I was a free range kid before raising free range kids was a thing. See, growing up on a farm in rural Petaluma, CA, in the early 70s, without a TV, meant that I spent plenty of time outdoors roaming the hills looking for adventure when I wasn’t doing ranch chores. I played all the stick and ball sports growing up, but wasn’t particularly good, or gifted, at any of them, and it wasn’t until my freshman year in high school that I found my sport: lacrosse. Lacrosse became my ticket to Cal Berkeley, where I was the captain of the team my junior and senior year as well as a West Coast All Star selection. So, how did I go from being a collegiate “meathead” knocking the shit out of others with a stick to pedaling bikes for a living?

Yuri being a goof on a couch in the middle of a desert

It all started in Pottstown, PA, in 1994 while I was teaching English as a second language and American Literature at The Hill School—think Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life or Robin William’s Dead Poet’s Society. To fill the athletic void of not playing collegiate lacrosse anymore I began riding with two teacher friends who let me borrow their GT Zaskar. I rode in cutoff jeans, used flat pedals, wore Chuck Taylors, and was a total hack, but I loved it! Exploring places with friends and pushing my physical limits in a new sport had me hooked, and it wasn’t more than a year later that my competitive side got the better of me and I entered my first bike race in the Sport category, still on that borrowed GT Zaskar.

Yuri on his porch petting his dog, and playing the ukelele

Well, fast forward 25 years, an eleven year career as an elementary school teacher, thousands of miles training and racing, countless states and countries traversed, too many broken bike, and body, parts to mention, a few industry jobs under my belt, an evolution from XC to 24 Hour SoIo to endurance gravel racer, and I’m still pedaling away with the same passion I had when I first picked up the bike—although now I ride a sweet carbon Niner and have a few grey hairs sprouting up.

Yuri biking in the desert landscape 

Here’s to all the free range “kids” out there who chase their passions, whatever they may be, who try new sports, who explore new places, who make new friends, and who push their limits.

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