Tim Sewell remembered as strong, determined cyclist
That’s what I thought to myself on July 5th as a rare summer rain hit my windshield, that God himself was crying.
Cycling can be a mixture of blood, sweat and tears. It can involve nearly unimaginable suffering both mentally and physically. It is clearly visible on the riders’ faces during the Tour.
But nothing can compare to the suffering felt by the entire cycling community of Grand Junction when on July 3rd, our beloved Tim Sewell took his own life by jumping off Cold Shivers Point.
Tim was one of those rare individuals you met in life who just had a presence. He was quiet, humble and unassuming, but one could sense his character, strength and resolve. He was living validation that hard work, focus and dedication yield results.
When I asked him how he got into cycling, he replied that he liked the linear relationship between effort and reward. In other words, he liked that the more effort and dedication he applied, the better results he could achieve.
If I’m honest with myself, when I first met Tim I did not like him all that much. That’s probably because I was intimidated by him and his work ethic.
We met around six years ago during the old Unaweep Canyon Road Race. I had heard about him for some time and how strong he was, but for one reason or another we had never met. This was one of the earlier road races that he had entered.
During that race, I quickly assessed his reputation for strength was well earned, but he did not have much experience. The race was nearly 90 miles long with 6,000 vertical feet of climbing from Gateway to Whitewater and back.
On the first leg out, Tim was consistently at the front of the peloton, driving the group as fast and hard as he could. He rode like a man possessed, and it was clear he literally wanted to ride everyone off his wheel. This is not normally a recipe for success.
At the turnaround in Whitewater, the race began to get hard. The wind had picked up, and the real climbing was about to begin. Tim stayed at the front, and the group began to splinter. But he was driving into a headwind, which gave everyone else in the group a bit more recovery.
When the inevitable attacks came, he already had spent his energy and was dropped off the back. I went on to win that day, and after the race we talked about tactics and how he could race smarter.
Tim was not the type of man who made the same mistake twice. A few years later we were in a group together at the Iron Horse in Durango. He had worked hard and was very fit. Just past Purgatory the pace began to get very hard. The group was down to four riders, including myself and Tim.
He patiently sat in second position and allowed the lead rider to try to ride him off his wheel. I was hanging on for dear life and eventually got blown off the back. Tim, however, bided his time and attacked when the moment was right. He won the race by a comfortable margin.
There are so many metaphors relating cycling and life: the fluidity of the peloton; the necessary sacrifices that can lead to reward and many others. But I think that sometimes we focus too much on the suffering, the grind and the result. We give too much credence to the power meter and fail to enjoy the beauty of the sunrise over the monument.
To succeed in anything requires sacrifice and hard work. But even God rested on the Sabbath. Recovery and enjoyment are just as important as the effort. In a sense, they are required. One cannot really succeed or excel without both.
It is often said that the true sense of a person’s worth is how he or she affects those around them. Tim was one of those men who made you want to be better and to know that you can be better. He was a gentleman.
There is no silver lining in a tragedy like this. A strong and honorable man succumbed to his personal suffering for reasons we may never understand. The truly terrifying part is that if a man like Tim could fall into that trap, then no one is immune.
Mesa County suffers a suicide rate nearly three times the national average. It strikes every ZIP code and demographic group.
We will never know what haunted Tim so deeply that it led him to extreme depths of despair. He must have been crying for help, but was so conditioned to be strong that he hid it expertly, like everything else he did in his life.
The question on everyone’s lips is: Why did he do it? There is no answer to that question. A better question is: Where do we go from here? How do we ensure that another person like Tim does not succumb to these demons?
I want to honor my friend Tim. I think that he would want me to fight my demons. For me, that means looking up from my heart-rate monitor and enjoying the sunrise as I ride to Cold Shivers’ Point.
Good riding, Tim. We will all miss you.