.

"My tires may have been a little over-inflated, which made it easier to wipe-out on the dirt surface," he said. "After the second crash, I knew my ankle was hurt pretty badly, but the energy inside of me would not let me give up. Whether on the trails or in my Air Force career; there is always going to be something to overcome."

Airmen are expected to complete their career development courses on schedule, keep up with enlisted performance report achievements and display excellence in the performance of their duties. Providing direct support to distinguished visitors at Andrews, excellence is not only expected but required.

"Senior Airman Flatten is an outstanding ambassador of the Air Force and the 811th Security Forces Squadron," said Capt. Aaron Rittgers, 811th SFS commander. "It is not uncommon for him to provide direct security support to the President of the United States one day, and represent his service component in a cycling event the next. David has applied the same level of focus and dedication it takes to be the best of the best in the security forces career field that he has to his cycling efforts; a truly herculean effort. I'm extremely proud of this young Defender and honored to support his tremendous success in two different passions."

The United States Military Cycling Team members' professional cycling career can be likened to an extreme 'bunny-hop,' or lifting up of both wheels of the bike off the ground, then exploding upward to clear any obstructions in one's path.

"I came in 9th place out of 23 competitors in the 2013 CISM Military World Cycling Championships in Leopoldsburg, Belgium," he said. "Five of my competitors actually compete in the World Cup."

Flaten said going to race in Europe where most of the World's best cyclists go to compete was a big mile stone in his cycling and military career, but his ambition to pursue cycling excellence is only evolving.

"I fully intend to represent my service in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo when I'm 28 years old," said Flaten. "It would be icing on the cake to compete in 2024 Olympics if they are held in Washington, D.C. where my Air Force career began."