By: Erin Matuczinski
Every morning at 4 a.m. sharp, Caleb Garson’s alarm clock, set to the ringing of a bicycle bell, wakes him in time for his first training session of the day. He completes a total of three long-distance rides each day in between attending classes and making pizzas. His rigorous conditioning has been amplified after being chosen for the Team USA 2021 Summer Olympics for cycling.
“I never would have thought that in my senior year of college I would be preparing to compete in the Olympics,” said Garson. “It’s all so surreal, but I am so happy to see all my hard work become something.”
Back in the fall of 2017, Garson began his position at Vocelli’s delivering pizzas to students across campus by bike. He never had a prior interest in cycling, or recreational athletics in general, and was initially worried that he would not keep the job for more than a semester.
However, after seeing the great mental and physical benefits that delivery cycling had for him, Garson began picking up shifts at every possible moment.
“It was like an addiction,” Garson said. “I was limited to a certain number of hours I could work per week, so I even started looking for other local businesses that deliver by bike. Unfortunately, there aren’t any.”
Garson maintained his position at Vocelli’s throughout the following semesters. He planned and registered his classes around peak delivery times so he would always be available to work.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, Garson’s world came crashing down.
“The first two weeks in quarantine back home were unspeakably awful,” said Garson. “I felt so useless, so empty, without having my purpose of delivering pizzas. I had no motivation for my schoolwork or my social life. All I could think about was that bike.”
Garson admits that the beginning of the pandemic put him out of good physical shape that delivering had brought him to. He knew he wanted to ride again, but the childhood bicycle in his garage just wasn’t doing the trick. He knew he needed something more.
After a trip to both his local bike shop and Home Depot, Garson was ready to get to work. Not only did he purchase a new, white bike that resembled the Vocelli’s one he rode on campus, but he also began assembling a replica rear carriage that is used to hold the pizzas during the ride. It was completed after only two days of construction, and successfully attached to the back of the new bike.
“Once I was riding with the rear carriage, everything fell back into place,” said Garson. “I felt whole again. I knew that this was my passion. Not to mention, nothing says ‘get the hell out of my way’ like the thunderous slam of that metal lid.”
With the new bike, Garson began riding long distances every single day, getting into even better physical shape than he was before. He used the time in lockdown to improve his diet and routine, eventually sharing his success on his personal blog.
That’s when Team USA recruiter Keith Schnider stumbled across Garson’s blog, astounded at the amount of work that the young adult had put into his riding.
“Normally I do my recruitment from pro teams and state or national competitions, never from the internet like that,” Schnider said. “But when I saw Garson’s dedication and success, I knew he would be a great fit for the road cycling team. I contacted him and waited eagerly for a response.”
Garson said he was stunned to hear from Schnider, but immediately accepted the offer to train alongside other cyclists for Team USA in preparation for the Summer Olympics that had been postponed to 2021. However, he has insisted on training with his make-shift Vocelli’s bike.
“I thought it was pretty weird that he only wanted to ride the bike with that huge container on the back,” Schnider said. “But he keeps up with everybody else, so I guess I can’t complain.”
Garson only has a few more months to prepare before heading off to Tokyo for the 2021 Olympics. So far, he has been sponsored by the Vocelli’s pizza chain, but only the equivalent to his student wages. He is continuing to look for additional financial supporters.
“Competing in the Olympics is truly a once in a lifetime experience for me,” said Garson. “I’m living the dream I never knew that I had.”