What started out as a hobby and way to relieve stress quickly turned into a lifestyle for Derek Parker, commercial business development manager at Old Republic Title, who first discovered a passion for cycling in 1996.
From his appreciation for the art of frame design to turning himself inside out during a long race, “My love for cycling never wanes,” he says. “It takes a certain type of individual to pay good money to sign up for a race where you will be suffering up and down mountains for 100-plus miles.”
While his friends may be enjoying a relaxing round of golf on a Saturday morning, Parker chooses to compete in races like the Bradshaw Grinder, which totals 60-plus miles with 7,500 feet of vertical climbing on dirt and gravel.
He has never been afraid of a challenge. In fact, he welcomes it.
Parker says, “I’ve been able to push myself well beyond my perceived limits during endurance events and I have used that same drive to achieve wins in my work career too.”
His passion for cycling grew after his first race, the 1996 MBAA Cross Country Series in Arizona, which consisted of a 20-mile sprint lasting less than 90 minutes. After a couple years of podium finishes, Parker shifted focus to endurance races starting with the 24 Hours of Moab, a continuous 24-hour relay race through the Utah desert.
“I remember riding through freezing, snow laced temperatures in my inadequate Arizona riding gear and being miserable for it,” he explains but, “I was hooked!”
Since then, Parker has raced through the peaks of Flagstaff, across Prescott, Cave Creek, McDowell Mountains, Colorado and against former U.S. Downhill Champion Marla Streb.
He says, “Over the years, I have had the pleasure of competing in some very cool and sometimes iconic races.”
Parker tries to ride two to three times during the work week, logging the most miles early in the morning before starting his day with the Wall Street Journal and a coffee.
He adds his latest love is gravel racing. “Where you ride dirt roads and single track on road style, drop bar bikes with large knobby tires,” he explains, like his favorite bike, the Van Dessel Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. In total, Parker owns six racing bikes, which are kept in a designated room at his home along with his other gear and tools.
“You will go through a range of emotions during a six- or seven-hour event,” says Parker. “The best of which come from crossing the finish line.”