Written and photographed by Emily Maye.1 The first in a series of essays about Josey.
Josey Weik is a sixteen year old, only child, home schooled pig-farmer from Duluth, Minnesota.
During the Junior’s race in Diegem2 , I found myself in the back part of the course by an incredibly long sand pit. The top 3 Juniors went through, and most rode the sand reasonably well for 3/4 or so of the way. No one after that stayed on the bike. The Juniors ride the exact same course as the Elite Men, and sometimes watching them puts into perspective what the top pros do so well. As I watched Junior after Junior get off their bike, sling it over their shoulder and run through the sand, one kid rode the whole thing. He was probably in 40th or 50th place, but from start to finish, this small rider rode the entire sandpit at Diegem. You could see the crowd of Belgian fans lined against the barriers watch him go across, almost in slow motion.
He's professional, dedicated, freakishly focused, and committed to the road ahead.
I wanted to talk to Josey. I was interested in the steps it takes to go from Junior to U23 to Elite and the discipline and calculation required to go all the way. I wanted to find out what cycling means to his life and how he goes about training at such a young age. I sat down with him and his family at the Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky and there I was faced with a 16 year old kid whose dedication to cycling was total. His life is centered around a singular ambition: to be a professional cyclist. He's well spoken, well educated in the history of cycling, and dedicated to a future in the sport. He trains every day, often in temperatures that a professional would not even entertain, and his family supports him categorically in his ambition to use his body as his instrument in professional sport. Yet he's so young. Questions of burnout arise when talking about a young, dedicated individual, and there are no guarantees that all of his work will pay off in a professional contract. But Josey also really loves to ride a bike and always has. It's an attribute you often find with established professional cyclists. If you don't really love it, the competition is too fierce and the demands too tough to continue on that path. Josey's world is cycling, and that might be exactly what's required to make it.3
"I have 100% known that I want to be a professional bike racer since I was six. I just knew as a kid. It was like I was smarter then than I am now. I just knew. My dad used to be a cyclist in college and was into skiing and kayaking. I was watching the Tour de France one day and I don’t know why I said it, but I just said to him, 'This is what I want to do, Dad.' I could not even ride a bike. It took me a really long time to get off of training wheels, but as soon as I did I was making little jumps in the back yard and hitting them and trying to ride across suspended 2x4s. Dad used to have a landscaping company and we had a skid-loader and he created this pump track for me.
"I was 7 when I did my first mountain bike race and I was about 3 feet tall. It was an adventure. I’ve always been really competitive. It was in Phillips, Wisconsin. It was kind of a sucky race actually, but I had fun. I would not have started any other way than I did. I just used to go out on my mountain bike and ride things over and over until I could ride them cleanly. I can’t even describe how valuable that was for me. I was always small and young and out of my league but my bike handling skills helped me to be confident and one with the bike in a race."
I want to win the Tour de France. To be honest it’s always been my dream. It’s kind of a cliché dream, but I want to win the Tour.
- Additional photographs by the Weik family. Obviously. [↩]
- I first noticed Josey when I was in Belgium covering cyclocross. The American kids were over in Europe during Christmas and New Years for the Euro Cross Camp run by Geoff Proctor; the camp gives young riders a taste of what it’s like to race in Europe. Alumni from the Euro Cross Camp include Zach McDonald, Danny Summerhill, Joe Dombrowski, Gavin Mannion, Jeremy Powers, Ryan Trebon, Jamey Driscoll, Jesse Anthony and Alex Howes. Josey is the youngest rider ever to be selected for Euro Cross Camp, as his birthday falls late into December and at fifteen years old, he got on a plane to Belgium to check out the cross scene. [↩]
- FTR #31: DON'T HALF-ASS IT [↩]