Being a professional cyclist provided me with an incredible opportunity to learn about other people, other cultures, and the world. During my time as a professional cyclist, I was fortunate to race all over Europe, South America, China, and the United States. I had teammates from around the world and was exposed to many different languages, cultures, and outlooks on life from the upbringing we have in the US. I think that my biggest take away from the years of travel is that if you are looking for it, every place has something wonderful to offer. It may be scenery, food, ideologies, lifestyle, or people, but there is something unique and wonderful in each new place.
I lived in Spain for the six years that I raced in Europe, and although it took us some time to adapt and learn a new culture, my wife and I quickly discovered how rich the culture of the Spanish and Catalan people of Girona is. The lifestyle they lead is still very traditional with a huge emphasis on family and well-being. To this day, there is a siesta in the middle of the day! They grow, buy, and prepare food with a focus on seasonal, local products. The markets are incredibly vibrant with fresh fruits and vegetables, little old women selling their chicken’s eggs, or men with baskets of fresh asparagus they picked from the woods.
Although I spent the majority of my time learning the culture of the Spanish and Catalan people, I still got to see many places throughout Europe and the world. I had an incredibly unique experience of racing my bike in China past The Great Wall, around the Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium, and through the countryside that at one point had vegetation so lush and green that I felt for a moment I was in Hawaii. I was lucky enough to take a vacation to Morocco between some racing, where I learned how to cook in a Tagine and began to understand some of the meaning behind Moorish architecture. I was surprised to find beautiful blue coastlines in Oman and pristine mountain lakes in Argentina.
I did the largest portion of my racing throughout Europe, and found favorite scenic areas and favorite new foods in just about every country we visited. The mountains of Europe are truly spectacular. I’m not sure what makes them stand above other mountains I’ve been in throughout the world, but something makes them special. Perhaps as a cyclist I was partial to the small roads that have been carved through over the years, or the hidden villages deep in a mountain valley, or the numerous springs flowing right out of the hillside that provided fresh water throughout training rides. I learned Italians make the best pizza, pasta and risotto (go figure), French quiche lorraine is amazing, Spanish tortilla (egg and potato bake) is off the charts good, and my favorite of all (must be my German roots) are German/Swiss/Austrian meats and breads. I don’t know if it is because it’s similar to the food I ate growing up or if it is actually hereditary, but I never went hungry while traveling or racing in a German-esque country.
Wherever I was, there was always something positive, and I feel lucky to have experienced as a professional cyclist. I learned that there are beautiful people, unique cultures, and amazing places everywhere in the world. Getting to appreciate what each place has to offer has quickly made the world feel like a much smaller place. News stories about France or Belgium no longer feel like some distant land that isn’t relevant to me. My worldview has broadened, and many different places now feel like home. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to see so many places and feel that it has given me a different perspective and a much greater appreciation for life.