Bellingham’s own Spencer Paxson will be competing in the 2015 Pan American Games. He is one of only four athletes representing the United States in the Cross Country Mountain Bike event.
The professional cyclist, representing Kona Bicycle Company, will be racing Sunday, July 12 in Toronto.
“Having the opportunity to join Team USA for the Pan Am Games is a huge honor and definitely marks a special notch in my racing career,” Paxson wrote in an email.
Going in to this season, the games were a goal in sight, he said. To be chosen from among top-ranking cyclists means a rider has had significant recent success in international competitions, such as the World Cup and World Championships, which Paxson has competed in regularly since 2011, when he began racing for Kona.
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Paxson moved to Bellingham two years ago, and the support he’s found in the biking community makes him proud to represent this city as his hometown.
“This is a really tight-knit community of athletes,” said Nicola Mann, owner of Trailhead Athletics and Paxson’s personal trainer.
Since last fall Paxson has been training one or two days each week with Mann. They are focused on maintaining strength and overall fitness to compliment his competitions and biking schedules.
Working with a professional athlete who knows his body and has such lofty goals for training is only part of what has made working with Paxson so rewarding, Mann said. It is his attitude and willingness to contribute to the community that makes him such a great person.
“A lot of these guys you expect to have an ego, and many of them do, but Spencer doesn’t,” Mann said.
Paxson competed in the BC Bike Race from June 28 to July 4 and made a truly remarkable showing. On day two of the seven-day challenge, he lost eight minutes after missing a turn and went from first to 16th. But Paxson came back on day three, making up almost all the time he lost before returning to first place. By Thursday night his time was 12 seconds behind the lead with two more days to make up that time.
Paxson is the talk of the gym and everyone at Trailhead Athletics is cheering him on as he prepares for the Pan Am Games, Mann said.
“Cycling is a core part of who I am,” Paxson wrote. “I got into it when I was about 12, and over the years the endeavor has formed much of my approach to life.”
Paxson balanced competition with work until the end of last year when he chose to pursue cycling full time. He started a full-time job in Seattle as an energy analyst in 2008 and went on to attend his first Elite World Championship in 2010. In 2012 he was a member of the Olympic Long Team for the London Games and then had some podium finishes at the U.S. National Championships in 2013. He aims to continue on and push through the current Olympic cycle, he said.
The Pan Am Games are the third largest international multi-sport games. This will be the first time Toronto has hosted this event, and close to 7,000 athletes will compete in 36 different sports from July 10 to July 24. Like the Olympics, the Pan Am Games happen every four years.
The Cross Country Mountain Bike event will be smaller than other international bike races, with fewer than 30 competitors on the course. This will result in a wide open and extremely competitive race.
Cycling, Paxson said, whether it is for competition or recreation, has the capacity to make life rich.
“I won’t always be competitive, but right now I appreciate how racing offers a fun proxy to real life,” he wrote. “Ironically, I think the biggest challenge as a racer is similar to what many people might deal with —to be honest with yourself about what truly fulfills you as a person, not just an athlete. It can be easy to get wrapped up in a pursuit of perfection and lose sight of what’s right in front of you that really makes you happy. Luckily, a good ride through the woods on a mountain bike is all it takes to keep an even keel.”