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.