How Paige Onweller is taking her recovery head on

Catch up with one of the most determined riders in gravel, and see her stunning new kit and Checkpoint for 2024

Paige Onweller describes herself as a “worker bee.” She doesn’t like sitting still. As an athlete, every day is an opportunity to get better, stronger, faster. She had been building to what she hoped would be a strong start to the 2024 season at The Mid South. Then she suffered a rare ankle injury two months ago that derailed her plans.

“It’s been really difficult,” Onweller admits.

Paige on a mission.

The injury required surgery. As a physician assistant, Onweller understood that she was facing a long recovery process. She took her time talking to other athletes about positive surgical experiences they’ve had, got in touch with several surgeons, and ultimately found someone patient, attentive and experienced with her particular injury. Onweller is optimistic that she will be able to recover better and more quickly than if she had rushed into a procedure.

Onweller is one of the most unique gravel racers on the circuit. She began racing as a full-time pro in 2023 at 33 years old, coming off a year in which she won Big Sugar while working as a full-time medical professional. That win came after she underwent knee surgery the previous spring. If there’s anyone who defines “take charge,” it’s Onweller. And if there’s anyone who can bounce back stronger than ever from a serious injury, it’s her.

That doesn’t make the recovery process any easier, of course. Onweller is back on her bike, but she still struggles with moving her ankle laterally — necessary for clipping in and out of her pedals. The injury arguably has been even more difficult for her mentally. She describes missing Mid South like “missing the first day of school.” Fortunately, Onweller has assembled a top-notch performance team around her — including a physical therapist, strength and conditioning coach, skills coach, and sports psychologist — to help her manage her recovery at every step.

Paige's new paint scheme is sliiiiick.

Paige and her ride.

“When you have a worker bee and you don’t give them any work, they go a little crazy,” Onweller says. “So something that’s been really helpful is every day I wake up and I think through, ‘What are my goals for the day? What do I need to accomplish?’

“I’ve done a lot of work off the bike over the last six weeks, like mental visualization. But these are things that you can’t measure in Training Peaks. You can’t assign a training score. So though there’s been a loss of fitness, there’s so many other little things that I’ve been doing to counterbalance that.”

Onweller is focused on the process of her recovery and regaining race form, rather than achieving specific results. She’s hopeful she can return to full speed, in the mix with the fastest riders in the sport, by the mid-late summer races like Crusher in the Tushar and SBT GRVL. But first, she’s aiming to return to racing at Unbound Gravel in June, and she’s approaching the race as a celebration.

Paige may be on the mend, but she's hardly sitting still.

“If I line up and if I do that race, that is a massive win for the type of injury that I had and the surgery that I had,” Onweller says. “And so I’m trying to view it in that way, and just remember that from now until then, I get to be back on the bike, enjoy training, and really focus on the process of becoming a high performance athlete again. And then if the results are there, that’s great.

“The gratitude I have simply to be able to pedal brings a whole new mindset to training.”

Onweller may not like sitting still, but while she’s on the mend, she’s doing everything in her power to improve as a racer, both mentally and physically. Determination is her superpower. And though she’ll have to wait a little longer to rejoin gravel racing’s elite in 2024, she’s showing what it means to make a proactive recovery.