Tanner Putt Road Profile 1130x600
Team USA

The Future of USA Cycling's Road Programs with Tanner Putt

By: Jim Rutberg  April 26, 2023

As American road racers continue to make their mark on the UCI World Tour, USA Cycling’s new Road Director, Tanner Putt, is ramping up programs to identify, develop, and support the next generation of road cycling talent.

Since joining USA Cycling as Road Director in January 2023, Putt is working to reestablish Talent ID Camps and Regional Development Camps, revamp National Team Road Program selection criteria, and hire a Women’s Development Road Director, Junior Men’s Road Director, and U23 Men’s Road Director. With a pragmatic view of the challenges facing road cycling programs in the United States, Putt is pursuing innovative channels for talent identification and athlete development.

A product of the program he now leads

Putt is no stranger to the USA Cycling development pipeline. As a Junior and Under 23 racer, the Utah native raced for three of the top development teams in the early 2010s: BMC-Hincapie Sportswear, Bontrager Cycling Team, and Bissell Development Team. In 2013 and 2014, Putt won back-to-back U23 Road Race National Championships, before racing professionally for the United Healthcare Pro Cycling Team from 2015-2019.

USA Cycling development programs played a large role in Putt’s progression. As a Junior and U23 rider, he frequently participated in US National Team programs and represented Team USA in two UCI U23 Road World Championships. As a professional, he raced extensively for UHC in Europe as well as the major North American UCI stage races of the era, including the Amgen Tour of California, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, and USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

Finding a New Direction

Although he wanted to stay connected to elite cycling after stepping off the bike, Putt’s transition to the team director’s seat was stymied by the COVID-19 pandemic. After retiring at the end of 2019, team director opportunities evaporated as the pandemic shut down all racing in early 2020. Putt used the time to develop his own coaching practice and as racing returned in 2021, he accepted a director position with USA Cycling Domestic Elite Team CS Velo Racing.

Putt’s journey to USA Cycling gained momentum in 2022 when he was selected to direct the U23 US National Team at the Tour de l’Avenir in France, and to work with the Junior and U23 Road teams at the 2022 UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. “I had an absolute blast. I was a little bit lost after ending my bike racing career, and I had worked a number of jobs but nothing really felt right or fulfilling. That was the first time it felt natural, I enjoyed doing it, and felt I was good at it. I knew then that I needed to make this my career.” When the position of Road Director opened in late 2022, Tanner jumped at the opportunity and started in the role in January 2023.

Building a performance team

Re-establishing proven development programs were among Tanner’s first steps as USA Cycling Road Director. A recent graduate from the pro peloton, he sought knowledgeable and passionate professionals who understand the realities of road cycling in the United States. “I wanted to get these programs up and running again, bring them back to what they were when I was on the National Team, and then go beyond that,” said Putt. “Bringing in Michael Creed, Kristen Arnold, and Gavin Mannion was a big part of my first few months at USA Cycling.” Creed was hired as U23 Road Director, Kristen Arnold as Women’s Development Road Director, and Gavin Mannion as Junior Men’s Road Director.

Michael Creed earned more than 20 US National Championship titles as a cyclist. Following his professional cycling career, he spearheaded the Aevolo Cycling, a U23 UCI Continental development team. “Mike was the first person who came to mind for the Under 23 program. He’s extremely invested in development and has done a great job with the riders who have come through his program. And he was a valuable mentor for me during some of my early directing roles.”

Kristen Arnold, RDN, CSSD is a cycling coach, sports dietitian, and the founder of a grassroots women’s development organization. After retiring from domestic elite racing, she became the sport director for a national-level women’s team and the Olympic Development Academy program for USA Cycling. “I first observed Kristen’s skill as a coach and dietitian through her work with a rider on CS Velo Racing when I was directing the team,” commented Putt. “And she came highly recommended due to her work directing a Junior Women’s team in Europe within the Athlete Development Pathway. I felt she was a very good fit for the role.”

Gavin Mannion wrapped up his professional cycling career at the end of the 2022 season. He and Tanner Putt came up through the USA Cycling development pipeline at the same time and were teammates on the Bontrager Cycling Team and UHC. “Gavin has a lot of valuable experience as an athlete and coach,” said Putt. “He knows how these programs work and he’s lived over in Europe, so I felt he would be a great fit for the Junior Men’s Road Director.”

The ‘Identify, Develop, Support’ Framework

Tanner Putt’s vision for the future of the USA Cycling Road Program starts with a robust network of talent identification channels. Toward that end, USA Cycling has released 2023 USA National Team Road Programs Selection Guidelines, including lists of competitions where USA Cycling will evaluate results and notable performances. “We have a lot of good Junior racing out there,” said Putt. “The goal is to get the Juniors and U23’s to the same events, to let them know where we’ll be looking for results and what we’re looking for. We particularly want to help riders and families with limited resources focus their resources on races where we’ll have coaches or directors identifying talent, because sometimes you can’t tell the whole story from the results sheet.”

In addition to helping parents, coaches, and team directors determine where young riders can race to get noticed, Putt encourages riders to participate in USA Cycling's Development Camps. “With the Athlete Development Pathway, we have several Regional Development Camps planned for this year, said Putt. “Then we have a lot of US National Team program trips happening overseas to give identified riders opportunities for development.”

Putt is also looking for talent outside of traditional road racing. “Gravel is a great opportunity. I’ve been watching the gravel results and races closely. There’s a lot of promising talent on the Women’s side, the Juniors, and U23. I think gravel can open doors for riders, especially those who don’t have a team. They can’t go race Redlands but they can go to Unbound or Steamboat Gravel without a team and show what they can do.” Similarly, Putt is keeping an eye on high school mountain bike and cyclocross programs, the American Criterium Cup, and he wants to make it easier for riders to share power training data with USA Cycling as a component of talent identification.

After identifying and developing talents road racers, ongoing support is key to maintaining a high level of competitive readiness for Team USA. This includes US National Team support that helps athletes prepare optimally for the UCI U23 Nations Cup, Pan American Championships, World Championships, Olympic Games, and other international competitions.