Isaac Novak: A Competitive Itch and a Risky Journey
Great Northern Bicycle Company Employees some of the best
By Zac Hoffner
The Great Northern Bicycle Company was introduced to Fargo in 1987. Since then, they have hosted many races and seen many different employees of all skills and bicycling interests.
One of the current employees, Isaac Novak, is trying to make his mark in the sport at the highest level.
Competitive bicycling is broken into 5 categories ranging from categories 1 to 5, with 5 being beginners and 1 being the most advanced. Currently, Novak sits at a category 3, but Novak says, “I’m currently at a cat 3, but should be moving up soon. I’ll be doing a lot of races around the North Dakota – Minnesota area and should be able to move up if I do well enough.”
Novak was always an athlete growing up in Mitchell, South Dakota. Soccer was his main love, but when he got to Concordia he made a change.
“When I got to school I decided it was time to get super-studious and focus completely on school,” said Novak. “But it was apparent that I was so competitive I needed something to scratch that itch… so I started biking.”
He began biking around town on his “old crappy” mountain bike. But it wasn’t long before he got into racing.
“In the spring I bought this old 1982 Schwinn Super Sport road bike,” said Novak. “I was doing some races and I was placing mid-pack. Which was pretty good considering the bike I had.”
It was around that time he began to do group rides, with fellow rider Chad Weisgram. Noticing the potential in Novak, Weisgram knew he had to get him a better bike.
“I saw the potential in him right away,” said Weisgram. “He most definitely has the potential to be a very good category 1 racer around the Midwest. After that we’ll see where he can go.”
It would seem that Novak found a way to scratch that competitive itch.
A love for cycling and a natural talent seemed to come together seamlessly. But during a mountain bike race Novak took a tumble. His head hit the ground so hard he was knocked unconscious for a full hour, and rushed to the emergency room.
What happened next would have Novak questioning not only if he could continue the sport competitively, but also live an active life filled with exercise and adventure.
“They discovered I had a cavernous malformation in my brain. My doctor has banned me from doing any mountain bike racing,” said Novak.
The risk of that malfunction includes lesions in the brain. A small lesion will only cause concussion-like symptoms. But a larger lesion, caused by strenuous activity or crash, could leave Novak with a stroke or seizure, both of which can be life threatening.
“I’m sure my doctor wouldn’t be too okay with me racing, but I have to do it. It keeps me sane,” said Novak. “Biking is my drug. It feeds my competitiveness and keeps me alive essentially.
“Everything in my life is competition,” said Novak. “That’s why I keep going. I have a drive to be the best. I can’t stand being beat by anything in life, board games, or anything.”
That competitiveness is what drives Novak to reach his goals. Currently he rides on a “fat bike” (a bike that has fat tires so you can ride in the winter.)
“I ride about 30 miles a day right now, including indoor biking and working out” said Novak. “I really want to go pro. I have to be a category 1 rider.”
Novak knows that it won’t come easy, and with the malformation in his brain he knows it’s a risk that some may call crazy or not worth it. But when something keeps you alive, as Novak says about biking, it’s easy to see why he continues his path to professional status.
Until then one can find him on a trail, non- competitively of course, on a road racing across the Midwest, or riding 30 miles a day across the Fargo-Moorhead area.
Zac Hoffner – Hoffnerza@mnstate.edu
(Zac Hoffner is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism at MSUM. He is from Devils Lake, North Dakota, and works as a production assistant at Midcontinent Sports. He enjoys anything that involves his dog, (Ziggy), sports, and shooting and editing video. Ziggy, however, sits alone at the top of that list.)