In just a matter of days, cyclists will be flooding the streets of downtown Knoxville for USA Cycling’s championships. These athletes are preparing up until the very last minute, gearing up for the big race. There are only a handful of East Tennessee riders this year and they, more than anything, want to make their hometown proud.
Stephen Bassett, 23, knows what it takes to cross a finish line and now he’s pedaling toward another race – this time in the place he was born and raised.
It’s been a lot of training, a lot of getting ready to race, a bunch of travel, and a lot of juggling school,” Bassett said.
Bassett always knew he wanted to become a cyclist – and at the age of 18 – he became a professional.
My mom recently found this journal that I wrote in seventh grade and it asked, ‘what do you want to do?’ And I said I want to live in a house and be pro rider,” Bassett said. “I don’t think many people can plan out their life ten years in advance and end up doing exactly what they wanted to do.”
Bassett has now completed an impressive 500 races. Last year, he placed in the top 20 in the USA cycling championships.
Bassett: it was a great time last year. But since then, his career took a turn when he came down with injury that temporarily took him off the bicycle.
“There were three or four months where I really wasn’t sure if I was ever able to be a bike rider anymore, so that was really stressful,” Bassett said.
The sport that became part of his identity was almost ripped away. But after multiple surgeries and six months of healing, Bassett got back on the bike.
“Ipretty much wrote off the whole year in my mind, because it was too much of a stress to wake up and say, ‘Can I ride the bike today?’ So anything I can do this year is like a bonus; a really nice surprise,” Bassett said.
This year’s USA Cycling race marks the first competition since his injury.
And he couldn’t be more thrilled to continue the sport he loves, in the city he calls home.
Because of his injury, Bassett said he doesn’t have big expectations for this year’s race. He says he just wants to do his best and have a little fun with it.