This was one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written: A profile on one seriously interesting racer, Zach McDonald of Rapha-Focus. Getting to know him for the story was great, and even better has been hearing from people who read the article and have told me that they feel like they really know and admire him now.
Zach McDonald doesn’t care what you think about him. “I should probably get better at networking,” the former U23 National Champion and current Elite Nationals silver medalist admits ruefully as we sit in the shade of Bear Creek Resort talking, after he’s dropped out of the last U23 MTB National Championships that he’ll ever be eligible for. He’s still dripping with sweat, and when he gets up, the stone slab he was sitting on is soaked.
For a racer known for his stand-offish attitude and aggressive racing style, and despite the sun beating down angrily on us, he doesn’t seem to fit any of the adjectives that I’ve heard tossed around describing him. He seems exactly like what he really is: a 22-year-old raised on his bike, racing and being compared to men often 10 years his senior, men with more base miles both on the bike and in playing the game. McDonald is a rare breed in this industry: he’s never learned the art of being politically correct. It should terrify sponsors, but he hasn’t had trouble with that so far. Unflinchingly honest, during the course of our conversation he rarely requests to go “off-the-record,” even when I almost wish he would. He’s genuine, even if it isn’t always appreciated. “Look behind Zach’s brash image, which is no façade,” Rapha-Focus team director Jeff Rowe explains, “And there is an extremely dedicated and professional athlete.” But who is he?