She’s a woman among women, always embracing a ‘do hard things’ motto because she believes that everyone is wildly capable. She’s willing to die for her country, skilled enough to conquer some of the toughest mountain bike races in the Midwest and is raising a small army of her own. She’s also humble enough to keep that all to herself unless you ask. Her name is Jessica Vanderpuy and she recently ditched Corporate America for bigger and better things.
A self-professed tomboy, Jes loves (among other things) Jesus, dry red wine, and cycling. She walks the talk and holds herself to an uncommon standard. She knows first hand how challenging ‘breaking into’ a new sport can be as an adult and she has made it her mission to help create room for everyone at the table, particularly women and young people that might not otherwise have the chance
Jes lives to inspire and her joy and enthusiasm are contagious. One conversation with her and you know you’ve made a friend for life.
A little-known fact about Jes is that she got her pilot’s license at the age of 16. She could fly a plane before she could drive a car!!
Here’s some more insight into the woman, the patriot and the dreamer.
1. How did you make your way to Aventuron?
In my previous life, I worked for UPS and that had given me the opportunity to work closely with Aventuron on the shipping side of things. Because of that, I had the chance to get to know the Martens a little bit. One day when I was in Aventuron, I was sharing with Carl how the shop that had been sponsoring me and my race team had shut down unexpectedly. Carl offered to sponsor us and we began to build a relationship. From there, we grew the team to 8-10 folks and it’s just amazing to see how it all came together.
Then, because of Covid, I was homeschooling the kids. But I also started building bikes for Aventuron on the side. Eventually, Carl just said, “Man! I’d really love to have you come work for me!”
It just all fell in place and here we are. It’s been such an adventure just getting to thispoint and I’m super excited that I now get to do something that I love and leave Corporate America behind. I get to align myself with a company that values relationships and community outreach, not to mention that they sell some pretty incredible stuff!!
2. Did you give up Corporate America altogether? Will this now be your full-time focus?
YES!! Walking out that door was the best thing I ever did. I’m grateful for the 13 years I was there, but when you’re blessed with the ability to follow your dreams AND it’s right in your own community AND it allows you to do what you love, you don’t ask questions. I’m just blessed. I know there aren’t many people who get this same opportunity and I’m very, very excited about it.
Most of my background is in shipping, logistics and customer service. A great deal of that comes from my time in the military. I can take everything I’ve learned, both good and bad, to Aventuron. I know what I’ve learned will really help them and I can’t wait to get in there and get my feet wet.
3. Can you tell me more about your military background?
I was in the Air Force Reserves for 10 years. I joined right as Iraqi Freedom started so I got to spend a year deployed in Charleston and Qatar. I got out when the base in Milwaukee was shut down. All of that helped to set me up for the rest of my life. It was a super cool and life-changing experience.
In a nutshell, my job was loading all the equipment on the planes that got sent overseas. We also did a lot of the air terminal operation planning. It was like the freight ways of the skies. It’s definitely a transferrable skill set to what I’m doing now.
4. Thank you for serving, Jes. I admire that. Have you always loved the sport of cycling?
I didn’t always cycle. I’ve always been somewhat of a tomboy and always liked sports and outdoor stuff. My husband raced mountain bikes from high school on and during our dating years and the first few years of marriage. When we started having kids, I would tag along, even at 9 months pregnant. Sometimes, I’d have a kid or two on my hip as we watched him race. I remember watching everyone, especially the women, and thinking, ‘Man, that looks like so much fun!’ But I was also thinking that there’s no way I could ever do it, especially having 4 small children very close in age.
I went mountain biking with my husband a few times and I hated it. Literally hated it. It was awful. He kept telling me that it wasn’t something you learn overnight and that I’d really enjoy it if I could get the fitness part down. He kept encouraging me to stick with it, but I wasn’t having any part of it. I thought it was terrible and I put the bike away.
As my kids got older, there were a few times I’d just pick up the bike and go ride. Slowly, but surely, I fell in love with it. It was such a freedom for me to just be able to go into the woods, by myself, and clear my head. It also got me into shape after having babies. It became a huge part of my life.
Before I knew it, I was racing. I totally surprised myself at how well that went. I would have never pictured being one of those women that I had previously watched race. It just seemed so far fetched to me, but it was a blast. I eventually worked my way up to longer distances and was able to do the Marji Gesick, which is one of the toughest mountain bike races in the U.S. There was a year’s worth of blood, sweat and tears that went into training for that one and I learned so much about myself by just putting in the work.
So, no. I haven’t always loved the sport. Now, it’s one of those things that I’ll be able to do for the rest of my life and to be able to give that gift to other women and their children is such a beautiful thing. I love that mountain biking is one of those things you can do as a family. Our entire summers are consumed by camping at the races. The kids have these little communities of their own mountain bike friends and we can all go out as a family and do it together. Nobody is sitting on the sidelines. It’s so much fun.
5. Being a newbie once yourself, what are 5 pieces of advice you’d give a newcomer?
It’s so intimidating to walk into new relationships, especially in the mountain biking community, and I probably know that better than anyone. But I had so many women bring me under their wing and give me little tips here and there. It made things so enjoyable. It’ll take a little time to get to love it. Sometimes it’s scary because you’re riding over rocks and roots and there is a technique that you must learn and there’ll be consequences to that. Each time you go out, you’ll learn what you’re capable of and you’ll learn a little bit more than the last time. Eventually, you’ll shock yourself when you realize you did 5 miles off road and, shocker, but you had fun!! And THEN it becomes like a drug. You can just can’t stop.
If I had to narrow down the advice I’d give to just 5 things, I’d probably tell a newcomer that:
Spend the money on a bike!! Don’t scrimp on this one. You’ll need a good bike. If you don’t have a good bike, you will NOT like this sport. It’s an investment that’ll last you a lifetime.
Get the fitness down, and don’t expect it to happen overnight. Be patient with yourself.
Invest the time gaining endurance. Mountain biking takes a different kind of endurance than road biking. It’s a very different animal.
Stick with it!
Find your tribe. Find other women, even if it’s just one. Talk to other mountain bikers and lean into all the resources that are out there right now. You can find information and help on anything you want to learn.
6. What’s your vision for your new role at Aventuron?
I have so many ideas. I would love to be able to hold women’s mountain bike clinics and weekly rides and I’d love to see the racing team grow.
Not every parent is into camping and biking and fishing and the whole outdoor scene, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t want their kids to have those opportunities. Parents like us live this because it’s what we love. If we can share that with kids that are seeking a connection, it could really change lives. The way society going, screen time and all that stuff are sucking the life right out of our children. I’d love to start an adventure club that focuses on just getting those kids outside. We need to stop living vicariously through other people. Social media is great but it’s heartbreaking when you see a group of teenagers at the dinner table and every single one of them is on their phones talking about what everyone else is doing.
My parents weren’t outdoorsy when I was growing up, but I craved it. I want kids to have those opportunities and to know where to find it in a safe environment.
I’m here to make a difference.
We can’t wait to see those differences come to fruition.
If anyone can make it happen, it’s Jes Vanderpuy.
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