Column: Retiring cyclists leave the peloton behind
The Aspen Times
Two years and a new vocation changed Craig Lewis.
When I saw him two years ago racing in the USA Pro Challenge, Lewis wore the intense focus of a professional bike racer and the competitive smile of a survivor.
Retired now from professional racing, Lewis still wears the smile of a survivor — softened a bit by a stylish goatee.
But his focus these days is more on business than bikes.
“It took two years really,” Lewis told me this week as he described his transition back to private life from professional cycling. A South Carolina native who moved to Boulder to pursue his cycling career, Lewis now is a Boulder businessman.
He’s a wine importer and distributor. His company name has a decidedly cycling flavor — Stelvio Selections.
The former mountain biker-turned-pro road racer started the wine company while still racing for Team Champion Systems.
He had fallen in love with the wine scene in southern France on his first trip there as a pro cyclist.
Now, Lewis has traded the long training hours in the saddle for long hours in the business of wine.
Lewis was in Aspen this week as part of a gourmet bike tour staged by Boulder-based Cognoscenti. The former U.S. national champion cycled from Aspen to Ashcroft and back with Cognoscenti, a group that pairs bicycle outings with gourmet food and lodging accommodations.
He said his decision to retire from cycling was made for him when Champion Systems folded up shop and a new racing contract proved elusive.
But, he said, he knew there was a finish line as a professional bike racer.
“I’m just glad I survived,” Lewis told me, repeating a theme he has shared many times as he closed his racing career.
Lewis, in 2004, nearly died after he was struck by a car while racing in the individual time trial at the Tour of Georgia.
But he recovered, and his racing career recovered.
His rides now are fun outings in a casual atmosphere, like this week’s ride up Castle Creek.
Lewis pedaled with the Cognoscenti riders, offering cycling tips and sharing race stories.
Even though his riding time has been reduced dramatically, Lewis said the biking basics are still there.
“I can still go out for a five-hour ride,” he said, smiling.
No arguments here.
Lewis didn’t get out of the big chain ring on the climb to Ashcroft.
He said he had kept a close eye on racing colleagues who retired from competition and moved into the private sector.
One peloton pal, Timmy Duggan of Nederland, retired from bike racing and is actively involved in private business.
Public business, too.
Duggan, who grew up in Boulder and went to Boulder Fairview High School, is now a member of the Nederland Planning Commission.
In no particular order, here are a few (of many, many) cyclists who passed me this summer:
Mike Tierney (on one wheel)
The Aspen Cycling Club (all of them)
A Durango 11-year-old
A millennial in flip-flops
An entire yoga class.
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American riders invited to compete in X Games from Jan. 29-31, who have continuously tested negative while in mandatory quarantine in Austria, are expected to compete at the event later this month in Aspen.