Words and photographs by Emily Maye. The first in a series about Reed.
Reed McCalvin takes care of and prepares the young riders of the Bontrager Pro Cycling Team as they make the transition from U23 to World Tour. We've referenced Reed before because he’s had insight in regards to both Alex Howes and Jasper Stuyven, and because he’s influenced and impacted the Development of many young American riders in their formative years.
Reed has a boisterous personality, a penchant for storytelling and a genuine love of cycling that doesn’t gloss over the rough areas of the sport. While many of his insights may be delivered in the form of a joke or humorous anecdote, they always contain in them some truth that helps to educate the young riders on what they might expect as they make the jump to the next professional level.
Before Reed began working in cycling, he was in the military.1
This was the place where I learned to be me. Learned what hard work, suffering, camaraderie, and dedication truly meant. I love this time in my life as much as I love my time with the various incarnations of the Bontrager team. I went from a kid in a town of 4,000 to jumping out of airplanes and standing beside the mass grave at Srebrenica in less than 18 months. I grew up fast.
Reed is always willing to help get something done or use his connections to aid a rider or staff member in need. He’s incredibly generous and gracious with his time and resources and, because of that, he gains dedication and trust in those that have worked with him. I talked to Reed about his path from growing up in a small Olympic town to Soigneur.
Open image in new window to view full-size. Reed is in the second row to the top, fifth from left.
FROM THE MILITARY TO CYCLING
"I’ve always been sort of contrary. I grew up purposefully not liking stuff other people like. In upstate NY, I was in an Olympic Town and there you have more access to unusual sports. Football... Baseball... that was like watching paint dry to me. I had some friends that started road racing and I bought Greg Lemond’s training book and started training Greg Lemond style. There was this passion in Road Racing I attached to. I started reading more and more. I went to worlds in ’93 in Oslo. Lance won and Thor won the U23 race.
"Then I went to the military. I was this crazy obsessed guy. It was pre-internet. The only way to get information on what was happening was through magazines. Liège–Bastogne–Liège would happen and I’d be like “Great, in 22 days I’ll find out who won.” I’d wake up April 7th and be like “Holy Shit, It’s Flanders!” and then remember that I wouldn’t actually find out who won until June or something.
I would obsessively bring magazines to the field with me when we’d go on these long training exercises. The other guys would pull out cigarettes and porn and I would pull out VeloNews and CycleSport and just sit there and read and re-read.
"I knew I was probably getting out of the military. I had been injured a few times and I had been to a bunch of schools and my career could have gone one of two ways. I could have stayed conventional military and hated almost every minute of it or I could have gone special operations and probably loved it. I had been picked for 18 Delta, Special Operations Medic. I had been through EMT and Parametric School at the military but it is a complicated road to get classified properly for special operations. I was getting more and more into cycling but I knew I was mechanically declined. You could give me a Tour de France winning bike and I could break it inside of 30 second without even trying."
After the Army, I moved to Boulder Colorado because that’s where the cyclists were and I knew I wanted to work in cycling. I went to the 7-11 around the corner and got a job. I lived alone. I had never lived alone in my life. Then I got a job as a security guard with my military background. I became head of security and then eventually started my own small business. I would test out other people’s security. I spent a lot of time breaking into places and stealing things. It was great. I had a really cool job there. I had contracts with dozens of places all over the area.
I would walk into an Old Navy wearing a bright red shirt and blue pants and a baseball hat and ask someone if they could help me. Then I’d come back a few minutes later in camo pants, an orange shirt and no hat. They usually wouldn’t know the difference. My job was to see how long I could do that before they noticed that I was wearing different things and/or was stealing clothes. They usually didn’t notice. I’d break into factories and set off an alarm and see if people conducted a proper security check. I’d take pictures of things, wander around and into the CEO’s office. I’d take pictures of his desk and find his passwords. People always looked so surprised by what I was able to steal or where and what I was able to get into.
But I was in massage school that whole time and cycling came calling. That’s where I wanted to be. I got into it wanting to go to the top. Everyone wants to do the Tour and Roubaix. But the longer I was in the sport the more I became a little disenfranchised with it. Attitudes and Egos and Politics.
Instead of being the #1 guy, I found myself wanting wanting to be involved in Development. And that’s where I’ve stayed.
- Now that you ask, I realize I have almost zero pictures of my whole entire life and it's crushing me. I was never really into having them; always liked taking the pictures so I didn't have to be in them. Now that I am contemplating having a family it is weird to think I can successfully document every second of my child's life with pictures, video, tweets, and whatnot but I have like 8 pics of my own life over the last 37 years. Got one today from a friend from Ranger school graduation. I am 2nd row from the top about five in. With the BG (Birth control) glasses on. This picture is taken after the final 12 mile road march you have to do to graduate. I sprained my ankle and kept going because if you don't you have to do the entire phase again. I got stung in the mouth by a wasp when I fell in a wasp nest and that's why my face is so puffy. I weighed about 157 lbs by the end of Ranger school. 63 days plus a 5day zero week plus 3 weeks of pre-ranger prep before this. Went from 189 to the 157. I was fuuuuucked. We all were. Now if only I had the pics of me riding my Big Wheel with my Reed license plate on it when I was three.—Reed [↩]