Behind every successful athlete, there typically is a mentor. I’ve been fortunate to have so many great people in my corner that it was impossible to pick merely one great mentor. And this isn’t the whole list; more people than I can count have supported me and been influential throughout this journey. The best way is to look at my development is going back to my time in Michigan and growing from there. Apologies if I didn’t mention you—I haven’t forgotten everything you’ve done for my career.
Now that I split my time between Asheville, NC and Girona, Spain, I sometimes feel bad that I cannot shout from the mountaintops how influential the people were from my Michigan community. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, cycling wasn’t much of a high school sport, so it was beyond crucial that I had sound guidance and support while I was beginning what turned into a cycling career.
My mom (Connie), brother, Taylor and stepdad, Jack My dad (Harry) and stepmom, Bunny
They were a huge factor in my success. They were and are still my number one fans and also served as my sponsors, coaches, psychologists, chefs, soigneurs, bus driver, etc.
I was fortunate enough to have an influential group of adults from the cycling community that took it upon themselves to create a support program for me and other Michigan riders. This included local business owners that funded much of my travel and hired my first coach. There were also many accomplished cyclists who took me under their wing and showed me the ropes.
This list includes Mark Bissell, Rob Wynalda, Kevin Cusack and Bob Hughes. These guys were all respected members of the West Michigan community and huge advocates for cycling. They wanted to put some Michigan riders on the national map and make sure that those riders were good ambassadors for the community. It was amazing that they stressed the importance of being a good person as much or even more than being a good cyclist. I looked up to all of them as people first, but their awesome passion for the bike is what still resonates with me and is an integral part of my personal values. I still carry this importance and passion within me to this day.
Key Advisor and Director: Dave Dejong
Dave was the intermediate between those key sponsors and me. He always went to bat for me and provided some fundamental perspective on the bike, about life and but to manage the balance of life and the bike. Dave didn’t have all the answers when it came to specific cycling questions, but he always helped me process how and who I should seek out resources, as well as help me filter all the advice others were always dishing out. This sometimes got overwhelming, and Dave really helped give me solid direction throughout that period.
My first coach was my buddy Kevin Momber who was also one of the fastest guys in the area and offered to help me. We had a college ruled notebook that we would trade back and forth. He’d write down workouts, and I would send my feedback. I worked with Kevin Momber until my team hired Kevin Lippert who was then with CTS. He took my coaching to the next level and said he always saw me as a road racer. I was reluctant to give in, but now I smile because he was right.
Local Bike Shops
I had the support of a number of great bike shops growing up. Alger Cyclery was one of my first teams, then North Kent Cyclery and of course my hometown shop of Speed Merchants owned and operated by Kim Wood. I worked at Speed Merchants for a time where I built kids bikes and quickly learned that being a mechanic was not my calling. Kim remained in my corner and tolerated my friends and I constantly loitering at the shop after school. We were obsessed over the newest bikes on the floor and in all the catalogs.
Local Fast Guys
My mountain bike teammate Russ Tiles was a huge influence when we rode for Slingshot Bikes. Russ was one of the best riders in the Midwest and was one of those guys who had the most fun. He was the guy that I remember training with through the worst Michigan winters. He always had plenty of sage wisdom of traveling the mountain bike scene to pass down---such as how to live on the road and out of a hotel room on a budget.
My buddy Matt Hoffman was another mentor on the MTB, taking me to trails and races before I even had a driver’s license. Brian Sheedy definitely was my most influential teammate, both as a rider but more importantly as a friend, particularly when I switched to the road. Brian’s patience was unmatched when you consider it took me two seasons to learn to not chase him down as my teammate. To this day, Brian is still a good friend and someone I call for guidance, perspective, and balance whether it is about my career or life outside the bike. Fortunately for me, he lives down the road from us in Brevard, NC.