By Brandon Penny | Sept. 24, 2015, 8:03 p.m. (ET)


Lucas Euser’s cycling career began on a BMX bike his dad pulled out of a dumpster when he was 7.

Fast forward 23 years and that rusted, discarded bike led to the Olympic hopeful road cyclist winning one of the highest honors granted by the United States Olympic Committee, the 2014 Jack Kelly Fair Play Award presented by BP.

It was the culmination of a cycling career that can best be characterized by Euser’s sportsmanship, fair play and respect for others.

“Winning the Jack Kelly Fair Play Award last year was the pinnacle of my career,” Euser recently told TeamUSA.org. “It defines who I was as an athlete and who I’ve become as a human being. As someone who, his entire career, looked after others and tried to be a true competitor in the sense of the integrity of the sport, it was an honor to be recognized for that.”

On Friday, the USOC will present the award to its next recipients – archers Miles Gould and Trey McDonald – at the 2015 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Assembly in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Euser’s message to the two teens is to recognize that they earned the honor and were selected out of countless worthy candidates for their commendable actions.

One year removed from receiving the Jack Kelly Fair Play Award himself, Euser was eager to talk about how it changed his life and reflect on the moment that earned him the award.

When competing for a national title at the 2014 USA Cycling Professional Road National Championships in May 2014, Euser and teammate Taylor Phinney were preparing to make a sharp left-hand turn when a race official on a motorcycle crossed the road in an attempt to create a clean line for the riders.

Phinney and the motorcyclist crashed. Euser managed to take an outside line and lay his bike down before crashing into a cement barrier. He walked away relatively unscathed and turned his attention toward Phinney, who lay underneath a guardrail on the opposite side of the road.

Rather than returning to the race, Euser comforted his friend until medical assistance arrived. Phinney suffered a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula, and ruptured his patella tendon. He returned to competition last month and, earlier this week, finished 12th at the world championships.

Euser’s action was one he calls an “instinctual reaction,” rather than a decision.

“I never thought, ‘I’m going to get back in this race, I’m going to keep going,’” Euser said. “It was always an action to be with Taylor. In that time of crisis, my intuitive reaction was to be there. For me, that means that my whole life I’ve been trained to do that.

“That’s what I’m most proud of – it was something instinctual. And I can only hope that for the rest of my life, my instinctual reaction is to help others.”


Fans support Lucas Euser as he races in the individual time trial during stage six of the 2014 USA Pro Challenge on Aug. 23, 2014 in Vail, Colo.

Euser credits his instincts to the community he was raised in. Since the days of his dad pushing him down a hill – without training wheels – until he learned to balance and stop crashing, Euser says the cycling community has shaped the person he has become.

He grew up racing on a local BMX track in Napa, California, and switched to mountain bike at 13. It wasn’t until college that he chose to focus on road cycling and turn pro.

Euser was brought up in the sport by community organizations, including Napa Valley Velo and the NorCal High School Cycling League.

“There was always somebody there to push you to be a better athlete and a better person,” he recalled. “These community efforts that are out there, they’re some of the most important things in sports. … You have to bring a community together to support the growth of our youth. I would like to be a testament to the fact that they helped bring me up and they helped make this a reality.”

Since winning the award, Euser’s life has taken a different turn. For starters, he spent much of 2015 dealing with the affect the crash had on him. As someone who has been hit by cars three times in his career and broken multiple bones, it took witnessing someone else crash for Euser to realize the dangers of his sport.

“As much as I wanted to put myself into those risky positions, part of me kept saying maybe this isn’t the best idea,” Euser said. “And that’s something I’ve had to overcome. I’ve had to get help from many people out there and try to remove myself from that moment last year with Taylor … It was a true struggle.”

Euser has also begun to contemplate life after cycling and what that transition will look like. After missing out on competing at the USA Pro Challenge this summer due to health issues, he spent the weeklong race as an analyst and commentator for CBS Denver.

He will next compete at the Giro di Lombardia the first week of October in Italy, surrounded by his family from that area. It is a race he said could mark the end of his career, unless he decides to stay with the sport one more year and “do everything I possibly can to get to Rio and to do the Olympics.”

Perhaps the biggest change in his life since winning the Jack Kelly Fair Play Award was the most unexpected – love.

“Not only was I in a new mental space, but I was also open to anything that came my way, and I think the most beautiful thing that came out of it was my openness and willingness to not only fall in love but to be in love. I met the love of my life a week after that accident,” Euser said of his girlfriend, television producer Rachel Rosengarten. “She was with me when I received the award. She’s been with me ever since and it’s one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever been through.”