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Men (and women) at work: Nature Valley riders return to the office

  • By Ted Burns
  • Published Jun. 18, 2013
Lauren Stephens soloed to victory in the Menomonie Road Race at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

STILLWATER, Minn. (VN) — As the sun set on the Nature Valley Grand Prix Sunday and the professional peloton got ready for races like Cascade, the USA Pro Challenge, and the Giro Rosa, some of the participants woke up early Monday morning and headed to work.

One such working stiff is Eric Marcotte (Elbowz Racing-Boneshaker Project). Marcotte won the Best Amateur jersey and placed third in the general classification at Nature Valley. During the week, the 33-year-old is a full-time chiropractor in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“I’ve got patients in the afternoon starting at noon or 1,” said Marcotte as he enthusiastically described his job and clientele. “I fly out a little later [Sunday night]. I’ll sleep in, recover, and see them tomorrow. You know what? They probably had an awesome week or two since I’ve seen them. I’ll get to hear really cool stories, like this, and try to keep them on track so they can keep doing it.”

At 42, Scott Giles (Nature Valley Pro Chase) was one of the oldest riders to compete in this year’s race. Giles is a 20-year Navy veteran and spent most of his career as an S-3 Viking jet pilot landing planes on aircraft carriers. The skills he learned in the military have helped him excel as a cyclist at a relatively late stage of his athletic career.

“The dynamic and fast-paced environment of flying around aircraft carriers translates very well to the relative motion, and sometimes the combative nature, that goes on in the peloton out there,” Giles said. “It’s very dynamic, very intense, you need to be very focused, you need to have your wits about you, and have good situational awareness. That’s a skill.”

Last Tuesday, math teacher Lauren Stephens (Tibco-To The Top) flew into Minneapolis from Dallas immediately after her last day of teaching for the year. Stephens only recently joined Tibco after big results at the Redlands Bicycle Classic and Joe Martin Stage Race. She won the Nature Valley Grand Prix Menomonie Road Race on Saturday, and will be going to the Giro Rosa with Team Tibco at the end of June.

Stephens benefits from the coaching and support that her husband, Mat Stephens of Speedy Ace Training, provides throughout the year. Her ability to multitask, combined with strong family support, has helped her break into one of the best cycling programs for women in the U.S.

“I manage my time very well. I ride my bike to work in the mornings, so I get some workouts done on the way to work, and then the rest of my training is done in the evenings,” Stephens said. “It’s a family affair.”

Even for the most talented working athletes, there are a multitude of sacrifices required to climb the ranks of the peloton. Giles wasn’t able to focus on riding until he took a desk job, and Mat and Lauren Stephens, who use up their vacation time for training camps, and have put off having a family to pursue their passion.

Even Marcotte, who makes racing against the pro peloton look effortless, needs to drag himself out of bed at 4 a.m. each morning to avoid training in the 110-degree Arizona heat.

“This is not something I think is completely sustainable socially,” Marcotte said. “You are training 20 plus hours a week, you are trying to run a business 30-40 hours, so there is not much downtime. You have to be really on point.”

In the current sponsorship environment, the working cyclist might be the new paradigm for the professional peloton.

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