For anyone who has shimmied into spandex and set off before dawn for hill repeats on River Road or hammered up an East River bridge with ‘Eye of the Tiger’ blasting full volume in their mind, Neil Bezdek’s story is for you. In two short years, he went from riding packages around town for Breakaway Courier Systems and volunteering for T.A. to racing at the professional level and still volunteering for T.A.. During a recent stop over in the Big Apple, he took some time to talk with Reclaim.
Occupation? Pro Cyclist. Man, that feels good to say. Last season, I rode for Team Mountain Khakis, fueled by Jittery Joe’s.
How long have you been riding? I’ve always ridden. I grew up mountain biking, worked in a bike shop in high school, became a weekend warrior in college, and ran packages in New York City before turning pro.
Where do you live, and where are you from? This season, I live in North Carolina. That’s where my team is based. This winter, I’ll probably head home to Denver, my hometown, but New York City will always be my home away from home. I love the city, and it has such a great cycling scene.
How did you end up in New York? I went to college in sunny Santa Barbara, but somehow got hooked on this idea of being a bike messenger in New York, so when I graduated, I moved to Brooklyn and got a job with Breakaway. After a few months of hard − I mean really hard − work, I decided to try out a desk job, so I applied, and got hired by New York City’s Economic Development Corporation.
Is that when you started racing? Yeah. At EDC, I had all this excess energy and missed my bike, so I’d just get out and ride hard whenever I could. I entered some novice races in Prospect Park and Central Park and I won, and I kept winning.
What was it like training and working for the City? I’d wake up at 5am, ride for three or four hours, and then work a full day downtown. EDC has an amazing bike parking facility and showers and lockers, which totally enabled this insane schedule. I had a second set of toiletries and all my work clothes there. I was worried that someone might think I was living in the basement.
Did you commute by bike to your races? Sometimes, but only by accident: 40 or 50 miles before a race might not be ideal, but I missed a few trains and a few rides and did what I had to do. In 2009, on my way to the Univest Grand Prix, which is this big race in Pennsylvania, I had to meet my ride in Fort Lee, New Jersey. I biked from Brooklyn across the George Washington Bridge with a second set of wheels, a time trial helmet and three days of clothes. I was a sight.
What’s next? More races! New Jersey this weekend, then Boston next weekend, then a few weeks off before T.A.’s Hudson Highlands Gran Fondo. I’m not sure if I should try to win, place, or just ride in that one.