Bikeculture

MEET RBA'S RESIDENT PRO: NEIL SHIRLEY

RBA: Hey, how about a quick rundown on your race record?

Neil: I've been a team leader with Kelly Benefit Strategies for the past two seasons and have contributed to numerous National and International race wins. Before that I spent three seasons with Jittery Joes. My racing career has taken me to Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.

RBA: What made you decide to quit racing?

Neil: My wife and 3-year-old daughter are by far the most important things in the world to me. After being out of town for two or three weeks at a time, I would come home and realize how much my daughter had changed and how much I was missing. While part of me wanted to take the contract Kelly Benefit Strategies offered to me and race another year, I knew deep down inside that it was time to be done. It was a hard decision to make when racing professionally has been such a huge part of my life for over a decade but I don't have any regrets in my decision to retire.

RBA: What is your biggest relief to not race anymore? Biggest fear?

Neil: My biggest relief is not having to live my life around my bike anymore. The sport can be very consuming and becomes a complete lifestyle that isn't always the most balanced. I am enjoying riding my bike entirely for the fun of it again, not because I feel I have to. It's nice to know I can have a couple of beers or a pint of Ben and Jerry's without feeling any guilt about it. I can take my daughter to the zoo and walk around all day without being worried that I need to save my legs for the next day's ride. It's definitely been a weight lifted off my shoulders.

The biggest fear I have is the transition from the pro lifestyle to "the real world." I've heard so many stories about professional athletes suffering from depression and having a really tough time letting go of their careers. Fortunately, I have a good support network around me with my family. One of the things that will make the transition much easier will be working at Road Bike Action. The sport of cycling is my passion and the magazine will allow me to continue being a part of the bike culture and industry.

RBA: What do most pro riders think about working the 9-5 world?

Neil: It was always a bit of a joke with us, no matter how bad the race went or how tough the conditions might have been we always liked to tell ourselves that it's still better than a 9-5. I think that most of the pro's realize how fortunate they are to make a living riding their bikes and traveling to some cool places on someone else's dime. In the past couple of years I've been thinking that a 9-5 might not be such a terrible thing. For the past 17 years all I've really done is race my bike so I'm excited about doing something different even if it is the dreaded 9-5.1 am very fortunate that I will go from living my dream racing as a pro to transitioning straight into the best post racing career I could imagine, as an editor at Road Bike Action. Besides, maybe Zap will let me work 8-4!

RBA: What's the best tip you would have for up-and-comers?

Neil: Be patient! It takes a long time to develop into a professional athlete and even longer to move up through the pro ranks. I was so passionate about racing and training that patience wasn't an issue for me, but through the years I have seen a lot of talented young riders give up because they felt it was taking too long to get the results they expected. If you're patient, dedicated, and have a strong work ethic you can take cycling just about as far as you want.

SIXTY SIX | FORTY SIX | THIRTY TWO

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Official Wheel Supplier of Ag2r-La Mondiale Photo: Nicolas Roche by Bettini

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