Meet our Athlete Ambassadors—the Newest Members of our Riding for Focus Family!
Do you remember your first-ever bike ride? Did someone help you balance on two wheels or did you fly solo and learn on your own? We all learn to do things in a unique and special way in a style that reflects our talents and skills, willingness to test our limits or literally leap into unknown territory (you will read more about that on our home page!). But one thing we do know, is our new Athlete Ambassadors are each special in their own unique way and give beyond 100% to make their dreams come true. And now, they want to share that inner power to also help kids make their dreams come true whether those dreams are finessing their balance on the bike or learning to ride for the first time.
More than a dozen athletes are now on-board dedicating time and talent to mentor our Riding for Focus students. These riders will make visits to schools, write letters, post blog news and share their secrets on how to be the best they can be, on and off the bike—even when the trail gets rocky. Let’s start with one of them—Christopher Blevins, as it’s all in the family for the Blevins in hometown Durango, Colorado.
Durango is synonymous to mountain bikes —and when you think of pioneers in mountain biking world the first to take the world podium is Specialized champion Ned Overend, who just happens to live down the street from the Blevins Family. Ned became the first-ever cross-country world champion by winning the inaugural UCI Mountain Bike World Championship in 1990, was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1990 and into the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame in 2001.
Christopher is a student at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo but scored a 1st Place in U23 Cyclocross Nationals in 2018 and 2nd place in U23 World Championships. In addition to riding bikes, he loves music and considers himself a spoken word poet/rapper. Listen up here!
One of Christopher’s earliest memory on a bike is doing jumps off of a wooden plank with his sister in their driveway. Christopher’s sister, Kaylee, just so happens to also be a full-time staff researcher and marketing coordinator for The Specialized Foundation, and our teammate who pioneered the development of our Athlete Ambassador Program. So, did Ned inspire them to both ride? You betcha!
We sat down with Kaylee when she wasn’t out riding and asked a few questions…
How did you come up with the idea of the Riding for Focus Athlete Ambassador Program?
The inspiration for the Ambassador program really came from my own experiences growing up in the cycling world. I was lucky enough to grow up with a diverse group of role models in cycling, who not only provided me with perspective on racing and riding, but also with examples of how to be a good human. Consequently, I wanted to make sure our Riding for Focus kids have a similar experience – with individuals committed to first being good people, and then to being good bike riders. This also meant having a diverse group, with riders who have all had different experiences in the sport and in life, which will hopefully provide the kids with at least one athlete to which they can really relate.
Growing up in Durango, what inspired you to ride?
Durango is crazy about bikes. The town’s rich history of mountain biking and the legends who call it home, such as Ned Overend and Travis Brown, have given way to an extraordinary culture around getting kids on bikes and instilling a lifelong stoke for the sport. My brother and I both began mountain biking with Durango Devo, a developmental cycling program that has now grown to over 1000 local participants from kids on push bikes to high school students. I made most of my closest friends through the program, did my first wheelie on a Devo ride, and won my first mountain bike race in a Devo kit. On every Devo jersey you can find the letters “NFTF” which stand for Never Forget The Feeling. This motto fueled our love for riding bikes, and reminded us to never forget why we started riding and why we continue to ride. NFTF inspired me to start riding in fifth grade and continues to do so nearly 15 years later. Pretty powerful stuff.
How will these special athletes mentor the Riding for Focus students?
The ambassador program consists of a few different components. Primarily, our athletes will visit at least one school throughout the year to connect with Riding for Focus students face-to-face and teach them a thing or two about riding bikes – picture playing a game of foot down or a wheelie lesson. Additionally, we plan to have a few other events with the athletes at major cycling races throughout the year, such as at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, CA. Beyond that, athletes will post about exciting Foundation updates, and have a platform through The Specialized Foundation to share their cycling story and experiences with the next generation.
In interviewing all the athletes, was there a common thread among all of them?
Each conversation I had with our athletes made me more and more excited for the actual execution of this program. We talked about the exciting work of the Foundation, making cycling more accessible for children everywhere, and the power of bikes. It was very cool to hear each athlete’s personal connection to the sport. While each was unique, there was a common thread and mutual understanding of the particular joy that bikes have brought all of us. This was paired a deep drive to continue to provide this opportunity for more and more kids in the future. It was motivating, and we are so excited to get these athletes into our Riding for Focus schools to share this stoke.
Riding for Focus students + Riding for Focus Athlete Ambassadors = A perfect match up on the road, trail and now in the classroom.
We feel our Riding for Focus students each have the potential and untapped talent to focus on whatever goals they set both on and off the bike. We also know with the back-up and inspiration from our Athlete Ambassadors they have the chance to stand on their own podium too.
Now with our Athlete Ambassadors on board, they can inspire students to try new things, see the world in new ways beyond winning races and use pedal power to form strong bonds of friendship, camaraderie and a feeling of belonging to our Riding for Focus family!
Read more about each and every athlete ambassador on our Specialized Foundation webpage. Enjoy the ride!