Spencer Paxson (Kona) is one of a few elite male pro racers on the mountain bike circuit who balance working a full time job with pro racing. In recent years, he has been steadily climbing the domestic ranks, and he's also tested his legs at some international competitions.
While many pros and aspiring pros are trying to ditch their non-cycling day jobs, Paxson enjoys the diversity of activity.
"I still work full time at Ridgeline Energy [a company that develops and constructs wind and solar projects throughout the United States and Canada]," said the 28-year-old Paxson. "It's kind of a desk job."
"Thanks to them having a progressive view, I've been there for five years, and it's complimentary to my racing at this point. I don't think I'd change it. Each one can be a confidence booster if the other is lacking. I'm grateful for that."
Paxson had an excellent race at the US Cross Country Mountain Bike National Championships at Bear Creek Resort in Macungie, Pennsylvania last weekend. He finished in fourth place, his best nationals finish yet.
"It was awesome - it's good to be back on the east coast," said Paxson, who lives in Seattle and previously went to school at Middlebury College in Vermont. "I had to beat my seventh place streak of the last three years. My first goal was to improve."
"I've been gunning for this race all year, but those top three guys were in a league of their own today. I didn't have the best start, but I worked my way up from 11th. I knew these climbs were about finesse and power finesse, a little like cyclo-cross. You could pass on the climbs, and that's where I made my move each lap. I would accelerate on the steep, punchy parts and stay clean on the descents."
Leading up to the London Olympic Games in 2012, Paxson was a member of the long team and a long shot for making the US squad, but it gave him the opportunity to race around the globe. However, this year, he's scaled back the international campaign and is taking a more measured approach with a concentration on domestic events.
"I learned my limits with the London Campaign. I can say I was close, but there was no way I was going to make those two spots. It was cool to go to that level of sport."
"This year, I've been doing different things like stage races and not burning my matches on the World Cups," said Paxson. "Two weeks ago, I raced the BC Bike Race for the first time. It was a seven-day stage race for two to three hours per day. I got second and came off of that stronger than I started. I came off of it stronger than I started. I was feeling good coming into this race."
Paxson said he is not really doing the Pro XCT series. Instead he has been selecting events more relevant to his title sponsor Kona.
"It's been fun for me to do stage races this year. I flatted out of Sea Otter. I did Missoula. I won't be at Catamount, but will be at Crankworx and a Canada Cup. I probably won't go to Worlds this year. It's a big trip [to South Africa] - I've done it before."
"After 2010, I jumped quickly into the World Cup scene. I don't regret it - I learned a ton, but I definitely was drinking from the firehose right off the gun. I need to get more experience and build up if I'm ever going to go back to that. If a campaign for 2016 is in the works, this is my year to recharge."