Monday, July 21, 2014

PUYB Virtual Book Club Chats with Amber Neben, Author of When Shmack Happens - Win a Paperback Copy!

Amber Neben is a decorated international road cyclist with victories in 11 countries and multiple UCI Category 1 stage race wins. She is a 2x Olympian, 2x World Champion, 2x Pan American Champion and 2x National Champion. She holds a B.S. from The University of Nebraska and an M.S. from UC Irvine. Amber and her husband, Jason, reside in Lake Forest, CA. For information on speaking engagements or coaching visit

About the Book:

Have you ever been through a hard time in life? Ever wondered why bad things happen? Amber Neben has you covered. The 2x Olympic cyclist for Team USA knows a thing or two about shmack- her word for describing adversity that comes our way in life. Follow Amber’s journey as she overcomes major obstacles both on and off the bike-and encourages you to join her in developing the perseverance, patience, perspective, and power than only Christ can give us. Very few people may know or understand what road cycling is, but everyone knows what it means to be an Olympian. The champion road cyclist chronicles her disappointments and failures, as well as amazing comebacks and victories-while thrilling audiences along the way with gripping stories of faith and hope. After reading When Shmack Happens, you’ll feel equipped and encouraged to face life’s tough moments, and find yourself cheering for Amber to
get back on the bike…one more time. Learn what it means to be a spiritual champion in God’s eyes.

Purchase your copy: 

Amazon UK and Amazon EU

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

Welcome to the book club, Amber. Can you tell us how you got involved in cycling?

I was always an athlete.  Follow me for a minute.  My dad put me on snow skis when I was 17 months old. Soon, I was the 4 year old little girl playing soccer with the boys.  In elementary school, I was dreaming of playing soccer in the Olympic Games.  However, in high school, I was recruited to run Cross Country and Track.  In my first year of Track and Field, I ran times that were top ten in the nation for all ages of athletes.  I was fast, and I had found a new passion, so I made the decision to pursue distance running.  I went to the University of Nebraska on scholarship, but I was always only potential.  I was hindered by many, many stress fractures.  After surrendering the running dream, because my body continued to fail me, I attended graduate school at UC Irvine where I started racing mountain bikes.   I raced, because I COULD.  It was an avenue that allowed my God given endurance engine, plumbing system, and passion to be used and expressed.  At first, I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I loved to compete, and I just went for it!!  A couple of years later, I took a huge risk to pursue the sport of cycling, and I never looked back.

What and where was your first championship? What did you learn from it?

My first championship was actually as a distance runner in high school.  It was my first year of Track and Field (1991), and I was racing at the Orange County Championships.  I remember one of my coaches, Mr. Hansen, coming up to me a few minutes before the race.  He told me that opportunity was knocking, and asked me if I was going to answer the door.  I still remember this moment.  I ended up winning the race, but I had to dig really deep as I came from behind to win in a photo finish.

I think at a very young age I learned that it requires action on our part to seize opportunity.  I had all the talent in the world, the opportunity was certainly there, but if I didn’t work hard, dig deep and be willing to hurt, I wouldn’t be my best.  It was really hard in the moment, but the end result and the growth that resulted launched my incredible high school season and actually reset the trajectory of my athletic path. 

My first professional cycling championship came in 2003 when I won the National Championship Road Race.  I attacked early, and then survived to solo alone to victory.  It was one of what would be many incredibly difficult and hard fought solo victories.  In all of them, this passage from Isaiah 40 carried me to the finish line.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

I know it was only a cycling race, but God was speaking to me in the context of my own life.  In the moment of competition it came alive, but in the quietness of life it was just as real.  As I have had to endure through the years, this passage has continued to carry me.

What are some of the obstacles you’ve had to overcome?
  • Many stress fractures in high school and college. (Seven officially diagnosed, but probably more like nine.)
  • Knee surgery.
  • A contaminated electrolyte causing a positive drug test.
  • Melanoma cancer.
  • Mechanical failure in the Olympic Games.
  • 3 Major crashes in foreign countries resulting in immediate trips home for 3 surgeries.
  • The infamous Tour of California crash that inspired When Shmack Happens:
  • Spinal meningitis when I was 4.
  • Other challenging crashes, sickness, broken bones, and dealing with the pain of being hurt by people you trust.

Why did you decide to write When Schmack Happens? (no C in Shmack!!)

I wrote When SHMACK Happens as I recovered from the Tour of California crash mentioned above.  In the immediate aftermath, I had an amazing peace and stillness about me.  Although my world had been rocked, and I was experiencing one of the most painful physical challenges ever, I had a very clear mind.  I could hear God pounding on my heart to “write the story that I (the Lord) have written into your life.”  After weeks of prayer, I realized that I needed to share how God had gotten me through everything, how timeless His word really was, and how incredible His peace and strength can be in the midst of our challenges.

Who do you think would be interested in reading your book?

Wow.  I’ve had teenagers respond very positively, and I’ve made men and women (young and old) laugh, cry, and cheer.  Honestly, you could know everything or nothing about sport.  Sport just happens to be the context of my life.  Who would enjoy reading it?  Anyone who is trying to do something great, anyone who has been knocked down once or many times, anybody who is curious to understand how I have managed to survive as long as I have in the sports world despite the many obstacles I have faced, or anyone who needs to be encouraged and inspired or wants to have more tools of their own to do the same.  I also think the high school student who is ready to conquer the world should read it, so they realize the path from A to B is rarely a straight line.  They can get to B… but they shouldn’t give up or be discouraged when the road doesn’t go the way they expect.

Tell us about The Dare To Be Project. How did that get started?

The Dare To Be Project targets populations of kids and young people in homeless shelters, low income schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other underserved areas.  And more recently, we have searched for courageous kids with physical challenges who need special, but very expensive hand cycles.   We take the kids (or the kid) the unconditional gifts of a bike, a helmet, and a lock.  I tell them my story of how hard it was to become a World Champion and Olympian.  The process took 23 years (age 10-33) and involved lots of adversity and challenges.   Over and over, I have had to persevere and respond - both in life and on the bike.   I explain to them that they will need to work even harder and will have to overcome even more than I did.   I tell them it will be difficult, but it is not impossible.  Then, I encourage them to identify their own unique abilities and their own passions.  Finally, I DARE them TO BE somebody or do something with their lives using these abilities.  I challenge them to set goals and to start taking the steps right now to make it happen.

The Dare To Be Project started because I wanted to do more than just be an athlete.  I understood life could be challenging, and I wanted to find a way to use the tools of my trade (bikes) to encourage and inspire kids in their own challenging situations.  Can we change the trajectory of even one life toward a more positive outcome?  And now with the hand cycles, we can open a door to a new sense of joy and freedom to children who have physical limitations while also encouraging them to dream big and dig deep to overcome.  (

What are some of the goals you’re working toward?

Figuring out what the next cycling goal in my life is!  I’m in that phase where things are not clear.  What does God want me doing?  5 weeks ago, I broke my sacrum and missed my two huge goals of the season, The Tour of California and Nationals.

Starting a bible study for the professional women’s cycling peloton.

Expanding on and searching for funding for the Hand Cycle vision I have for The Dare To Be Project.

Increasing the number of athletes I am coaching.

Taking advantage of the opportunities I have to speak and share my story: When SHMACK Happens.

Anything else to add?

God’s placed each of us in very specific areas, and no matter what we do, we will have struggles.  It is not if, but when.  Our struggles are unique to each of us within our own life contexts.  However, the tools we can use to overcome are very much the same.  I’ve tried to tell my story in a way that points more toward God and the tools I’ve used to overcome, than to me.  In addition, hopefully I can open eyes and hearts to the idea that success comes with lots of hard work and perseverance.  Achieving a goal is going to be hard.  Adversity, failure, redirection are all part of the process.  We need to remember that we are refined in the fires of life and rarely does growth come without struggle. 

Follow or contact me:
Twitter: @amberneben

Facebook fan page:  

Pump Up Your Book and Amber Neben are teaming up to give you a chance to win a FREE paperback copy of When Shmack Happens!

Terms and conditions:

Enter using the Rafflecopter form below.
By entering, you confirm you are 18 years of age or older and reside in the United States.
One winner will be selected by Rafflecopter.
Winner will be notified by email and have 72 hours to claim the prize before a new winner is selected.
Giveaway runs July 21 - 31, 2014.
Prize will be shipped to the winner directly by the author or her representative.
Pump Up Your Book and Amber Neben are not responsible for prizes lost or damaged in shipment.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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