By Gary R. Blockus, Of The Morning Call
When Tyler Nothstein heads toward the finish line coming out of a turn on the final lap of a bicycle race, long shadows usually tell him where his competitors are on the track.
Nothstein knows a lot about getting away from those long shadows on the track. He's been emerging from a different shadow ever since he decided to take up bicycle racing.
The 18-year-old Nothstein is the son of Olympic champion and three-time world champion Marty Nothstein, the executive director of the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Trexlertown. Marty won Olympic gold and silver in the match sprint, and a world championship in the match sprint and two more world titles in the keirin.
Tyler, who will compete in the points race, scratch race, team sprint and Madison this week in the 2013 USA Cycling Juniors Track National Championships at the iconic "Concrete Crater" in T-town, isn't the sprinter his father was, but he never set out to be that, either.
"I've embraced his reputation," Tyler said. "I enjoy cycling as much as my dad does, but ne never really pushed me into it, which is why I enjoy it. I chose it myself, and he helps me out. I'm doing what I want to do and what I like to do. I've strayed away from the sprinting and focus more toward the bigger, longer races."
While Marty was dead set on becoming an Olympic champion, a feat he achieved at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Tyler wants to enter the world of law enforcement and get involved with forensic science. In late August, he will attend Lees-McRae College in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina on a partial scholarship for cycling, and will major in criminal justice.
"I was looking at schools where I could still race my bike," Tyler said. Lees-McRae had two alumni complete the 100th edition of the Tour de France this year, Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp).
The collegiate season is built mainly around road racing and criteriums, which is to his liking. Collegiate track nationals are in Colorado in the fall, and he will be competing in those. He will train over the winter and get right back into road racing and crits in the spring, and then back home to track racing for the summer.
This week, though, he's focused on the events he has selected for his final run at junior nationals. As a 15-16-year old, he said he didn't do so well, but last year, in the first of two straight junior nationals in T-town, he got fifth in the sprint, fifth in the keirin and fourth in the team sprint.
This week, his goal is simple, and a familiar one echoing the goals his father set before such championship events: "Win."
Tyler Nothstein was 5 when Marty won the gold medal in Sydney, culminating a four-year relentless pursuit to the top of the podium after a disappointing sliver medal in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics.
Two iconic photographs emerged from the gold-medal win, one of Marty riding hands-free while waving a U.S. flag like a cape on a victory lap. The other was of Marty riding the wide-eyed Tyler around the track in another victory lap.
"I remember bits and pieces of Sydney," Tyler said, "but I still remember that lap pretty clearly. When he picked me up, it scared the crap out of me. I remember going to hug him, and all of a sudden I'm on the bike with him, and the whole crowd was cheering. Being a little kid, it was daunting seeing all those people cheering and clapping but I got comfortable and started waving. I still remember that part really clearly."
That willingness to share the world's stage with his son has remained with Tyler.
"I still hear a lot of comments about being Marty's son," Tyler said, "and I don't mind. I see it more as flattery. I'm doing what I want to do. I always heard the 'following in his footsteps' talk, but I don't have any pressure from my family, especially from my dad. He said that if I want to take it seriously, he'll help me all the way, and if I want to do it for fun, that's fine, too."
Nothstein has his first race on Friday, but competition begins today and runs through Sunday. Competition sessions take place beginning at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with Sunday's single session kicking off at 10 a.m.