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From desk jockey to pro cyclist!

Last month, João Correia, a 34 year-old cyclist and ex-business man, was putting on the Cervélo TestTeam kit and starting in his first professional race in Europe, Etoile de Besseges. Just a few months ago he was running a sales meeting in New York City.

schermata-2010-02-25-a-174439When I started my job as Bicycling’s associate publisher in 2004, I had already spent years selling Italian fashion accounts for the men’s magazine Esquire. As a kid, I had qualified for the junior world championships, and I had raced in Europe into my twenties. Now, I was getting dropped on the lunch ride, I looked like somebody’s idea of a prank with my 205 pounds.

In 2006, I set myself the audacious goal of competing in the time-trial national championship of my native country, Portugal, without being embarrassed. I finished twelfth in the TT in 2007. I kept riding — though now I thought of it as training — and the next year I was offered a chance to join the domestic American race team Bissell Pro Cycling. Late last year, the founder of the Cervelo team, Gerard Vroomen, asked me if I wanted to ride for him.

So 14 years after I stopped racing, and 60 pounds lighter than my peak weight, I find myself on the same team as Carlos Sastre, Thor Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler. I can’t adequately explain how odd it is to up-end your life the way I have, or how it feels to take the risk of leaving the solid career I’d built for the uncertain life of being a neo-pro at an age when many around me are considering retirement.

Today is the day, the first race of the season on my calendar, Etoile de Besseges. Let’s see how this season goes. As you can see I have a pretty good schedule and I’m looking forward to do these races — but for now I’m just going to enjoy the crazy ride.

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