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Embracing an Unconventional Cycling Lifestyle at Sea Otter Classic

Alexey Vermeulen possessed a lucrative contract, resided in Girona, Spain, and engaged in elite road cycling at the age of 21.

Reflecting on his rapid ascent in the cycling world that commenced nine years ago, Vermeulen expressed, “I was thrilled; life was treating me well.” However, upon returning from Europe, he found himself living with his parents, devoid of a college education and uncertain about his future.

Vermeulen’s trajectory mirrors that of many young American cyclists who ventured to Europe, secured deals with top-tier teams, only to see their dreams dissipate abruptly.

Following the conclusion of his two-season contract with LottoNl-Jumbo, the Dutch outfit, Vermeulen failed to secure a renewal and subsequently rode for Interpro Cycling Academy, a second-tier professional team based in Japan, where he achieved victory in a stage of the Tour du Maroc in 2018.

Hailing from Tennessee and currently residing in Boulder, Colorado, Vermeulen has discovered solace in the realm of cycling. For the third consecutive year, he partakes in the Life Time Grand Prix, a series of diverse mountain bike races catering to male and female professionals over several months.

Vermeulen, who clinched the second position overall in the past two editions, participated in the Fuego XL 100K among a field of 30 professional male riders. The event marked the inauguration of the seven-part series and headlined the second day of the Sea Otter Classic at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Simultaneously, a separate competition unfolded for 30 professional female cyclists.

“Beyond the financial aspect, the past three years have enlightened me on my post-career aspirations. I never envisioned this path; I assumed I would have to return to college. Presently, I am delving into self-worth, self-promotion, and networking within and outside the industry,” Vermeulen shared.

The Grand Prix has facilitated encounters with diverse individuals, a significant outcome beyond his racing achievements. While monetary gains are gratifying, Vermeulen acknowledges that his cycling career’s conclusion won’t equate to retirement. He no longer feels constrained by the absence of formal education, having honed skills in self-preparation and self-promotion.

Transitioning into an independent rider, known as a privateer, Vermeulen aims to match his prior earnings from his European stint.

In the previous season, Vermeulen, who inherited his cycling passion from his father and grandfather, triumphed in the Chequamegon MTB Festival (Wisconsin) and Rad Dirt Fest (Colorado) before securing the runner-up spot at Big Sugar Gravel (Arkansas).

Despite his prominence in the cycling sphere, the Grand Prix series stands in stark contrast to the prestigious events Vermeulen once frequented. He partook in over 125 races across two seasons worldwide, including renowned competitions like the Classics or Monuments, from Flèche Wallonne to Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and the Abu Dhabi Tour to the Tour de Romandie. Additionally, he competed in the Tour of California, which often traversed the Monterey Peninsula.

Reflecting on his past road cycling career, Vermeulen remarked, “It felt premature at times. However, that’s the essence of life. I believe my experiences arrived prematurely, yet I made decisions aligned with my best interests at the time.”

Vermeulen’s current journey encompasses sponsor affiliations, expedited by his constant companion, Sir Willie, a dachshund. This furry partner, shared with his girlfriend, a professional triathlete, frequently accompanies Vermeulen in a backpack during training sessions. The 5-year-old canine rested on Vermeulen’s lap for the majority of the pre-event press conference.

While focusing on mountain biking, Vermeulen intends to participate in the individual time trial at the upcoming National Championships in Charleston, West Virginia. A potential spot on the U.S. Olympic team for the Summer Olympics in Paris hangs in the balance.

In contrast to the amenities provided in the World Tour, such as team chefs, luggage handlers, and post-event massage therapists, Vermeulen navigates his journey independently, often relying on familial and peer support.

“I cherished my time racing in Europe, which led me to pursue that path,” Vermeulen acknowledged. “Yet, racing for myself brings a sense of liberation. I dictate my destinations and engage in activities that resonate with my essence as a human.”