Applications for “learn to become a professional cyclist” are open from February 5 to 16.
Alexey Vermeulen has raced on all surfaces and in several disciplines and knows that earning an income as a professional cyclist can be exhausting. The “Ice King” of the world of endurance mountain biking and second overall in the 2023 Life Time Grand Prix series, Vermeulen wants to help promising riders find a less slippery track than him so that cycling becomes a way to win money. source of income.
As an elite athlete and successful entrepreneur, the American runner wants to share his formula for success and with the help of ENVE launched the Phase II program, a kind of paid scholarship for two athletes under the age of 23 living in the United States. , male and female, for independent learning of professional cycling.
Two select athletes, selected through an application process that ends later this month, will receive entries for three major off-road events: the Unbound Gravel 100, Crusher in Tushar and the Big Sugar Gravel. Along with a training camp at ENVE headquarters in Ogden, Utah, they will also receive professional equipment, mechanical support and mentoring to “create a sustainable path from high school leagues to the next step in a potential cycling career.”
“If you are one of them, learn how to be a professional athlete – mentally and physically. I think we're aware that taking two people won't change the world at all, but the goal of phase II will be to copy others to create a collective development path for professional racing,” explained Vermeulen in an interview with Cycling News. “What I hope this project instills is that all of us who have learned from our mistakes can teach the same to the next athletes. »
Vermeulen wants to teach others how to create a personality and build a brand, not just try to get results. Bicycle racing is all about balance, not only in racing but in life itself.
“I grew up with a development path. USA Cycling had a great schedule and I literally crossed everything from local results, national results, races in Europe, to professional races. And over the last few years, a lot of people have asked me, as I've become better known in the United States, “what should I do” about getting a private offer or going to college. And I didn't have a good answer – he added.
“I think my mentoring comes down to helping people, ultimately, be the best version of themselves in these races — being able to talk to people and find where I can help a particular business and how to balance all those things. to adjust. Private races are not just about winning. Not everyone can do it.
The Michigan native left the WorldTour team environment in 2017 and ventured solo into the gravel world in 2019, competing in his first Belgian Waffle Ride. While he was 79th that season, he would turn that into a win by 2022, and last year he was third. His 2023 season was strong, with wins at the Chequamegon MTB and Life Time's Rad Dirt Fest, as well as second place at the Leadville Trail 100 MTB, third at Big Sugar and third at the SBT GRVL.
His efforts to make a living in bike racing have followed a similar pattern, from an annual LottoNL-Jumbo salary of €65,000 with all equipment provided and travel planned to the big question marks of a solo gravel chase. But he recently revealed to Cycling Weekly that he is comfortable now earning more than “six figures” from his racing efforts, sponsorship commitments and “side projects”.
Is the 29-year-old a reflection of his absence from road racing and perhaps he should have stayed on the WorldTour? After all, he has finished in the top 10 at UCI events, such as the Tour de Beauce, the Ronde de l'Isard and the Critérium du Dauphiné as an U23 rider. He also won bronze medals at the US Pro Nationals, 2016 in the time trial and 2017 in the road race.
“100 percent, every day,” Vermeulen said of the lack of road. “It's just different. You know, in road racing you race at the highest level every day. Gravel is hard. I want to go where I can compete against the best. It's gaining momentum and you can kind of point to Unbound, Leadville and a few other Grand Prix races as confirmation, which is why I like it.
Opening his 2024 off-road season with a third-place finish in Sunday's Old Man Winter Rally in Colorado, Phase II allows Vermeulen to do more than just race this year.
In addition to ENVE, Shimano, Pearl Izumi, Kenda, Orange Seal, Wahoo Fitness, Lazer and Up.Bike all provide hardware support. All delivered equipment becomes the property of both athletes after they have fulfilled their obligations to compete in all three disciplines.
The application process runs from February 5-16, allowing individuals to not only share their cycling strengths and goals, but also define business propositions beyond race results, such as creativity and social media reach. The application requires written information and video responses. The selection will be announced on February 23.