Payson McElveen Pro Athlete
Payson began his racing career in the Fall of 2007 and developed his passion for the sport in the Texas State Championship Series. At 17 he traveled with USA Cycling to Kirchzarten, Germany, where he raced and trained as a member of the USA Cycling National Team for the first time. In 2011 he graduated from the Austin Waldorf High School, and moved to Durango, CO to further his education and pursue a dream of being a professional cyclist. In 2012 Payson signed with the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory/Sweet Elite mountain bike team, and for the next two years matured as a racer under the guidance of Chad Cheeney, Ned Overend, and others.
“I’m sure I’ll look back on those Sweet Elite years as some of the best of my life. That was such a special program to be a part of.”
In 2014, Payson moved on to create a program of his own, Richard’s Rainwater MTB Racing, a project he will always remember with fondness. In 2015, Payson joined the Competitive Cyclist pro mountain bike team, where enjoyed some of his best results to date, as well as learning from some of the seasoned veterans on the team, such as Justin Lindine and Jason Sager. Starting in 2016, Payson joined the all new Team RideBiker p/b Sho-Air program, with an eye towards further progressing as a racer, seeing the world by two wheels, and helping others enjoy the bike along the way.
Getting to Know Payson - 10 questions (updated 7/28/17)
- What's your most memorable bike related moment?
There are so many. I remember vividly my first ride (and crash) without training wheels. I hit the driveway pretty hard, had a quick cry, and then jumped back on. Haven’t looked back since. That’s closely followed by winning my first elite national title at Marathon Nationals in May. Delivering the news to my dad after he crossed the line (he was racing too), i something I’ll never forget. It was a long hug, and there were tears.
- Any pets?
I grew up with Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Big, athletic dogs, and sometimes there were four of them at once. So I’ve always thought of myself as a big dog kind of person. But now somehow I find myself at the other end of the spectrum, owning two cats with my girlfriend. She’s a cat person. One is a total jacka$$ but somehow I still love him, and the other is nice and chill. They’ve grown on me. I’m an animal person in general, so it’s all good.
- Favorite breakfast foods?
Those that know me know that I love just about all food. I get to eat a lot, and am not picky. I like trying the new and weird when traveling. But eggs, toast, and sliced avocado has been my staple breakfast for a while.
- Tell us about life in Durango Colorado.
Life in Durango is pretty much exactly the life I grew up dreaming I’d have one day. I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the country I could do my job better, or enjoy doing it more. The cycling community is unparalleled, the trail access is a matter of seconds by bike, rather than minutes by car, and the pace of life just feels right. Even once I’m done racing professionally, I don’t plan on leaving. There will plenty of other forms of outdoor recreation to catch up on, and should the day come, I don’t think there’s a bunch better environment to raise a family in.
- What book are you currently reading?
I just finished “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. Before that it was “Hell’s Angels.” I’m really interested in Ryan Holiday’s books, and he just came out with a new one regarding entrepreneurship that I’m eager to check out. I’ll probably start with his “Obstacle is the Way” first since it’s already in the house, but really want to track down the inspiration for that book, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius too. So little time…
- What other sports do you enjoy besides cycling?
I think counter to most cyclists, I love mainstream sports. I’m one of those people that listens to sports talk radio and likes most posts on House of Highlight’s IG feed. I grew up playing basketball, track and field, touch football, and even so baseball. I never really learned to apply myself to those before I found cycling though, but still enjoying play a good pick up game here and there. I also enjoy running in the (short) offseason, swimming, going on big backcountry snowshoeing adventures. Coming from Texas, I’ve still not really gotten into skiing.
- Three things from your bucket list you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years.
Oof. That’s a big question. I try not to get hyper-focused on results-based goals regarding my cycling, but three things I do want to check off the list: 1) See a mountain lion. 2) Feel an earthquake. 3) Learn to manual like nobody’s business.
- Most challenging bike race you've ever competed in?
So many, and for different reasons. Probably the Mongolia Bike Challenge when you factor in the physical and mental aspects. I think I dug deeper in those six days than at any other time in my career thus far. I remember getting full lock up leg cramps two hours out from the finish of stage two, and just wondering how in the world I was going to get through the other stages, let alone hang onto the lead. I got deathly ill the night before the final TT, and had to go into a completely different world of suffering to hang onto the leader’s jersey. Hallucinations and bright white light and just stuff I hope I never have to go through again. But, it was still worth it and an experience I’m very glad I had.
- Tell us about More Than Sport?
I feel so fortunate to have found More Than Sport. I was hooked up with them via an old Austin, TX friend. It’s a non-profit out of Hawaii, started by triathlete Chris Lieto, that partners pro athletes with causes, or helps them get their own initiatives off the ground. Along with helping me put together campaigns to raise money for World Bicycle Relief, hook me up with an orphanage while I was in Mongolia, and other initiatives, they’ve helped me develop my perspectives on what it means to give back. Most recently, I’m very excited to have their help in guiding me on building a project of my own.
- Describe the feelings you had when you won the Marathon National championship?
So many. Crossing the line was surreal, because I was living out a fantasy that had run through my head a thousand times. The best part though was sharing it with my dad, who was also racing that day. Cycling is a common passion, and he’s been my biggest supporter since day one. Whether in person or by phone, he's been there for every success, every failure, and even the handful of times I thought about quitting. He’s been a professional-level athlete in several sports in the past too, so he can relate. It was just perfect