Noah Middlestaedt and Clara Brown met two years ago at the USOPTC.
The best cyclists usually have a strong relationship with their team.
U.S. Para-cycling national team members Clara Brown and Noah Middlestaedt are aligned in every way. They work out together. They compete at the same national and international events.
Middlestaedt also coaches Brown.
And yes, they are that cute couple that finishes each other’s sentences and exudes happiness.
“What, what? We’re a couple?” Brown jokingly exclaimed, when asked about what life was like with Middlestaedt. “It’s actually a really good thing for both of us, because we can share so much. We share our training, our lives, everything. I love having him with me.”
Middlestaedt, a native of St. Cloud, Minnesota, added, “We make a good team, because we can pick each other up, push each other and we both know what the other is going through. At the end of the day, we laugh a lot.”
Both are training hard for the next Paralympic Games, which due to the coronavirus pandemic will now take place next summer in Tokyo.
Their training and competitive journey brought them together, as the riders — who both compete in road and track cycling — met at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, nearly two years ago. They started to hang out and quickly developed an easy friendship, built on playing cribbage, baking bread and watching Austin Powers movies. Friendship soon turned into more, and the couple have been together for a year-and-a-half.
They live together, with their chocolate lab puppy named Kyia.
Middlestaedt, 24, is the more experienced rider, having grown up as a cyclist. He is also skilled in repairing and tuning bikes, and is a self-confessed cycling metrics junkie. He loves road competitions, thriving on the endurance and strategy needed to win. However, he thrives in both disciplines, having posted four top-10 finishes at the 2020 track world championships in Canada, while finishing fourth (road race) and ninth (time trial) at the 2019 road worlds in the Netherlands.
Brown, who turned 25 on Nov. 3, is relatively new to Para-cycling. A former competitive gymnast, she sustained an incomplete spinal injury during a training accident at age 12. She turned to biking as a mode of transportation in college, and then it became more serious.
Her international breakout performance was at the 2019 road world championships, where she won two bronze medals. One year later she added two gold and two silver medals at the track world championships.
Brown also thrived at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru, winning three gold medals and a bronze.
The pair view the schedule cancelations and the moving of the Paralympics from 2020 to 2021 as an opportunity to get bigger and stronger. The consistency of being home, having time to train and recover, and control their nutrition is the key.
“I just really did my first road season last year for Team USA, so my intent for this year was to get the most experience that I could heading into Tokyo,” said Brown, who is a native of Falmouth, Maine. “I had planned to travel to every race I could and show up to the starting line to do my best. Now, I can build on my training base and really do more. And having this much time is just something I never could have thought would be the case at the start of the year.”
Middlestaedt is coaching other riders, besides himself and Brown, and said he is enjoying the process. He’s seeing the changes and improvements in his times, and noted he thinks Brown is a lot stronger too.
“I think we are going to be better prepared for the coming year, and I can see us, especially her, posting even better times,” he said. “It is a year of no traveling, hunkering down and having strong training every day with my partner, which is super awesome. You never get a chance to do something like this when you are competing. I think when we get back to competing next year, she is going to blow everybody away.”
They see their togetherness as an asset in their cycling and at home, but admit it’s not always easy to be on the same page. When Brown and Middlestaedt disagree on something, they need to keep the lines clear between coach-rider, and their relationship.
“I think it’s really forced us to improve our communication, you need to talk about things in order to have it work,” she said. “I think we have come a long way there.”
Middlestaedt laughed, joking that he would be available as a relationship counselor since he has learned so much.
“In reality, all good relationships need strong communication,” he said. “I need to do that with my riders, I need to do that with her, and I think all of this has taught me how to do that better.”