Durango, Colorado based under 23 mountain bike pro Payson McElveen announced today that he will be racing the 2014 season under his own privateer program with title sponsor Richard's Rainwater. After a tumultuous off-season in the US mountain bike industry, during which several teams folded and some riders were left looking for new homes, the young American pro made the decision to go it alone and build a program from the ground up.
With support from 15 different sponsors, McElveen will target the seven-round US Pro XCT series, as well as select World Cups and other international events. Normally a student at Fort Lewis College, he is taking the 2014 spring semester off to focus on training and racing.
McElveen logged 16 race wins in 2013, multiple top 15 finishes in the Pro XCT and a 14th in the elite short track mountain bike nationals. He previously raced for the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory development team, but the squad has discontinued its pro sponsorship and refocused on its Durango Devo 19 and under junior riders.
"A lot of us U23 riders have had pretty good setups, but have had to reshuffle this year," McElveen told Cyclingnews. "The Rocky Mountain Chocolate program was a good program, supporting six pros."
"I don't get frustrated by companies who step back and allocate their funding otherwise," he said. "We should be thankful for the years they do support the sport. As sponsors step back their funding or get out of cycling, other companies always step back in. In talking to people, it seems like mountain biking has its ups and downs, and it's something of a cyclical thing."
The 20-year-old has been steadily climbing the ranks since joining the pro field in 2012.
In 2014, McElveen is aiming for a high overall series ranking and working closer to the goal of being a Pro XCT podium contender.
"I feel so lucky to have the support of such an all-star line up of sponsors," said McElveen. "Having the freedom to reach out to companies I want to partner with and promote is a dream come true. This program has already exceeded my expectations, and I'm looking forward to an awesome year."
Title sponsor Richard's Rainwater in McElveen's privateer program is joined by other key financial sponsors: Orange Seal Cycling, Central Texas Machining and Ames & Weinheimer LLC. McElveen will race Specialized bikes.
"Payson is everything we want our bottled rainwaters to be: original, honest, and winning," said Richard's Rainwater owner Richard Heinichen. "Who would've thought promoting our products could be so fun and rewarding? We get to root for our ad."
Specialized's Ned Overend said, "Specialized and Mountain Bike Specialists are excited to be part of team McElveen. Payson is a great role model for young mountain bike racers!"