DEAR JOEY,

Bicycling (South Africa) - - ASK -

HAV­ING GROWN UP with the nick­name ‘ Scrawny Ron­nie’, I never had much suc­cess at typ­i­cal high school sports. But bi­cy­cles had al­ways been a part of my life, be­cause of the sense of ad­ven­ture they pro­vide. When I was 17, I tried a lo­cal moun­tain-bike race on a whim – and I liked it. My fourth race, in early 1991, was a cross- coun­try event that you were pro­mot­ing.

The course was muddy and dif­fi­cult, and I was hav­ing a bad day. I dis­tinctly re­mem­ber think­ing that this race would be my last – I wasn’t hav­ing fun, and felt like bike rac­ing just wasn’t my thing. I ended up get­ting fifth place in the be­gin­ner class and a spot on the podium. And it was your call-up that changed ev­ery­thing for me.

As I climbed onto the low­est of the five steps, you said to the crowd, “This guy looks like a clim­ber, and a real nat­u­ral.” Your words shocked me at first. I’d never thought of my physique in a pos­i­tive or ath­letic way be­fore. But as I stood up there, I thought about some of the sport’s greats at the time who were just like me: skinny. And for the first time I be­lieved in my­self in a new way.

After that event, I threw my­self into rac­ing. I spent the next decade and a half chas­ing fin­ish lines all over the coun­try. I worked my way up to pro- level down­hill and semi- pro cross- coun­try races; and while I never quite ‘made it’, I en­joyed ev­ery sec­ond of the jour­ney.

Those race ex­pe­ri­ences led to an in­cred­i­ble se­ries of ad­ven­tures, new friends, and bike- re­lated jobs, the best of which has been spend­ing the last 14 years at Bicycling.

So thank you, Joey, for say­ing just the right words at just the right time.

RON KOCH (above) is Bicycling test ed­i­tor. JOEY DOLOWY is the founder and leader of the Outer Cir­cle Rac­ing Team.

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