From being homeless to winning professional cycling races: Nystrom's incredible story

Felipe Nystrom won’t ring a bell for many cycling fans across the world. Those who follow cyclocross might know the Costa Rican better. Nystrom used to be homeless, and used newspapers to stay warm at night. Nowadays he is a semi-professional cyclist, who is now filling the same newspapers with his victories. 

Nystrom experienced verbal, physical and sexual abuse when he was young, was never accepted by anyone in elementary and high school, got bullied until he started to drink excessively, and ultimately ended up in the drugs scene and became homeless. The 39-year-old tried to commit suicide seven times. Before his last attempt, using cocaine and alcohol, he told himself: “I will finally die, and if not, I am going to make something of my remaining years.”

He survived. Since then, Nystrom became national road race champion, joined numerous World Cup cyclocross races, being on the start list with Wout van Aert and Thomas Pidcock, and is more ambitious than ever before, both on and off the bike. That’s what he says in the Bike-Portland podcast.

After everything he went through, Nystrom has learned to tell to myself to keep going, especially to the point where most people stop. “That’s what I learned from all the traumas, and used during that race.”

Nystrom is not afraid to fail anymore. “I cannot fail any more than I did in my life already. As long as you are alive, you can do something with it. The only time that you cannot do anything about it is once you are dead. And I know what it is like to be dead.”

This story is part of Nafent Magazine volume 4. Read the full story in our digital or paper magazine. Go to our webshop, or buy yours at one of our seventy partner places.

Photos: Jeff Corcoran, Fellusch & Leonard Johnson

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