By Halle Thornton | 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Staff Sgt. Bryant Lopez-Cepero, 50th Network Operations Group training manager at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, participated in the USA Cycling National Championships July 2 — 8 in Los Angeles, California.
Lopez-Cepero’s cycling enthusiasm started after coming back from his first deployment in Kuwait, where his supervisor suggested he try out a bike to help get in shape.
Shortly after he returned from overseas, Lopez-Cepero moved to Travis AFB, California, where there was an indoor cycling track arena in nearby San Jose, California.
“It was a two hour drive there every Saturday,” he said. “My USA Cycling Nationals coach said, ‘You might be good at sprinting, you should consider being a track sprinter.’”
After two and a half years in California, Lopez-Cepero moved to Turkey, and it was there where he got into good shape, sprint training six days a week for four to six hours a day.
“Sprinting is a ton of fun,” he said. “It’s kind of like high intensity interval training.”
When Lopez-Cepero arrived at Schriever AFB in July of 2018, he began training before and after work at the Olympic Training Center.
“The first three months here I could barely breathe,” he said. “My physical training test went from 90 to 86 — I don’t even know what happened.”
Lopez-Cepero’s training paid off, as he qualified for USA Cycling Nationals, taking him back to California for the event in Los Angeles.
“It was really great,” he said. “I hadn’t competed at that level since I was stationed at Travis [AFB], where I was at the bottom of the board.”
Lopez-Cepero finished fifth out of 22 teams in the team sprint, 19th in the match sprint, ninth in the one kilometer time trial and 15th in the kiering.
“I was really happy with that result,” he said. “I was on pace to get a bronze medal in the team sprint event, but I slipped going into the last corner.
“Overall, I had a fair amount of bad luck, but represented well considering I was racing the best in the country and the world record holder in the one kilometer time trial,” Lopez-Cepero continued.
Lopez-Cepero said the most difficult part about cycling in general is the balance between work and play.
“I picked a sport that requires a lot of time to train,” he said. “I also have to balance work with it because if you want to be the whole Airman, you have to dedicate a lot of time outside of work.”
Airman 1st Class Kalissa Vue, 50th Space Communications Squadron commander support staff, said Lopez-Cepero is a hard working person, both in and outside of work.
“When tasked with a job, he gets it done right away,” she said. “He is a very understanding and amazing noncommissioned officer.
“He is very quiet at times, but when it comes to cycling, he is the guy to go to,” Vue continued. “He knows so much about it and lights up when he talks about it. He is very passionate about his work and hobbies.”
Despite all of the struggles, Lopez-Cepero said the most rewarding part about cycling is the fitness and the feeling he gets when he’s on a bike.
“When I walked into the recruiter’s office they literally laughed at me,” he laughed. “I was way out of shape and 50-some pounds overweight.
“I started riding a bike and suddenly I was the PT guy,” Lopez-Cepero continued. “I was that guy who could eat whatever he wanted.”
Lopez-Cepero said cycling gives him the same feeling as a runner’s high.
“It’s the same feeling but at a lower impact, it’s a lot easier on my knees,” he said.
Lopez-Cepero is attending the Colorado State Sprint Championships in September, where he hopes to place first.
“I would like to get the gold there,” he said.