In this episode of the Common Folk in the Boat Podcast, Eli Campbell sits with Amy Charity, CEO of SBT GRVL. With a career that began in the financial services industry to now what entails producing one of the hottest cycling events in the country, Charity has dedicated herself to the Steamboat Springs community. She’s a shining example of the “common folk” you’ll perhaps ride a chairlift with or bump into at the grocery.
Eli: Going back about 15 years when you were new to town, what were your life goals at the time? Were you looking ahead to making a big splash here and what your thoughts about your future in Steamboat?
Amy: Yeah, I, I knew I wanted to live somewhere in a mountain town. I had grown up in Fort Collins, so coming to Steamboat was a natural progression to get back to Colorado and closer to my family.
After college, I went straight into Capital One working in financial services. I remember feeling very lucky to live in Steamboat but also have that career path. And so my goals for living in Steamboat were just to get outdoors as much as possible while still maintaining my career and make a living. But there was absolutely no thought in the back of my mind that I would leave all of that to eventually pursue a cycling career.
Eli: But then you did. At 34 years old, you decided to make that jump. What was it like to leave behind the thing that you thought was your life plan for this whole new pursuit?
Amy: It was terrifying. I remember having this pause in my early thirties while discovering bike racing and realizing “Oh, I’m sort of good at this and I love it and I’m passionate about it.” So the scariest part was leaving behind a lot of that comfort I had, which was having financial stability and you know, knowing your next step.
Eli: A lot of people don’t make that jump. So what would you say to someone who is living in their comfort zone but they’ve always had this itch to do more?
Amy: Ah, yes. I would say for one, it’s never too late. You can be any age and make a change in your life. I have a friend who went back and got her MBA when she was in her late thirties. We all can do these hard things. We all have so much potential but it’s easy to get into a rut.
And so many people don’t give things a shot and end up simply stepping away. It seems like here in Steamboat there are so many people that are pursuing risks or dreams or their athletic endeavors.
Eli: Do you think if you weren’t living in Steamboat Springs you would still be on the path that you originally chose, which was working in financial services?
Amy: That’s a really interesting question. What I’ve always loved about Steamboat is that the people here are passionate about experiencing life, which I think is a little different from other places I’ve lived, say, Washington, D.C.
In Steamboat, I’ve never found people to be on a path directed at merely making money. What I hear more often are conversations like “I did this hike and it was a full moon and my dog was with me.” Those interactions are what I have come to understand as people really living.
Eli: You eventually retired from bike racing after achieving your goals of competing at a high level. So what does retirement look like from a sport, regardless of your age?
Amy: So I knew I still wanted to live in Steamboat and I landed a job as the Executive Director of Bike Town USA, which was a nonprofit aimed at promoting cycling tourism in Steamboat throughout the year. This was a time when we didn’t have as many summer visitors and the winter was all about skiing.
During the COVID years, more and more folks were working remotely which meant more people living in mountain towns. Then came the influx in gravel cycling as one of the factors that started bringing people to our area as well.
Eli: Back in 2018 I remember I was out on a bike ride you passed me in a car. There were a bunch of you out scouting the very first routes of what was to become SBT GRVL. In your opinion, what was it about Steamboat at that time that helped make SBT GRVL go from something nobody had ever heard of to a race that everyone felt that just had to do?
Amy: Yeah, I think, I think there were several factors that played into that. Routt County is unique in having so many incredible ranching roads that stem right from downtown. Combined with the infrastructure of a mountain town that puts on massive events in general and it’s easy to see how well we’re set up to host such an event here. But the bottom line is that we’re really fortunate to have such unbelievable natural resources surrounding us.
Eli: SBT GRVL has a much different vibe than a lot of sports events people might attend. What do you feel makes your event so special?
Amy: From the start we wanted this to be an opportunity for people to spend several days in Steamboat and not just an “in and out” style event. We want people to come back year after year and share it with more people each time. We continue to invest in our riders and this community. We continue to support these great causes that we’re passionate about and create multi-day activities surrounding the main race. So people tend to hang out and build a small community within the larger scheme of things, which I feel is something special and unique that you don’t always get to experience in the event world.
Eli: Amy, I’d like to thank you for sitting with us today. Coach, speaker, former U.S. National Champion, CEO of Steamboat Gravel and all of its offshoots. You are a shining example the common folk in the boat!
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