Meet Drake Deuel, the New King of the Strava KOM

Robert S. Hays

This tale was originally printed by VeloNews.


Drake Deuel’s postcollegiate path could have been fairly distinct: work as a software program engineer though instruction for a location on the U.S. Olympic rowing team.

Now, as of a thirty day period in the past, the 22-calendar year old Harvard grad is a complete-time Strava KOM hunter who plans to go back to do the job in six months. I have my doubts.

On March 4, Deuel smashed Mike Woods’s 8-yr-previous KOM on the Haleakala ‘World’s Longest Paved Climb’ Strava phase on the Hawaiian island of Maui by a few minutes. A couple of weeks ahead of that, he sustained a 430-watt effort and hard work for 17 minutes to get the Piuma street climb KOM in Southern California from Phil Gaimon. 

That was the day after he completed an eight-month internship as a application engineer at Zwift.

So why is Deuel, who doesn’t have any individual sponsors and isn’t producing any income by riding his bicycle, having the up coming 6 months to see how lots of other data he can split?

“It is a way to get focus, to get recognized,” the 22-calendar year old informed VeloNews. “Especially with no racing, if I want people to see the physical fitness that I have there’s not a large amount else that I can do other than smash some KOMs.”

Row Your Boat

Deuel spent 8 decades as a competitive rower right until the coronavirus pandemic abruptly finished his season—and correctly, his rowing career—in March 2020. He was scarcely into his junior yr at Harvard (and just back again from the Maui excursion that would encourage his Haleakala KOM a yr later) prior to he was sent residence to Dallas. He did not know it then, but the day he remaining campus would be the very last day he was in a boat.

Deuel informed me that at one time he experienced aspirations to check out and make it to the Olympics as a rower, so I questioned if he was crushed to have his career ended so abruptly by some thing so out of his control.

“I loved rowing, and I feel I acquired a ton out of it, but rowing is more challenging right after an educational setting, the place it’s harder to find a team, and a ton of the value is in the workforce element,” he mentioned. “People describe cycling as a crew sport, but rowing is much, substantially additional so. So without the need of that facet, you’re just rowing by you.”

Deuel (third from right) rowing on the starboard side for Harvard during the Head of the Charles Regatta
Deuel (3rd from proper) rowing on the starboard aspect for Harvard in the course of the Head of the Charles Regatta (Image: Courtesy Drake Deuel)

Luckily, Deuel had learned that he beloved cycling suitable close to the time he entered college. In fact, even though the school yr was focused to the boat, summers ended up for the bike.

Numerous rowers have crossed around to biking and thrived, among them Olympic winner Rebecca Romero, as nicely as German rider Jason Osborn, the reigning UCI e-athletics earth winner. Deuel had some rowing achievements that hinted at potential successes on the bicycle: in 2018, he established two entire world information on the Principle2 indoor rowing device in the 10,000-kilometer and 50 percent-marathon distances.

When I requested Deuel to ID himself in a image he sent of his group rowing in the Head of the Charles Regatta, he mentioned that he is the a person in three-seat, which is regarded as the “dumb muscle” seat for people today who are definitely strong but not as technically proficient.” 

“So I understood my exercise translated well to biking,” he said. “But it is a make a difference of acquiring out on the road and essentially finding out about biking, so that even if you have the foundation health and fitness, you can create much more.”

Journey Your Bicycle

Luckily, in addition to his physiologic affinity for it, Deuel said he also identified biking to be actually exciting.

“Just before freshman 12 months of university, I was invited by a before long-to-be classmate to acquire a biking holiday in Switzerland for ten days,” he reported. “I did that, and the 1st day I obtained there was the 1st time I at any time clipped into a highway bike. We went for a complete working day vacation around Geneva and into France and back, I crashed 6 times, and determined that I liked it. Fewer than a 12 months afterwards, I bought my 1st highway bike.”

Then, throughout his summer breaks from college, Deuel rode more. Soon after his freshman yr, he raced in New England for a month and a 50 percent. Right after his sophomore 12 months, he took a excursion to Colorado and did the Mount Evans Hill Climb, finishing three minutes at the rear of EF Education and learning-Nippo’s Lachlan Morton. Simply because driving up a single fourteener wasn’t more than enough, he pedaled up Pikes Peak, way too. That trip turned into a various form of race.

“It was the initially KOM looking I ever did,” Deuel mentioned. “I imagine the cause I went for it is there was a previous rower at prime of the leaderboard that I needed to consider down.”

Deuel was still rowing at Harvard, but bikes ended up turning into much more than just a facet hustle.

In the drop of his junior calendar year, Deuel read about Zwift Academy, the talent ID application that the on-line-racing platform has hosted because 2016. He signed up and built it to the semifinals. That wasn’t the only success of the system, nevertheless. Immediately after he’d completed the Academy, Zwift CEO Eric Min’s secretary reached out to Deuel, asking him if they could satisfy on Harvard’s campus before the holiday getaway split.

“I gave them my résumé at that level,” he reported. “Of course there was no way I could have anticipated the dramatic enhance in recognition of Zwift then.”

Deuel landed the internship at Zwift it was intended to be a buffer in between his junior and senior yrs of school. Then COVID-19 canceled in-particular person classes, and Deuel invested the months primary up to the internship at household in Dallas. He also realized he experienced ample credits to graduate early, so in May possibly, he had a diploma and a month before his internship—and postcollegiate life—began.

“I borrowed my dad’s van, drove from Dallas west, and managed to get some significant KOMs from Phil [Gaimon] in L.A.,” Deuel said. “That was when I really started out finding into it.”

Back to Lifetime, Back again to Fact

Deuel arrived back again from the mountainous landscapes of his road vacation to a substantial array of laptop or computer screens. His internship at Zwift started in late June, and because he’d finished early at Harvard, he was able to stretch it out almost eight months, right until very last February.

When you work from home and you work for Zwift
When you get the job done from home and you operate for Zwift (Image: Courtesy Drake Deuel)

He said that the knowledge was a must have.

“As far as studying time management, private effectively-staying, mental overall health, I observed a much extra balanced technique than what I experienced in higher education. The construction of that time certainly assisted me move forward,” he explained. 

At Zwift, Deuel dove into many elements of the match. His initial project was to help establish a functionality that would get rid of uncooperative gamers. He was also aspect of a job that produced vital video game-perform aspects, like in-activity steering, and he created the calibration software for the Sterzo, an electronic steering device produced by Elite.

“And at stop of the internship was some far more interior tooling that I just can’t disclose right now,” Deuel mentioned.

Deuel mentioned that Zwift was generous with his ask for to get six months off involving the internship and the total-time task he was available as a application engineer. Soon after hearing the tale of his Haleakala KOM and looking at his other Strava accolades, I questioned Deuel whether he thought cycling could turn into his full-time occupation.

“Well, I was almost on a traditional development path,” he said. “Last spring, proper in advance of [COVID-19], I was meant to guest-experience with Aevolo at Redlands and then do Gila with CS Velo.”

Even though he’s not unfamiliar with undertaking at a extremely large stage and environment data, Deuel doesn’t feel that his KOM task will land him on a professional team. Now, he rides for the novice-advancement squad Staff California, which tries to enable talented riders progress from the junior ranks to the professional amount. He plans to return to Zwift in September, perhaps even in person in Los Angeles. Having said that, when I asked him one particular far more time if his modern superstar could be an sign that a diverse pathway was presenting by itself, he mentioned he was open to the notion.

“I assume United states Biking just announced that pro nationals is back again on in June, so that’s a large intention now,” he mentioned. “When am I going professional? As soon as I win the time trial at nationals. I just didn’t know it could happen this before long.”

This story was originally revealed by VeloNews.

Direct Photo: Courtesy Drake Deuel

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