By Peter Hymas
People who earn a living as a professional cyclist or who've attained a Ph.D. in high-energy particle physics find themselves in rather elite company. When one combines the two disparate realms, the already rarified population makes a dramatic reduction to one uniquely talented individual: 32-year-old Reid Mumford of the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Kelly Benefit Strategies professional cycling team.
The Utah native, who's raced professionally for three years, all with Kelly Benefit Strategies, came to the sport relatively late, at the same time he was pursuing his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University.
"I've always been riding a lot, but I didn't start racing until 2000 when I started my Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore," said Mumford to Cyclingnews. "I started racing collegiate with those guys and kind of got hooked then. I just trained a bunch and got on better teams. I never really thought it would be a career, but then as it progressed it was always a dream."
From 2002 to 2008 Mumford lived in Chicago, conducting research at the Fermilab's particle accelerator, and gaining prowess on the bicycle as well. Mumford's riding caught the attention of Jonas Carney, team manager of the Kelly Benefit Strategies team, who was building a roster of riders for the team's first professional season in 2007.
"I chatted with Jonas Carney a bit at Superweek, so I guess he saw what I was capable of," said Mumford. "He really wanted me on the squad and he gave me a chance."
Carney speaks highly of what Mumford means to the team, and why he's one of three riders to be on the squad for all three years of its existence.
"Reid Mumford is one of the backbones of the team, someone who does all the hard work." said Carney. "Mumford is a guy that if you look at his resume you might not be super-impressed, but I know what he does for the team. He's not replaceable."
While racing as a professional, Mumford was still working to wrap up his Ph.D., helped by an understanding thesis advisor.
"I told him I had a chance to ride professionally but he didn't understand [laughs]. It was a very awkward conversation, but he was cool. He said, 'Well, I think we can make this work.' He was really patient and helped a lot get it done," said Mumford.
"I always thought I was a year away from graduating," continued Mumford. "When I first signed I told Jonas I should be done by the middle of the summer [in 2007]. Then the next summer it was the same thing. But when Magnus came I realized I really had to finish this. I went and defended my thesis and everything was mostly wrapped up before he was born."
Reid's wife Jenny gave birth to their son Magnus two days after the 2008 US Professional Criterium Championships.
"Jenny was in labour at US Pro Crit. I was racing and then we were at the after party and we had to leave early because the contractions were starting," said Mumford.
The 2009 season is Mumford's first that he can devote himself solely to training and competing as a professional. He and his family currently reside in an RV which they'll drive to the races.
"We bought the trailer so we could travel and just focus on the racing and see exactly what happens," said Mumford. "I don't have any plans for physics and there's no definite plan for riding. I'd like to ride as long as I can and I'm really excited to race this year. I'll just focus on it 100% and put my whole energy into it to see if it makes a difference."