I like writing about stuff to which I have a personal connection. Sram, for example has been my component group of choice for years, so I like writing about Sram. Yes, I have gotten some killer deals over the years through their Grassroots sponsorship, so all the more reason to tout their awesome products. The same connection applies when I write about the America's Cup or Volvo Ocean Race, two world class yacht races that I got to participate in as a sailmaker. I like to think this matters, as most of what I post you could go read about yourself. Maybe the fact I have some personal attachment to these things makes a difference. It certainly makes a difference to me. Today's subject is no different. While I've only met Mike Olheiser briefly, I've followed his story for the last few years.
Olheiser has made his mark on the cycling world as one of the most successful amatures in the sport. He has multiple Masters and Elite titles in the TT and road race and some significant national and regional race results as well. At 37, he's no spring chicken, but 2012 marks his first year as a professional cyclist. His rise to the pro ranks is impressive and inspiring.
I first read about Olheiser in a one page article in Road Bike Action magazine a few years ago. It briefly chronicled his cycling resume but made mention of the fact he's never gone pro. It seemed at the time the right opportunity had never presented itself. He had a great job at a hospital that paid well and allowed him to train and race. I recon any pro offers he had were low on the pay scale and couldn't quite make up for leaving the security of a real job. I'm sure at some point in our lives we all dream of being a pro athlete. I know I have and yet here was a guy who was given opportunities but none were really ideal.
The right opportunity finally presented itself for 2012 with the Competitive Cyclist pro cycling team. In 2010, Olheiser was part of a composite team for the Tour of Utah that included his current teammate Francisco Mancebo. Olheiser must have made an impression as he's now part of one of the strongest US domestic squads for the new season. He opened his first year as a pro with a characteristic solo attack at the Rutas de America stage race this week. How awesome to see him make such an impression on his first pro outing.
So where's the personal connection? Well, again, I only met Mike once, but it was a very cool moment. Up until the Tour of Utah in 2010 I had been following his story and results. That year, he won the Elite national championship on the same bike I am riding now, a Mercury Titan. At the time, we were sponsored by Mercury and we had to the chance to promote the little known company here in Utah. It was awesome to see a guy at that level use the same equipment our little team was using. When I noticed he was going to take part in the Canyon Bicycles composite team at the ToU with my current coach Dave Harward, I made sure to seek Olheiser out.
At the start if the Ogden stage that year, I finally had a chance to meet Mike. I had the chance to talk about the Mercury bikes we were using and what he thought. I had the brief chance to pick the brain of one of America's best cyclists. He was very cool and seemed to genuinely enjoy talking to me about the bike and his experience with it. (He had plenty of good things to say about the bike BTW) It endeared me even more to his story and success.
On thing I love about sport and competition is the emotional aspect of overcoming adversity, continual improvement and making the most of talent and ability. There's a very real human element to success in sports and Mike Olheiser is one of those stories that we can look to for inspiration and entertainment alike. The 2012 domestic season will be one to watch for sports fans and hopefully we can pay a little more attention to the US pro cycling scene with awesome stories like this one.