Cecilia Potts, a 1998 Grand Haven High School Grad, is spending the weekend reflecting on an illustrious biking career as she is inducted into the Hall of Fame at the annual Iceman Cometh cross country race.
"It was a total surprise," she said of the call. "It is a real honor. This sport did so much for my life, it brought so many wonderful people into it and gave me experiences I never dreamed of. If I didn't have the MMBA and that group of people, I would probably be in a different place in life. It is an amazing community."
Potts took home four straight Iceman titles at the height of her career, which yielded a Junior World Title in 1997, time on the U.S mountain biking national team from 1995-98 and the national road cycling team in 1998. Her dominance even earned her the VISA/U.S.A cycling athlete of the year award in 1998. Her racing on both trails and road courses brought her all over the world, from Canada to Australia, Europe and Japan.
When asked to reflect on her favorite accolade, the world champion rider recalled a passion for the sport, the arena they occupied and the people she shared it with.
"Every time I get on the bike and go into the woods, my mind slows down and I get to do what I do best. I feel privileged to go into the woods and enjoy it and I hope that more people get to have that experience," she said. "I look at the trees and the trail and the dirt and it is all very positive for me. There wasn't a particular event or race that shaped my life rather than the entire experience.
"I ended up being able to compete worldwide, I raced my bike in Japan. It gave me a perspective on the world I otherwise wouldn't have gotten."
That passion has led her to participate in the sport's growth since her retirement from competitive riding in 2000.
"It is definitely a career I left behind, my life changed gears," she said. "I still ride three or four times a week, but I'm not in the competitive mindset anymore. That was a season of my life when it was really important to me. Now, a lot of my focus is turned to trail advocacy and encouraging young people to join the sport."
Those efforts brought Potts to yet another exotic land for riding, Hawai'i, as she was instrumental in starting the Maui chapter of the Hawai'i bicycling league and opening a multi-use trail for biking on the island.
Now, returning to the Iceman race to receive her award, Potts is excited to reconnect with a vibrant local cycling community and witness the sport's growth, particularly among young women.
"When I raced we had something like 700 entrants, it is up in the 1000s now," she said. "The sport has really grown, there are a lot of positive things happening, and I'm just honored to be a part of it really.
"Women racing now have taken it to the next level, all sports evolve with technology and training, and these bikes now vs. what we raced 20 years ago are night and day different. I'm excited to see how all the competitors do this weekend."
The HOF honor reflects a life well lived in Grand Haven, and illustrates the power of community support for a young athlete on an alternative path as well as the importance of local nature and conservation.
"I have to thank my family, they supported me without question, even with raising three other kids they did all the races," she said. "And, the Grand Haven public schools. We have some of the best teachers here in Grand Haven, I'm still friends with some of them. I got very, very lucky with where I was raised. Michigan and Grand Haven are wonderful places, with wonderful people and beautiful trails. I am honored to be a part of this community."
The induction ceremony is slated for today at the conclusion of the race which begins in Kalkaska, runs through and concludes in the Pere Marquette State Forest.