If you listen closely, you might hear it: the resonant hum of bicycle tires rolling along the caliche roads of Dripping Springs, Texas, on a hot summer’s day. The year was 2005, the Tour de France was being broadcast around the world and cyclist Lance Armstrong had captured the attention of a teenaged Payson McElveen (Exercise Science, ’16).
“Lance was winning the Tour back then and I would go out on the country roads and impersonate the Tour de France stage of the day,” says 27-year- old McElveen.
Two years later, his dedication in the saddle began to pay off as he became a rising star on Austin’s Bicycle Sport Shop team and the talk of his neighbors. Lance Armstrong was one of them.
“[Armstrong] gave me the gate codes to his ranch so I could train on his private trails that Nike built for him back in the day,” McElveen recalls. “I looked up to Lance, but I also got my inspiration from Todd Wells, Ned Overend, Travis Brown, John Tomac, and other legends that call Durango home.”
It was the latter that seemed a beacon guiding McElveen to move to Durango. With his parents strongly encouraging him to pursue a college degree, McElveen visited Fort Lewis College and knew that it was the place for him to study and race. In 2012, he joined the FLC Cycling program and the Sweet Elite/Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory development team, which included Howard Grotts (Mathematics, ’14), Sarah Sturm (Art, ’12), and opportunities to review race-day strategies with legendary Ned Overend.
A member of the USA Cycling National Team since 2010 and recognized as a USA Cycling Collegiate Academic All-Star, McElveen helped the FLC team secure five National Collegiate Championships. He pieced together his own privateer program to earn a living, and his title sponsors, Orange Seal and Trek, invited him to help launch the Orange Seal Off-Road team.
"Being a professional cyclist is so much more than being fast, but when you’re young, you don’t think beyond that. I want to create something that will transcend the biking world."
“I wasn’t sure of turning the team over, but it was a blessing in disguise,” he says, adding that the partnership provides the flexibility for him to pursue other ventures as a Red Bull athlete as well as develop his podcast, The Adventure Stache, and web-based series, Stache T.V.
Surprisingly, McElveen’s fame is not for his two- time Marathon National Championship titles, his domination of The Mid South gravel race, or his perfectly groomed mustache. Rather, what draws the public’s attention, says McElveen, are his personal projects, like his pursuit of the White Rim Fastest Known Time, “Everesting” 130 miles of Durango singletrack in 16 hours for charity, and his races dedicated to the memory of friend and fellow cyclist Ben Sonntag (Economics ’10).
In his down time, McElveen encourages junior cyclists through the Durango DEVO program and FLC Cycling summer camps. He also helps raise cancer awareness through a partnership with Movember and Voler. As for what’s next, McElveen has his eyes on founding a non-profit.
“Being a professional cyclist is so much more than being fast,” he says, “but when you’re young, you don’t think beyond that. I want to create something that will transcend the biking world.”