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'All light and laughter' - Remembering Moriah Wilson

Moriah Wilson
Moriah Wilson (Image credit: Jake Orness/BelgianWaffleRide)

The cycling community has paid touching tribute to Moriah 'Mo' Wilson following the news of her death on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. She was 25 years old. 

Wilson was killed in a shooting in Austin, Texas, currently under investigation by Austin Police.

Wilson made a lasting impact on the cycling world as the fastest-rising star in gravel racing, not only for her mountain biking and gravel racing strengths but for her friendly and approachable personality.

She turned heads after finishing second at the Leadville 100 marathon mountain bike race last August and then went on to win Big Sugar Gravel last October. This year, Wilson opened her season with a series of outstanding victories at Grasshopper Adventure Series events Huffmaster Hopper and Lake Sonoma MTB, and she won Sea Otter Classic Fuego MTB 80K, where she took the first lead in the Life Time Grand Prix off-road series, before taking a victory at the Belgian Waffle Ride California.

The top gravel racer in the US, Wilson was the outright favourite for Gravel Locos held on Saturday in Hico, Texas, and at the upcoming Unbound Gravel on June 4 in Emporia, Kansas.

In one of her last published interviews - Getting to know Mo (opens in new tab) - Wilson spoke with Velonews journalist Betsy Welch about her upbringing and background in sport and her rise in mountain biking and gravel racing.

The daughter of Eric and Karen Wilson, she grew up in Vermont and followed in the footsteps of her family members that competed in world-class skiing and in mountain biking, and together with her family, she spent time cycling recreationally as well. 

Before her rise to stardom in off-road racing, Wilson was a competitive alpine and nordic skier, too, while attending Burke Mountain Academy and Dartmouth College in Vermont, taking after her father and aunt, who were professional alpine and nordic skiers, respectively. An ACL injury, in part, led to her taking up cycling on a more structured basis and as a cross-training activity for skiing. As a varsity skier until she graduated in 2019, her college noted that she also enjoyed cycling and playing the piano.

Following her move to the west coast in California, Wilson was an employee at Specialized, and was ready to progress to full-time racing in June ahead of Unbound Gravel.

Upon the tragic news of her death, the cycling community paid tribute to Wilson's life and expressed their condolences to her family, friends and loved ones. Her family - Eric, Karen and brother Matt Wilson - issued a statement expressing their unfathomable loss and asked to join in celebrating her life.

We thank everyone for their expression of love and support for us in this difficult time. While the tragic loss of Moriah is unfathomable, at the same time we want everyone to join us in celebrating her life, accomplishments, and love for others. Always pushing tirelessly to reach her goals, we knew she was pursuing that which she loved. We will miss her terribly and know that all mourn her with us.

We know that Moriah would want the event to carry on, for her compatriots to test their limits, as she would have been alongside her friends on the race course. We hope everyone feels her passion and support as they chase their own dreams. Her spirit will be there with you all, while training and on every race day.

Please do not reach out for interviews or comments for the rest of May. We are planning a celebration of life in June and will be forthcoming with details soon.

Cyclingnews would like to extend its condolences to Wilson's family and friends.

Rebecca Rusch, American ultra endurance pro athlete, seven-time world champion, and organiser of Rebecca's Private Idaho, said Wilson was full of light and laughter.

Moriah Wilson was all light and laughter. She was tragically and killed by homicidal gunshot a few days ago.

She was talented, intelligent, gentle, fast, focused and graceful. She had a poise and inner strength that is so rare in any human, especially one as young as 26.

There was a bubble of positivity and joy around her, and we all wanted to be in her bubble. Mo was a former elite alpine ski racer turned endurance cyclist and was on a beautiful trajectory not just to win races but to win and open hearts.She was connected to my community by ski racing families and then the bike racing family.

We finally met in person at RPI 2021 and I was pulled to her spirit and talent and purity. She literally spread joy in the wake of her humble and stunning athletic performances. At Sea Otter this year I got to spend a few precious minutes with her before and after her winning ride there. Just sitting in chairs at the Skratch booth, two women who admired each other. I was flattered when she asked to interview me for her blog. I knew I wanted to spend more time in her bubble of light.

I wanted to be part of her support network because of all the good I could tell she was spreading around the world. We never got the chance to do that interview or for me to ride with her in Idaho. We had been texting about her not really having a home and traveling for racing as I did. My home and heart were open to this special human. Her tragic death due to gun violence is stunning and unfair. We are all grieving the loss of her bright light and laughter.

Now, what we must do is take her light, absorb it into ourselves and shine it on others as brightly as she did. This beautiful soul was teaching us to be good, and she still is.

The Meteor Cafe - One of Wilson's off-road sponsors paid tribute.

We are heartbroken at the passing of @mo__wilson. A shining light in the cycling community, unparalleled bike racer, and most of all, friend.

The English language lacks the words to express this loss.

Life Time Grand Prix - Wilson was leading the overall series for the inaugural off road event was was preparing for the second round at Unbound Gravel in June.

We are so deeply saddened by the unfortunate tragedy that the community has experienced, in the passing of American sensation Moriah Wilson.

Over the last year Mo rose to the top of off-road cycling, becoming undoubtedly the leader and face of the American racing scene. In 2021 she was 2nd in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB followed by 1st at Big Sugar Gravel. Just last month she won the Fuego 80k at the Sea Otter Classic, placing her first in our Life Time Grand Prix rankings leading into UNBOUND Gravel, amidst a slew of other top finishes around the country this year.

Moriah was a gracious, sweet soul, perfectly complemented by a fierce and dominant competitive spirit. Truly a one-of-a-kind cyclist and human being.

We are thinking of her family and friends during this time and send our hearts out to the entire cycling community.

The gravel cycling community united at the start of Gravel Locos on Saturday for a moment of silence and to reflect on Wilson's life. 

Winner of the men's race, Dutch rider Jasper Ockeloen, paid his tribute to Wilson in a post on Instagram after the event.

Sometimes things happen that put everything in perspective. Last week, news got through that gravel star Moriah Wilson has been shot in Austin. She was supposed to be in today's @gravellocos.

Even though I didn't personally know Mo, I was shocked. The ceremony this morning before the start was emotional. It made me realize how important it is to enjoy and give love to the people you love every day.

During the race I forgot the emotions and got sucked into the race and the battle for the win. I felt strong but didn't expect to reach the finish as first solo. It was then that I realized that a normal victory salute was inappropriate on a day like this. I then decided to take off my helmet and pointed upwards.

Condolences to all friends, family and loved ones with this immense loss. We did what Mo wanted today. We raced are hearts out.

Peter Stetina said Wilson made every one a better person.

Mo. She made everyone better, everyone try a bit more. I feel we were all watching her star ascend from this goofy side of our sport to the loftiest of heights. And we were all proud of her.

I hope her family knows how much she meant to so many. She had that special sauce, that you knew was rarer than rare, that would be something spectacular, and everyone knew it. She was just getting started. #RIPmo

Stetina was also at the Gravel Locos event and described the moment an emotional moment of silence for every one on the start line, but said the physical effort of doing the race was 'cathartic' and the company 'therapeutic'.

Despite the dark cloud we started under, @gravellocos was such a joy and pleasure to race. We started with a moment of silence, and a speech where I, and many, freggin lost it 😭. A lot of us struggled to put effort into pedals. But the physical suffering became cathartic and the company was theraputic. In the end the hot, dusty conditions was the real battle, and it was a tactical battle of nonstop attacks from many until the sprint finish. The dutch mafia continues their success here in TX. I left it all out on the course trying to break the final selection further, I raced with heart and soul and friends and finished the race feeling fulfilled. Hico, Thanks for the amazing hospitality, I’ll be back!

Amanda Nauman - Two-time winner of Unbound Gravel.

Thinking of Mo on today’s ride. May we always live life to the fullest, as she did so effortlessly. 💛 #RideLikeMo

Lauren De Crescenzo, winner of Unbound Gravel, said Wilson was a fierce competitor, and always kind, humble and nice to be around.

Dear Mo, I wish I had gotten to know you better off the bike. We only spoke a few times, but you were always kind, humble and nice to be around. I knew you as a fierce competitor on the bike, always pushing our sport to new heights. Thank you for pushing us all to be better. I’ve had the deepest admiration for you this season. Like so many others, I’m sad that we won’t be able to line up together anymore. My heart goes out to your family and friends for this unfathomable loss. Know that you are loved by the gravel community.
RIP Mo❤️🕊

Ted King, former pro road racer and gravel contender, also from Vermont, said Wilson's death was an immeasurable heartbreak.

It’s impossible to absorb the news of the past few days. Immeasurable heartbreak with glimmers of happiness having had the privilege to get to know Mo. She’s already stamped her name on the sport but I feel like I’ve spent the past two months bragging about meeting her, telling people about how high her career will go, and that she’s from Vermont. Rest in peace Mo.

Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.