Reading, Writing & Professional Riding Cole Paton mixes college and pro cycling
written by Sheila G. Miller | photography by Cameron Baird
Most 20-year-olds spend the summer between their sophomore and junior years of college slinging beers at a bar, perhaps photocopying endless packets at an internship. Then there’s Cole Paton, a professional mountain biker from Cashmere, Washington, who will spend his summer traveling the world with his team, the Giant Factory Off-Road Team.
So, not your average 20-year-old. Take heart, at least, that he’s the youngest guy on the team and one of two rookies (the other is his college teammate, Stephan Davoust, 23). In contrast, Giant’s third cross-country pro is a 43-year-old who has been biking professionally almost as long as Paton has been alive. Paton came to cycling in about the most natural way possible. His family owns Arlberg Sports, a bike shop with locations in Wenatchee and Leavenworth. “I was kind of always the little shop boy riding around chasing everyone,” he said. “My dad took me to a few of these local races around here, and I just fell in love.” In high school, Paton ran cross country competitively for a few years. “But then I decided that riding bikes is a lot more fun, so I made the switch over my sophomore year,” he said. “I started following the Pro XCT circuit and there’s been no looking back since.”
Being on Giant’s factory team has helped Paton’s racing. “Giant is helping me get to a lot more races, and then we have factory team support at every race, mechanics and all the equipment and stuff we would need,” he said. “It’s just a lot more support from the team and the company, which is really nice and allows a lot more doors to be opened.” But just because he’s a bike wunderkind doesn’t mean he wanted to skip straight to life as a professional racer. He is currently studying at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. “I wanted to go to school, just because education is really important to me,” Paton said. “But I also wanted to go to a place that would allow me to continue cycling and bring me to another level. The only school I really could find that would really fit that was Fort Lewis, and I couldn’t be happier with that choice.” Fort Lewis College has a very active cycling program—more than 100 riders, including his Giant teammate Davoust. Plus, the season is from September to November, after he’s finished riding for Giant each year.
“It’s pure collegiate racing,” he said. During the winter and early spring, Paton gets ready for the racing season with “more hours than intensity.” He also spends a lot more time in the gym working on strength. “I spend a lot more time putting myself under,” he said. Once the pro season starts, he averages about sixteen hours a week on the bike, but with more intensity. For the not so important races, Paton continues to train through them and use them as workouts. For more important races, the team tapers its training for several weeks. During the season, Paton visits the gym once or twice to do maintenance strength work. Depending on his workout, Paton changes his diet. If he does a hard ride, he eats plenty of carbs. If he’s taking it easy, it’s about healthy protein and fats. More than anything, he’s hungry all the time. “I cannot get enough food in,” he said, laughing. “I eat so much.
That’s a main thing that concerns my coach, eating enough. I try to do that with healthy carbs and all that, but I’m taking in, like, 5,000 or 6,000 calories a day. I’m still growing. It’s a real pain (to eat so much), but it works.” That’s made a bit more challenging with the beer-and-pizza ethos of college. “It’s nice because I’m not in the dorms anymore,” Paton said. “ That was impossible. But being able to cook what I want to cook is a lot better.” Paton is currently targeting the U23 U.S. national championships as his goal race this year. He’ll also compete in August in the Mont-Sainte-Anne Mountain Bike World Cup event in Canada, and in May he raced in Germany and Czech Republic in another world cup race. Long term, Paton has his eyes set on the Olympics—likely 2024, but he’s going to give 2020 a shot. Short term, he would like to win a national championship. “It’s been awesome to ride with Giant, and the team is a great environment,” he said. “I want to just keep having fun and riding bikes.”