A native Texan, Payson McElveen relocated to Durango, CO in 2012 to simultaneously pursue an undergraduate education at collegiate cycling powerhouse Fort Lewis College, and his dream of being a professional mountain biker. Following graduation in 2016, his career began to take off, but not necessarily in the manner he'd expected. Rather than pursue the traditional route of XC that involves World Cup racing and Olympic aspirations, he gravitated towards longer events following a career-altering experience at the 6 day Mongolia Bike Challenge. A year later he won his first professional national title at the 2017 Marathon Championships, and a second title in 2018. This further spurred a commitment to longer events which were exploding in popularity alongside the rise of gravel racing.