Wayzata native Pete Knudsen has found success pedaling his bike on Pro Cycling's Bike Racing Tour.

by Bruce Leonard
Spring 2003

Pete Knudsen likes to say he's got the best job in the world. Each morning, like Old Faithful, he rolls out of bed, fuels up with a power breakfast, hops on the seat of his American Bike Lightspeed, and begins another joyous day of life as a pro cyclist. “There's nothing I'd rather do than ride my bike,” says Knudsen. “My parents always told me to 'do what you love.' I feel like I'm living my dream every day. How lucky am I?”

That Knudsen would develop such a passion for cycling is an example of life's unpredictability. The Wayzata native grew up on a steady diet of playing the traditional team sports of hockey, soccer, and baseball. True, he did only live a couple of blocks from three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, but former Twin Tom Brunansky also lived in the area and that held far greater appeal. “I was a huge baseball fan,” recalls Knudsen. “I thought it was neat that Greg LeMond was so close, but Tom Brunansky? That was like, wow!”

Things changed dramatically in 1992 when at the age of 13 Knudsen attended the Norwest Cup bike race and had his eyes opened to a sport he hardly knew existed. “I remember watching the riders race by. The whole thing, the colors, the speed, the guys seemed superhuman to me, and I came away thinking it was a cool sport.”

Knudsen is now one of those “super-humans” he so marveled at as a teenager. After winning the 2001 US Collegiate Ominum Championship while attending the University of California at San Diego, his pedaling prowess has landed him on the pro racing tour where he's in his second season of riding for the Schroeder Iron Team. “Pete is super talented physically,” says Schroeder's team leader and coach Jamie Paolinetti. “He has the ability to excel and will only get better with experience.”

Heading home: “Sweet Pete” Knudsen (left) will pedal into the Twin Cities to compete in the Nature Valley Grand Prix in June. His physical talent and good nature seem to be the right balance for cycling success.
Dubbed “Sweet Pete” by his teammates for his good-natured attitude, the 23-year-old has already made an impression winning a couple of races. The learning curve, though, in pro cycling, is a steep one. The complexities and strategies that go into winning a team race take time to master. Knudsen says he's constantly learning, but there's much to improve upon, like his lack of speed. By his own admission, he isn't exactly a jackrabbit in need of Kaopectate on wheels. “I've never been able to beat anybody in a sprint,” he says with equal amounts of good humor and frustration. “I just don't naturally have the fast twitch muscle.”

One of the things he does have is an ardent fan base in the Twin Cities. Knudsen is looking forward to returning to the area when his Schroeder Iron Team competes in the Nature Valley Grand Prix in June. “Family is real important to me, but I don't get much chance to see them with my racing schedule. So I'm really looking forward to spending a week at home, seeing my friends, and hopefully putting on a good show.”

As for his future in the sport, Knudsen offers up two versions. His ultimate one goes something like this: He becomes good enough to race in Europe, competes in the Tour de France, and takes home the yellow jersey, just like Lance Armstrong, someone who clearly leaves Knudsen awestruck. “Lance is like the World Series MVP and I'm playing Single “A” ball in Visalia. We're both professionals, but he's just on a whole different scale.”

Now for version number two (which Knudsen says is the more realistic one): “I'd love to have a couple of years where I could ride at my absolute best, where I'm going to every race with the ability to win it. Right now, I'm in top-level races, but I'm not a great threat to win any of them. To be able to turn that around would be pretty sweet.”

Sweet, as in “Sweet Pete.”