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Class Notes Profiles

From engineer to elite cyclist

Jim Stemper, Eng ’09, didn’t choose the typical path of an engineering grad.

Instead, he followed a road he hopes will lead to the Tour de France. Stemper started racing after he bought a road bike with his high school graduation money. Today, he’s a professional cyclist for the U.S.-based 5-Hour Energy-Kenda racing team.

How did he become an elite cyclist in a place with long winters and no mountains?

“I may hold the record, to this day, of number of times ridden to Concordia and back on Lake Drive in Milwaukee,” Stemper says. “I may also hold the record for hours on a trainer in a Marquette dorm room.”

Unsure about spending the rest of his life as an engineer, Stemper accepted a teaching job after graduation  then turned it down when he was offered his first professional racing contract. Since then, he has competed in the Tour of California twice and even raced in Spain. But those glamorous locations don’t exactly come with a glamorous lifestyle. Stemper hasn’t earned much from cycling. He makes ends meet by tending bar, waiting tables and even … bottling horse polish?

“If I don’t make extra money each month, I have visions of big dudes in suits named Fannie and Freddy showing up at my door,” he jokes.

Stemper embraces a minimalist lifestyle and owns no more than he can fit in his Toyota Matrix.

“Glamorous? No,” Stemper says. “Great stories? Absolutely. Challenges? Every day. Happiness? Definitely.” Chris Jenkins


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