After leaving his world class skiing career, Michael Friedberg of Boulder, Colorado, knew his days of competitive athletics weren’t behind him. He’d always known racing down the slopes at breakneck speed while navigating moguls wasn’t going to last forever.
Instead of hanging on for too long to the sport that carried him through his youth, he quickly swapped in his two skis for two wheels, picked up an apron and started down a new course; quickly becoming an elite amateur cyclist and founding his business, Yellowbelly Chicken, a fast casual, healthy spin on fried chicken.
“It’s hard not to leave a high-level athletic career a little heartbroken,” Friedberg told us in a recent interview, “But you can't win all the medals.”
Born and raised in Boulder, Friedberg’s parents met on a chairlift in Vail, so naturally he was drawn to snow sports growing up. As a member of the U.S. Ski Team, he won the Nor-Am Cup in 2001 and made the the U.S. World Championship squad in 2003. He considered himself a good World Cup skier, but not amazing. The peak of his racing days came at a time when Jonny Mosley and Jeremy Bloom were at the height of their Olympic careers, thus overshadowing him a bit.
DESIRE TO COMPETE
“I thought I had gotten all my competitive vigor out, but I realized the fire was still inside me. I always loved skateboarding as a kid, so I spent a year doing that before the real itch for competition started again,” Friedberg said.
That’s when he found cycling, a natural transition for many ex-skiers, Timmy Duggan and Barkley Robinson come to mind, who because of their high aerobic capacity became good cyclists after retiring.
“I had other friends from the OTC (Olympic Training Center) that were cyclists and they really enjoyed the cross training. It’s something that I got into and has been really fun.”
The difference this time around for Friedberg is even if he’s racing every weekend year around, whether it be on the road, mountain or cyclocross bike, he has to run his fledgling business, Yellowbelly Chicken.
“Ever since I opened the restaurant, my legs don’t feel good too often because I spend a ton of time on my feet,” he said in between delivering a catering order and getting ready for the lunch rush at his Boulder location, one of three he’s now opened since founding the business in 2012.
The competitor in him will always make him tick like a world class athlete, “I still need to have good days on the bike, no matter how long the real work day lasts.”
That is where Topical Edge is so vital for him; using it between his early morning “working man worlds” rides, spending all day on his feet operating his business, and then often times getting in a second workout in the evening.
“Edge is gold for recovery,” he said, “My legs always feel fresher, even when I’ve spent a full day working and need to get in a few ‘cross training laps at Valmont Bike Park.”
“I want to be the working man who rides at a decent level,” Friedberg said with a chuckle. And that he does, competing for the last few years in Pro UCI CX races all fall and winter.
GIVING BACK TO HIS COMMUNITY
Although growing Yellowbelly Chicken his now his main focus, he also mentors young skiers like Hunter Bailey, the current U.S. Freestyle Moguls National Champion. On top of that, he combines his passion for cycling and cooking by working with Chefs Cycle, a group of cycling restaurant professionals that raise money for No Kid Hungry, a charity dedicated to eliminating childhood hunger across America. It’s impressive that he’s able to fit it all in, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The process of being an athlete is something I’ll always love, no matter how busy I get; I feel lost without setting goals to achieve in both life and sport.”
Friedberg seems to have found a good balance, giving back to the Boulder community that has given him so much throughout his life, coaching kids coming up through the skiing ranks, all while pushing himself athletically.
Just one race weekend into the ‘cross season and Friedberg is excited for what’s ahead, “It’s more fun to compete than not, right? I know I don’t want to quit competing and Topical Edge definitely helps me stay on course, whether in the kitchen or on the bike.”