Sweet Protection | Ryan Petry and Alexey Vermeulen in Falconer II Mips bike Helmet and sunglasses from Sweet Protection.

Athlete: Ryan Petry and Alexey Vermeulen

Ryan Petry and Alexey Vermeulen
Project: Leadville 100 MTB Race

If you don't know about Leadville 100 MTB, it is one of the most difficult races in the US (maybe world) as it is 100 miles of mountain biking from the town of Leadville, Colorado, USA (elevation 10,150 ft./3094m) and does a very hard route that climbs up another 3,000 ft./910m. The racers will do this climb multiple times in the race, topping out just over 13,000ft./3963m.

The moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here!

Ledville riders  | sweet protection

We got the chance to ask the three beginner riders some questions before the race. Scroll down and get inspired!

Needless to say, this is a hard race. Very, very hard. The air is extremely thin, and the terrain is brutal.

Ryan and Alexey will not only be competing in the pro category, but they have taken on 3 beginner bicycle riders to train from February and all the way to a point where they will compete in the Leadville 100 MTB race on August 14, 2021.

Alexey and Ryan explain: Once they had their idea, they began building a foundation of brands that could support the overall mission. The most important things were having companies that share brand values with them and truly want to make a positive impact on people's lives and the industry as a whole. We quickly knew we had to be part of this.

Ryan Petry and Alexey Vermeulen | A men in Trailblazer Mips bike Helmet riding a bike. Ryan Petry and Alexey Vermeulen | A men in Trailblazer Mips bike Helmet from Sweet Protection.

“My favorite part about Sweet Protection helmets is how well they fit and moreover, the fact that unlike most companies they cover so much adjustment that I think everyone will love them.”


But why would two ex pro racers start a project like this?

“Alexey and I decided to start this project because we both felt both an urge to give back to the world that we were not fulfilling to our fullest as professional cyclists, but we also saw so many new riders as a result of Covid and saw a massive opportunity to inspire and motivate this relatively unspoken to audience. As professional cyclists we both know the industry from the top, and with that perspective we understand why it can seem so intimidating, but also have the knowledge and credibility to pave the way for this new wave of people entering this awesome sport.“

Ryan Petry and Alexey Vermeulen | A man in Trailblazer Mips bike Helmet riding a bike and holds an Outrider bike helmet. Ryan Petry and Alexey Vermeulen | A man in Outrider bike helmet from Sweet Protection.

“The glasses that we will all be using are stylish, light and super easy to exchange lenses. Cycling doesn’t have to be any more challenging than the trail you ride on, and Sweet Protection reminds us of that each time we kit up!”

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Why Leadville versus any other race?

“We chose the Leadville Trail 100 for a number of reasons, but most importantly being that it was later in the year which will give the contestants more time to prepare for the event. Taking on something as big as Leadville is difficult in 6 months, let alone 3 months. Leadville is also unique in that for the most part it is an out and back course, giving you constant motivation from other racers to keep pushing on, and if you miss them you will hear Ken yelling. Unbound Gravel was on the table, but after chatting with different people and companies we decided on Leadville for 2021.”

We’re stoked to follow them along this journey, and to see our helmets and eyewear being used in, if the most, one of the hardest MTB races in the world.

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Alexey Vermeulen & Ryan Petry

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YouTube link

The moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here!

Ledville riders  | sweet protection

We got the chance to ask the three beginner riders some questions before the race. Scroll down and get inspired!

Roberta Nunez

Meet Roberta Nunez, 30, of Boston, Massachusetts. The Dominican-born ICU nurse has spent countless hours working in hospitals, aiding others. Her time as a nurse began during covid which she describes as one of the loneliest times of her life. Roberta found peace in her commutes via bike to and from the hospital and jumped the minute she saw this project.

What went through your mind when Ryan and Alexey called to say you were one of the three chosen candidates after getting 1200 applications for the Ground up project?

When Ryan and Alexey called me to say I was chosen, I was speechless. Hell, I was shocked they even saw my video or knew I existed. If I remember correctly, I said I was on cloud 9, and part of me still is. When I submitted my application I didn't expect to win. I spent so many days worrying that my application didn't go through somehow. So the call felt very surreal. This entire experience still feels surreal.

Roberta Nunez  | sweet protection

What’s been your experience with the project?

This project has been life changing. All the lessons I've learned through this journey have transcended into every aspect of my life. I've gained so much confidence in myself, and as cliché as this may sound, I learned to love myself and the body that has allowed me to do this. I genuinely don't know how to say thank you to Ryan and Alexey and every sponsor that made this a reality because "thank you" just isn't enough. Becoming a mountain biker was a pipe dream for me, and it serendipitously became a reality at 2 am the night I decided to apply for this project. Becoming a cyclist has brought about so much joy, peace, freedom, empowerment, and adventure that I cannot imagine life without it. This project has also served as a constant reminder that there is so much good in the world. Everyone that is a part of this project has dedicated their time to help three complete strangers because, through us, they want to help change the world of cycling and make it welcoming and accessible to ALL people. The amount of support and encouragement complete strangers have given us is so moving. This project is much bigger than Enzo, Shawna, and I. I hope, through our journey, we can show how fascinating cycling can be. Cycling is more than riding a bike. It is a vehicle for freedom, empowerment, epic adventures, and life changing experiences that will surely transcend into every aspect of your life.

How do you like the Sweet Protection gear (helmet/sunglasses)?

I love Sweet Protection! Shawna and Enzo always joke that they want to bubble wrap me because I'm always on the mend from a crash. So, I know your products work! jajaja Honestly, those first 3 months of training were rough! I'm alive and well because of your awesome products. I've fallen into a creek and smashed my head on a rock, landed in multiple bushes with face scratches, and even fractured my pinky. Aside from Sweet Protection saving my eyes and head, the gear is all super comfortable and fashionable. The color options are dope and add that extra boost of confidence during bike rides; thanks for helping me look very pro, while I still work on riding like one!

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What have you learned about yourself throughout this process?

I have learned a lot! But most importantly, I've learned that I am strong and that strong comes in all shapes and sizes. I've always considered myself weak because I don't have protruding muscles. But then you get into all the technical stuff about cycling, like wattage, and you start to realize that it's all relative. Strength also has a lot to do with mental toughness and being resilient. Working with Justin Ross, a sports psychologist, and completing sufferfest's Mental Toughness program with Neal Henderson has been eye opening in that regard. Lately, I sometimes feel that it truly is "mind over matter". I wouldn't have made it this far if I didn't believe I could. Not to say that there aren't days I doubt myself, there are plenty. But in the end, I have one lofty goal I want to achieve, to finish the Leadville 100, and I need to believe I am capable of making it to that finish line before I even attempt to do it.

How does it feel to know that the race you’ve been training for since February is coming up in a couple of days?

It's been a very emotional week for me. There are so many emotions to process. I've worked so hard to make it to this point in my journey and it has finally come, very fast! I am proud to have made it this far but feel sad; We are 5 days away from the starting line and lately, all I've wanted is to stop time because I don't want this journey to end. I'm very excited to experience my first race and finally meet some of the sponsors that will be there in person, it will be very motivating for me. But I have also been feeling very nervous because this is the moment I've been working so hard for. All the blood, sweat, and tears point to August 14th and I have high expectations for myself and my performance on that day. Recently, I met a woman from Jamaica named Stephanie while waiting in line at a shop near my house and I told her about the From the Ground Up project. She was so excited for Enzo, Shawna, and I. Before I left, she told me "It's not about where you finish, but how." What Stephanie said has helped me re-focus all these feelings. Though my goal is to finish the race, cycling is unpredictable. There are a lot of things that aren't under your control like mechanical issues. So, all I can truly expect from myself is to leave everything I've got out there, every bit of energy. If I can do that, I'll consider it a successful finish.

How does it feel to know that the race you’ve been training for since February is coming up in a couple of days?

It's been a very emotional week for me. There are so many emotions to process. I've worked so hard to make it to this point in my journey and it has finally come, very fast! I am proud to have made it this far but feel sad; We are 5 days away from the starting line and lately, all I've wanted is to stop time because I don't want this journey to end. I'm very excited to experience my first race and finally meet some of the sponsors that will be there in person, it will be very motivating for me. But I have also been feeling very nervous because this is the moment I've been working so hard for. All the blood, sweat, and tears point to August 14th and I have high expectations for myself and my performance on that day. Recently, I met a woman from Jamaica named Stephanie while waiting in line at a shop near my house and I told her about the From the Ground Up project. She was so excited for Enzo, Shawna, and I. Before I left, she told me "It's not about where you finish, but how." What Stephanie said has helped me re-focus all these feelings. Though my goal is to finish the race, cycling is unpredictable. There are a lot of things that aren't under your control like mechanical issues. So, all I can truly expect from myself is to leave everything I've got out there, every bit of energy. If I can do that, I'll consider it a successful finish.

Enzo Antonio Moscarella

An artist by trade, Enzo Antonio Moscarella, 34, is a resident of Queens in New York City. Like most, 2020 brought massive changes to Enzo's life. The reduced traffic in the city allowed him to rediscover cycling on his fixie and find a new focus during a tough year. Enzo found the From the Ground Up project while in the process of deleting his social media and knew it was something he needed to apply to.

What went through your mind when Ryan and Alexey called to say you were one of the three chosen candidates after getting 1200 applications for the Ground Up Project?

Honestly it was a shock to get the news. I was ecstatic but also not really understanding the massive number of people who submitted. I sent the submission and basically unplugged from social media, a digital message in a bottle or something similar. Im so thankful for their vision for the project and seeing that I would be a good fit for it!!

Enzo Antonio Moscarella  | sweet protection

Whats been your experience with the project?

The project so far has been amazing. From our initial conversations, to our first meeting, and now the days leading up to race, its all been so great. I have learned so much in such a short amount of time. My body and mind are sharp and I notice the change from even just a few months ago. Still trying to sort out how to keep it going after the race.

How do you like the Sweet Protection gear?

I can definitively say the Sweet Protection gear is top of the line in every aspect. I bought a commuter helmet off the web when I got my single speed off craigslist last year and it always felt 'off'. Once I put on the Outrider helmet I knew and felt that it fit! I love that thing so so much! I haven't had to put it up to the test yet but I know it played a significant factor in both Ryan's and Roberta's fast recoveries after some spills.

Enzo Antonio Moscarella on bike wearing an Outrider Mips helmet and Ronin sunglasses.| sweet protection

The glasses are just amazing. I get compliments on either style Im rocking. They are lightweight, comfortable, and protect the eyes from UV and debris, both of which are not great for artist/makers or cyclist!

What have you learned about yourself during the process?

Im learning that there is more to learn. Before all of this..the contest the submission etc. I thought that I had plateaued as a human being. I was quick to let a few words be my CV, a few instances sum up my world. I am learning and accepting that its not over ever..we are all always evolving, growing,adapting. Its an organic process and unique to each one of us as individuals..we only stop learning when we refuse to acknowledge that fact. I am making sure I train myself to keep that curiosity open, to be excepting of the new learning that is yet to come.

How does it feel to know the race you have been training for since February is coming up in a couple of days?

Good! Im feeling pumped and excited. Of course theres nerves but I am trusting the process Alexey & Ryan have crafted. We have had the opportunity to work with an amazing and talented set of professionals, Neal Henderson, Andrea Dvorak, Lee McCormick..I mean..on top of that we have had Alexey and Ryan as resources the entire time. Its humbling the amount of time they have out into helping us.

Shawna Anderson

Shawna Anderson, 47, of Superior Wisconsin, recently got into cycling by riding a fat tire mountain bike on the ice-covered bay of Lake Superior. A special education teacher, Shawna rides for her students, and is most excited to use her passion and determination to show them they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.

What went through your mind when Ryan and Alexey called to say you were one of the three chosen candidates after getting 1200 applications for the Ground up project?

Honestly I didn't believe it. I applied on a whim, didn't really prep anything, my video was just me standing in my kitchen talking extemporaneously to the camera. When I later saw some of the submissions and their production value, I knew I wasn't going to get a second look. Besides, I didn't think I was really the 'demographic' they were looking for. I'd actually forgotten all about it until I saw an email in my inbox from a name I didn't recognize- I almost deleted it as spam. After the first video chat I allowed myself a little glimmer of hope that maybe I could possibly be selected but when they told me I was, I was speechless. Worst part was that I was home alone and didn't have anyone to celebrate with!

Shawna Anderson  | sweet protection

What’s been your experience with the project?

This whole experience has been........There aren't words to describe how this has been. To have learned everything I have about biking is and training is amazing. But it is so much more than that. The people I have met, the experiences I have had, the scenery I have been able to see are things that never would have happened without this project. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this whole thing though is that it has changed how I view myself. Alexey, Ryan, Enzo, Roberta and the whole FTGU crew have inspired, motivated, encouraged, and supported me to push my limits- to dream big and not to limit myself. It has changed my life and opened doors to possibilities I never considered before.

How do you like the Sweet Protection gear (helmet/sunglasses)?

I love the Sweet protection gear! The helmet is super comfortable and yet I feel very protected. The glasses are amazing. I usually beer festival promo sunglasses because I am quite prone to losing them when kayaking or just putting them down somewhere and forgetting them. Not with these, the nicest glasses I have ever had and I am taking extra special care of them to make them last!

What have you learned about yourself throughout this process?

I always knew that I was my own worst critic, that I limited myself, but I never realized how much. I am so blessed that at my age I have had the chance to truly learn about myself and what I am capable of. The last few years have allowed me some amazing growth professionally, but I was in my 'safe bubble' personally. This experience has popped that bubble and opened my eyes. I am not saying that I am my own biggest cheerleader now by any means, but now I recognized more readily when I am limiting myself or playing it safe.

How does it feel to know that the race you’ve been training for since February is coming up in a couple of days?

The race has been so far away for so long that it is really hard to believe that it is almost here. I alternate between excited, nervous and even a little scared. I know I have put the work in and that I am as ready as I can be, but it's a big challenge. I am looking forward to going out and leaving it all on the course.

Shawna Anderson with team | sweet protection