At 21 years old, business administration junior Christopher Blevins has been called one of the most exciting prospects in competitive mountain biking. He took second in the 2018 under-23 cross-country race at the World Mountain Bike Championships, rides an average of 300 miles per week and will likely compete in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Performing at the highest level and being a full-time student is nothing new for Blevins.
Born in Durango, Colorado, Blevins grew up in a town where biking is as universal as playing football is in Texas. He began his journey at the age of five when his father saw an article in their local newspaper for a BMX track.
“He put me on the bike and sent me off,” Blevins said.
BMX became the center of Blevins’ world. He began to race competitively soon after, winning seven national age group titles by age 12.
Once Blevins turned 16, he began mixing in mountain biking and road cycling. Despite there being more money in road racing, Blevins decided to follow his heart and solely pursue mountain biking.
“Mountain biking is really more fun, and in my opinion, a better world and better atmosphere,” Blevins said.
Sponsored by Specialized — one of the world’s largest cycling brands — Blevins sets school aside each spring quarter to train, travel and compete in competitions across the country full time.
Blevins said he often heads back to his hometown to make use of it’s high elevation for training rides. As of May 17, Blevins is currently competing in the two-week-long Union Cycliste Internationale Mountain Bike World Cup held in the Czech Republic.
For training rides during the school year, however, it is not uncommon for Blevins to ride up Highway 1 to Big Sur and back on his road bike or to hit the slopes of Perfumo on his mountain bike.
In October 2019, Blevins will travel to Tokyo to race in the test event that will determine his qualification for the Olympics.
“I’m excited,” Blevins said. “It’s weird thinking nothing about me is going to change, I just might be going to the Olympics.”
Blevins is kind of a big deal in the biking community. At the 2019 Sea Otter Classic — one of the largest cycling events in the U.S. — not only did Blevins have a scheduled autograph signing, but it was not uncommon for a fan to spot him walking the fair grounds and ask for a photograph.
For Blevins’ friend mechanical engineering junior Thomas Smith who attended Sea Otter as a spectator, it was a new experience to see Blevins at a professional cycling event.
“It’s wild to see Chris, someone I see everyday and on a normal basis, treated like a celebrity,” Smith said. “At the same time it’s cool to know that those athletes that are treated with such reverence are actually just normal people … I would know, I know one!”
Blevins’ roommate, physics junior Anders Johnson, races cross country mountain bikes too.
“To have somebody that kind of ‘gets it’ with the training … you can help push each other through that [the training],” Johnson said.
Johnson said he most admires Blevins’ mental strength and ability to challenge himself.
“When it comes to race time, he knows that he can go out there … and fight for the win in most cases,” Johnson said.
Managing schoolwork and his sport comes rather naturally to him now, Blevins said. With a little professor-student negotiation, he said he has managed to make it work.
Blevins said he at times feels deprived of typical college experiences, like going surfing with friends or going out on the weekends.
“It’s the fomo [fear of missing out],” Blevins said.
Even so, Blevins said the fear of missing out would have been worse if he had gone to a prestigious cycling school. Choosing to attend Cal Poly instead has helped Blevins separate his educational experience from his professional career.
“I wanted to choose my college for my college and keep bike racing distinct from that,” Blevins said.
Time off the bike
Blevins said he believes his dedication and enthusiasm for the sport would not be there if he did not take time to actively pursue other passions.
“I’ve really tried to create balance and have interests outside of cycling and a life outside of my racing,” Blevins said.
Blevins said he is determined not to let his sport define who he is as a person. For some professional athletes, the sport can become all-consuming and completely strip away anything non-essential. Blevins said he prides himself on being an outlier.
When the helmet and riding gloves come off, Blevins spends his time writing music and spoken word poetry. During his freshman year, he made an album titled “Mile Markers” and recorded it in a studio in San Luis Obispo with a few of his close friends.
Blevins minors in sociology and has a strong passion for criminal justice, especially in the juvenile system. Working with the organization Restorative Partners, he volunteers at the Juvenile Hall in San Luis Obispo, helping kids learn how to read, write and play guitar and ping pong.
Blevins said he struggles with the idea that there are serious issues in the world that call for our time — to him, being a little bit better at cycling is not the most important by any means.
Blevins said being a professional athlete means you sometimes have to be selfish but that he tries to supplement that condition by using his platform to help others when he can. Using some of the salary he earns from Specialized, Blevins recently committed to sponsoring a child in the Dominican Republic to help with their scholastic needs.
“I don’t want to be a bike racer,” Blevins said. “I want to be a guy who races bikes.”
Caitlin Scott and Felix Castillo also contributed to this story.