As gap years go, Spencer Petrov had a pretty good one. After graduating from high school in 2017, Petrov signed a contract with Aspire Racing and took a year off between high school and college. Just as Ruby West did, Petrov spent his gap year traveling the U.S. and Europe and racing bikes. Not a bad way to kind of start adulthood.
Jeremy Powers’ decision to bring Petrov into the Aspire program paid off immediately at the start of the 2017/18 season. Petrov finished just off the podium in fourth both days of the opening Rochester weekend and then took second at the KMC Cross Fest during the first weekend of the US Cup-CX series. Petrov added three more second-place finishes during the domestic season and finished fifth in the star-studded U23 Reno Nationals field.
Perhaps the most impressive race of Petrov’s season was one where he finished tenth. Petrov grew up in the Cincinnati area racing in the Ohio Valley CX series, so the Pan-American Championships were a homecoming for the 19-year old living in Massachusetts for the season with his Aspire team. Fans and riders alike were ready for a brawl between Petrov and Gage Hecht on the muddy course at Joe Creason Park.
The battle never happened after Petrov’s chain snapped at the start. Petrov could have easily packed it up and sat the race out, but instead, he ran around the tennis courts, over the flyover and to the pits. By the time he got there and grabbed a new bike, he was DFL.
From there, Petrov buried himself just trying to make the top half of the field. When the mud settled, he climbed all the way back to tenth. It may have taken Petrov and spectators a while to realize how hard he worked for that tenth, but looking back, one cannot help but respect his commitment to finishing the race even after he had his strong podium hopes snapped at the opening whistle.
“Part of me is like always go,” Petrov said about what kept him in the race. “Immediately, my thought was just to go. It wasn’t a question of whether I would give up or not. It wasn’t like I had a thought of giving up, I was just going to go. And so I overcame it then. For me, it’s just innate. You don’t give up, you go.”
“You don’t give up, you go.” – Spencer Petrov
The end of the season brings the next challenge in Petrov’s young career. Shortly after Nationals, Jeremy Powers announced the end of the Aspire Racing program. When we spoke with Powers, he said his personal future is up in the air, and Ellen Noble is on her way to chasing her mountain bike and cyclocross dreams with Trek Factory Racing.
Petrov said he is also close to putting something together. “I’ve been looking around, and I can’t really put anything out there right now,” he said. “I’m actually almost done finalizing something, it’s just kind of at the putting the pen to paper moment. I was not too worried.” He added, “I’ve had a couple of people reach out, whether it be teams or kind of building something or changing something that already existed. I’m kind of found what I think will be the best fit for me. I’m really excited and it’s going to be great.”
Petrov said that Jeremy Powers has served as a great mentor during the process that would be tough for any 19-year old. “I had known for sometime before everyone else did. Jeremy and I talked and our relationship is still great and we’re really good friends,” Petrov said. “He’ll be a great mentor. We talk a couple times a week still. That’s a relationship I’m going to have for many many years.”
In my interview with Petrov, he said the professionalism of the Aspire tream—from Powers to mechanics Tom Hopper and Brandon Davis to team manager Molly Hurford—provided a constant learning experience on how to run a successful cyclocross program. Petrov said the commitment of the program was not lost on him.
“It’s pretty crazy. You have friends, friends always give you a pat on the back, and I’ve got friends I can call if I’m down or something like that,” he said. “But when you have someone like yeah, I’m going to give you a ton of time or a ton of resources, as I get older, I realize one of the most valuable things you have is time and showing people you value them and can give them time in relationships. When you have those people around you who are giving you so much of their time, it’s like wow, this is really nice. This is a true friend and someone who really believes in me and wants to be a part of what I’m doing. It’s amazing.”
Petrov talked about his future, his season with Aspire Racing, his budding Gingercross rivalry with Stephen Hyde and so much more in our interview. He also doled out thanks to pretty much everyone who has helped him this past season, especially the team mechanics—”That’s something I probably shouldn’t do. I’m not the best at that, I’m definitely at the lower end. I can fix flats and all that, and I can put things together, but they’re probably not going to work. I’m grateful for the mechanics because I could fumble through, but it’s going to take a lot more time.”—so tune in to see if you made his impressive list.
Our full conversation is available on our Soundcloud page or at the top of this post. You can stream it from you computer or phone or download it for your morning commute or evening trainer session.
For more not-a-podcast interviews, see our Audio File archives.