"Who is that guy?" asked many last weekend at the US Mountain Bike Nationals whenever Spencer Paxson (Team S&M Young Guns) rode past.
"I've been racing for a long time and nobody really knows what I am," said the 25-year-old Paxson, who lives in Seattle, Washington.
Paxson had his best race ever in the elite men's cross country national championship race, in which he finished seventh. For much of the race, he was battling for the final podium spot with Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale); however, a charging Peter Stetina (Tokyo Joes / Garmin Transitions) passed them both on the final lap.
"This is the best performance of my career, definitely," said Paxson. "I raced the US Pro XCT finals in Colorado Springs the previous weekend and had a good rhythm. I tried to repeat everything today, but a little more aggressively. I was super motivated because it was nationals and I felt great."
Paxson rides for Team S&M Young Guns, a team out of Portland, Oregon, backed by the bike shop of pro racer Eric Tonkin.
"He's taken some riders under his wing," said Paxson of Tonkin.
Paxson has an unusual set of goals for a top elite men's cross country racer at nationals, where most top finishers are full-time racers. "My goal was to keep my job and race and be competitive." He works full time for a wind energy development company, Ridgeline Energy.
Next up for the promising rider, who finished eighth overall in the US Pro XCT, is the Windham World Cup in New York in August.
"I'm on the bubble for the worlds in Mont Sainte Anne. I turned in my petition, and if I make it in, that'll be good. If not, it's been a great season, and this has got me motivated for next year."
Perhaps Paxson will have to submit an amendment to his petition to race worlds - one with his new career-best result.