New kid on the bike: Anderson-Moxley makes winning introduction to Big Island cycling

  • Bruton Gaster photo Sam Anderson-Moxley moved to the Big Island in January and teaches an eighth grade science class online for a middle school in California. He is also a semi-professional road cyclist.

After winning two consecutive individual cycling time trials organized by the Hawaii Cycling Club, it’s time to get to know a little more about the new kid on the block in Big Island cycling.

Meet Sam Anderson-Moxley, a 25-year-old Waikoloa resident who moved to the Big Island with his wife in January and teaches an eighth-grade science class online. His passion is cycling — which is abundantly evident in the numerous local KOM’s (King of the Mountain) Strava segments he’s racked up under the online Strava alias of “Han Solo.”

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He won July’s Hilo Climbing 12-mile Time Trial by a whopping six minutes over his next competitor while wearing a protective facial mask. Then he did it again, but this time at the Kua Bay Time Trial, a 12.2-mile road race held virtually from Sept. 9-15.

Anderson-Moxley topped the field with a stellar time of 27 minutes, 40 seconds for an average speed of 26.4 miles per hour. On both occasions, he used a road bike rather than a more aerodynamic time trial bike, and said competing in a virtual event on his own required some strategy.

“It was a little tricky,” Anderson-Moxley said. “It was nice at the last time trial (in July) because I started behind everybody, so it was nice to have people to chase for motivation. But this time being a virtual event, I had to approach the race differently mentally. Luckily, now with all these little gadgets like Strava, you can have a live segment going and have a virtual person that you are trying to catch.

“I think the biggest strategy with this one was figuring out the wind because there is always quite a headwind when you are heading South toward Kona. There are also some pretty steep climbs in there, too. So it was just trying to figure out how to pace myself where I wouldn’t lose too much time on the wind because I tend to be a little better going uphill than on flats. It was about figuring out my pacing with the wind and grade.”

HCC race director Bo Florendo had originally planned to hold an in-person time trial Sept. 12, but decided to change the format to a virtual event due to Hawaii County’s social distancing requirements. The new format allowed competitors six days to complete the event and record their own times, starting from Waikoloa Drive and finishing at the entrance of Kua Bay.. There was a total of 47 finishers.

“My overall impression is actually quite favorable,” Florendo said of the virtual format. “Of course, the experience could not duplicate the camaraderie and adrenaline that is generated during an in-person event. But given the circumstances, HCC provided an opportunity for cyclists to compete, compare their performance with other athletes over the same course and celebrate their accomplishment. Fortunately, Mother Nature was kind during the period of competition, and, though some may disagree, the weather conditions did not dramatically vary from day to day.”

Anderson-Moxley said he decided to complete his virtual time trial at 8 a.m. on Sept. 12, the actual time and date of the original in-person event, but the winds were not in his favor.

“I think if I were to do it again, I would go out earlier when there is less wind,” he laughed. “But it was so fun to have an event like this where you can still have a little bit of competition but you don’t necessarily have to be with people there at the same time. I thought it was a smart move by the organizers to do that.

“Overall, I wasn’t as satisfied with my time. So I’m hoping eventually maybe on a tailwind day I will go out again to see if I can do better.”

After all the finishing times were compiled and inputted into Webscorer, Waikoloa’s Daniel Hill had the second fastest time in 28:33, followed by Kailua-Kona’s David Wild in 29:08.

On the women’s side, Kailua-Kona’s Laura Yamasaki took top honors with her speedy time of 33:39. Second and third place went to Laupahoehoe’s Melissa Schad (35:40) and Kailua-Kona’s Janet Higa-Miller (36:38), respectively.

Moving to Kona

Originally from California, Anderson-Moxley and his wife moved to Waikoloa in January to work at Waikoloa Elementary School. He started out the year as an educational assistant with anticipation of becoming an elementary school teacher until schools closed mid-March due to COVID.

“I knew there was a teacher shortage here and I wanted to be a science or math teacher,” he said. “I started the process, but then COVID happened and I was told that they weren’t doing any hiring as Hawaii had a hiring freeze for new teachers. So, I had to accept a job back in California (as an 8th grade middle school science teacher), but luckily, everything is completely online so we are going to be staying here as long as we can.”

Cycling background

Anderson-Moxley said his introduction to sports began in his early years through mountain unicycling, an adventure sport that consists of traversing rough terrain while pedaling on just one wheel.

“When I was a kid, I would ride a bike with one wheel around mountain bike trails,” he said. “Then in high school my friend said there’s a mountain bike team and asked if I wanted to give it a try. I got to race a little bit in high school with the NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) league which have become really popular in other states. I don’t think there’s anything like that here in Hawaii yet. But it’s basically a way to get high schoolers and middle schoolers out riding their bikes and mountain biking.

“Then I went to UC Santa Cruz in California. One of the reasons why I chose to go to school there was because the mountain biking was so spectacular. That’s where I really fell in love with racing and competition. We also had a road racing team in college so at that point I was a pro at mountain biking and very new to road racing. I ended having much more success at road racing as the format of professional mountain bike races weren’t really my favorite — super short events.”

Up until last year, he rode for a team called Mike’s Bikes and felt lucky to have some amazing sponsors and some great gear. Anderson-Moxley described himself more as a “semi-professional road racer because it never really paid the bills. My true day job is as a school teacher.”

Cycling strengths

“I think my strength are the races that are really long,” he said. “There’s this one event called the Belgium Waffle Ride in San Diego. It’s 135 miles of riding with 12,000 feet of climbing with much of it on dirt. I’ve done pretty well in that event over the last few years but I’ve had really bad luck with flat tires and mechanicals. I’ve done it twice and I really like that race because it’s such a brutal day for everyone.

“With that event, I think that is where road cycling is going these days. It feels like there are a lot of community events that are really struggling as there are not a lot of people interested in going to the local events, but they are really interested in doing these kinds of crazy, Gran Fondo type of events where everybody starts at the same time with thousands of people, where it’s a race in the front but a party in the back.”

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When asked what he thinks of cycling here in comparison to California, Anderson-Moxley said, “I think the riding here is some of the best in the world, it’s really amazing!”

“It’s very different from anywhere I lived before, in California and Colorado, but it’s just so nice,” he said. “It’s the climate and the mountains. I don’t think there is anywhere else where you can climb 14,000 feet from the ocean or that amount at any time which makes it special. I ride a lot around here in Waikoloa but my favorite climb is up Kaloko Drive — it’s so hard but it’s sure great for training.”

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