For Part 2, we feature one of the most dominate amateur racers in the history of WNY cycling. He is a two-time Rock Crit winner and a five-time NYS Champion. He hung with the pros at the Rochester Twilight Crit, and he is a man whose name will be mentioned with the likes of Larry Read, Frank Mesi, and Cheyne Hoag when we talk about legendary regional racers.
Most importantly, he embodies the greatness amateur racing offers our communities: his race performances are spectacular, his training mythic, and in the era that social media exploded, his personality shaped local cycling cultural. Not bad for a guy who didn’t start racing until his late 20s and purportedly showed up to his first club event wearing basketball shorts.
Although he is a still a young man with plenty of competition ahead of him, The Rock Crit marked his final race as a WNY resident, a loss that will deeply affect the local race community in the coming seasons.
PART 2: BRENDAN HOUSLER
“Brendan Housler,” or simply “Housler,” has become interchangeable with “victory” in local bike racing. Grown men and women aspire to be like him: they mimic his training and race style with the hopes of someday riding just one race with the sheer brilliance that Brendan exudes nearly every outing. Ask any racer about him, and you will hear a tale of admiration, domination, determination, and speed.
Brendan Housler of Nalgene/Escadrille Cycling is a local legend.
With over 50 podium finishes in P/1/2 races since 2010, he has won nearly every race in NY State at least once. He’s been on the podium at Battenkill twice, and his five NYS Championships include wins in crit, road, and time trial.
It’s not just winning that makes Brendan exciting though. It’s the way he wins. He attacks viciously, which leads to stunning breakaway efforts over elite fields often for long periods of time. If you’re lucky you may see him lap the peloton.
I first understood Brendan's talent at the Hamburg Criterium a few years back. I had seen him race before, and even raced against him as a Cat 5 - I say this very loosely as we were only together at the start line - but at Hamburg that year I was paying attention for the first time, and I couldn’t believe what I saw.
Brendan attacked from the start, stringing out the field, forcing riders in a single-file line for the first couple laps. He then sat back for a quick recovery before attacking off the front with a small group, but he was still just toying with them.
The peloton caught the break before he launched off the front again, this time with Dave Richardson, a rider who later became Brendan’s teammate and close friend but at the time was riding for a different squad (Team Towpath, I think).
Brendan and Dave worked together for the rest of the race as they nearly lapped the field - something they would do as teammates in other races. It was an amazing effort from both riders, and it looked like the race would come to a two-man sprint finish.
Brendan had other ideas.
With a lap or two to go, just as they crossed the start line, I saw the difference between Brendan and everyone else: he casually glanced back at Dave, as if to say, “Thanks for the help,” before standing up and dropping him at will. It was almost effortless, and he did it to a very fast, very talented rider after both had fought to stay away from a very fast, very talented field.
I was in awe.
Over the next couple seasons Brendan's efforts became even more spectacular as teammates like Dave, John Hunter, Dylan Pudiack and Wacek Godycki, gave him stellar attacks to counter, making his breaks even more potent and the fluidity of their team a thing of beauty.
Brendan’s legacy isn’t just about race results though. He is undeniably talented, but his work ethic is a legend in itself. His Strava account reads like something written by Homer: he is just shy of 50,000 total miles, which he has accumulated by riding 10,000 miles a year, mostly in WNY. These aren’t “trainer miles” either - those don’t count, just ask him. Brendan rides outside in brutal winter weather logging weekend centuries in January and February when many don’t want to leave the house to get the mail.
Most importantly, just as he sets high standards on the bike, he does the same off the bike. It would be easy for anyone as talented as he to be a bit pompous; there are many riders far less accomplished and far more arrogant. But that’s not Brendan. He’s classy, humble, and creative, an avid Instagram poster, rap connoisseur, and haiku poet. He influences local bike culture with analytical podcasts and artistic photos that include captions with words like “snit,” - or my favorite, “gnomie” (like homie but smaller) - proving that through all the hard work and competitiveness, cycling is about fun, beauty, and introspection.
Although public and personable, Brendan’s quiet class has always been the most impressive thing about him. He does the small things that matter most, like the time he gave a junior a pair of sunglasses he won, or the way he would come to our team table after a race, pull up a chair and ask about our day on the bike, all while offering encouragement and subtle advice but never talking about himself, even when pushed.
For me, his character shone most a few years back at a race held in memory of Mike Coyle, a local rider who died tragically in a cycling accident.
Brendan won some prize money and after the podium presentations, while people were packing up to leave, he quietly approached Mike’s mother, handed her his winnings and gave her a hug. I couldn’t hear what he said, and that’s really none of my business anyway, but I believe he and Mike were friends and Brendan was giving her the money to be donated to a memorial fund in Mike’s honor.
As I thought about what I witnessed, I was impressed that he donated the money, but I was much more impressed at the way he chose to do it. He could have presented his winnings in front of the crowd when he was on the podium, ensuring applause for his generosity.
But he didn’t.
Brendan did it the right way, quietly and out of respect for Mike. It wasn’t about his win or his gift; it was about showing this grieving mother that her son meant something to him.
I later sent Brendan a message to tell him that I admired what he did, but he deflected the kudos as he responded simply with, “My whole team put in their winnings. GVCC (Genesee Valley Cycling Club) is family.”
It’s one thing to be a great athlete, but to be a great person who is also a great athlete is so much more important, and that is what amateur cycling should be about.
We owe Brendan a debt of gratitude for what he has given to the sport, and we owe it to ourselves to approach cycling with the same dignity, kindness, tenacity, and respect for the game that he did while racing in Rochester.
So thank you, Brendan. Thank you for doing it right, and thank you for doing it all while gloriously kicking everyone’s ass.