The name Josh Berry is one that I’ve heard for a while now, but it took until exactly one year ago to finally meet him. We met while I was passing UnTapped maple waffles to his then teammate, New Englander Ben Wolfe as the two of them were rolling to the start of stage three of the 2017 Tour of California. Five days later we would meet and chat again on the start line of Belgian Waffle Ride, Josh as the reigning champ.
We’re currently wrapping up an incredible few days at the Velocio Athlete Summit West in Mammoth Lakes, CA where the two of us got to hang out, ride, eat, drink, toast a tasty libation or three. Although young, 27, people have a gravitation towards Josh; he’s seen one heck of a lot in this world and has some worldly knowledge to share. He’s been through the bike racing ringer and with an ear to ear smile exuded happiness. Ladies and gents, Ted’s Talk.
Tell me your name and where you’re from, please?
Joshua Berry from Ketchum, Idaho. I cruise through Tucson, AZ now and again too.
American cyclists rarely have an early and direct path to the bike. How did you find cycling?
I effectively moved out at the age of 15. I graduated high school while living at my best friend’s house. A neighbor saw me all the time tearing up and down the street on a BMX bike and knew things weren’t great at home so one day I came home from school and there was a mountain bike waiting for me.
That’s incredible. At that age, you could just as easily been nonplussed, ridden it for a week and never touched it again. You obviously took to it though…
For sure. Growing up in Sun Valley, having companies like Smith and Scott based in town was helpful. They’d host races and bring their top pros in. That first year with the mountain bike from my neighbor, I smashed the first race well enough to catch the attention of the junior team developer and get the support from those companies.
Luck is such a huge part of the sport. But sometimes you also have to create you own. That’s awesome those folks took you under their wing.
Absolutely. It’s was really valuable having those positive male role models.
You basically dove into cycling full time after that. The U-23 national team in Belgium, then Chipotle, Slipstream’s development team, then La Pomme, one of the best programs in France, then three years with Jelly Belly. That’ll take you far and wide. Name the five craziest places you’ve raced your bike.
Belgium, Kazakstan, Tibetan Plateau, Hong Kong, and… Belgium
The standard cyclist’s injury is a broken collarbone. Meanwhile you skipped that and have a list of more atypical injuries. It’s a brutal sport; care to tick off some of your setbacks?
I sliced through a patella tendon, cracked a sternum, and had external iliac endofibrosis. I’ve also been run over by a car three times.
Sheesh. As you know a cyclist’s emotions can be fickle. When things are good, a cyclist is flying. When they’re bad, they’re in a negative tailspin. So despite those setbacks, I’m blown away by your positivity! Seriously, it’s infectious. Where’d that come from?
When I moved out, positive things just started happening. I accept the bad, as is, and believe new fortune will follow.
Third place at espoir Liege-Bastogne-Liege is when I heard your name for the first time. Then with some bleached blond locks, you took home the victory in the 2016 Belgian Waffle Ride to much fanfare. You and I met for the first time at the 2017 Belgian Waffle Ride. Question: would you consider wrapping up a really hard 2017 Tour of California literally the day before BWR the ideal preparation for such a ridiculously long, hard, hot undertaking?
I’d call it as perfect as the Trump administration.
So you raced mountain bikes, had a career in professional road racing, planted your name on the winner’s circle of one of the biggest gravel races ever, and now are racing mountain bikes again. In this spirit of cycles, where do you see the general sport of cycling — road, mountain, mixed-terrain — going in the future?
Epic Rides and the BWR are setting the benchmark for successful events. There’s a party involved at the rides and races that’ll flourish.