I unknowingly joined a Rapha Club Ride on Black Friday led by Meredith Miller. It was the Boulder Roubaix Course for the most part: a mix of dirt and paved roads. There was a fierce wind coming at us from all directions. Half the group turned around and went back home. The other half continued on. Of the half that continued, we spit into two groups: faster group and slower group. I stayed with Meredith and my friend, Brittney.
A few weeks later, BRAC tagged her in a social post. She looks super familiar, I thought. I went to her Instagram page. Holy shit, she led our Rapha Ride. I had no idea she used to be a pro. I sent her a message. After a few messages back and forth, I asked her to come on my podcast.
I didn’t think she’d force me to rethink my goal of becoming a pro, but she did.
ON FINDING BIKE RACING
I guess I have been a lifelong athlete. I started playing fastpitch softball when I was six. I grew up in Alabama so I played softball in the summers and starting when I was really young I started playing soccer in 4th grade, so I was doing both of those until high school. Then it was slowpitch – whatever, it was weird and random – but the high school league was slowpitch in summer.
I stopped playing softball and just focused on soccer. I ended up playing soccer all the way through college and I ended up going to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I played D1 soccer there and graduated at the end of ‘96. Back then, there wasn’t a women’s professional soccer league in the US so either you had to go to Europe or play on the US National Team. I wasn’t good enough to be on the National Team and it just never occurred to me to go to Europe to play soccer. I was like, “Why would I want to do that?” and then I kind of needed something else to do because I had always been an athlete.
I still wanted to compete in something and being in Madison – it’s a really bike-friendly city – I had some friends help me get a bike together and I joined a local team that was part club and racing. The women on the race team really took me under their wing and we went out as a team practiced cornering, practiced drafting, team time trials, you know, all the sort of fundamentals. That was my first year of racing – I guess that was ‘98 when I started racing – and at the end of that season or later that year, I moved out to California.
I eventually got more into racing and realized, “Wow, people really take this seriously,” and so I started racing more and at the same time was working on my Master’s degree in Exercise Science. It definitely took me a little longer to get my degree because I started traveling for bike races and stuff and was more interested in racing then I was in my degree. literally defended my thesis the day before moving to Denmark. I had moved out to California with my boyfriend-then husband-and then ex-husband. We moved to Denmark together for his work and that’s when I joined a Danish team who was just getting started on the UCI circuit.
I guess in 2003 is when I started racing full-time I was with the Danish team for three years. The first two years I lived in Denmark and the third year, by that time, we actually moved to New Zealand but went back to Europe. I was based in France the 3rd season with Team S.A.T.S, the Danish team and then that team folded. While I was in New Zealand, I joined the US team, Team Lipton. Essentially, that’s when I got back into US racing and stayed in the US with an American team through 2013. I was still going to races in Europe with my team and in the midst of all that in 2008 is when I picked up cyclocross.
For six years, I did both road and cross back-to-back until I kind of hung up the road races at the end of the 2013 season and just focused on Cross for last couple of years. The World Championships in 2016 was my last official professional-like UCI race. People were still giving me a hard time about racing saying, “I thought you were retired” and “worst retirement ever.” But now I do it for fun. I don’t have to go do intervals. I can pick and choose my races and do them whenever I want. It’s fun and you know, since I work for Rapha, I still ride my bike a lot whether that’s leading rides or doing events, so as long as I am still riding my bike. You still have the opportunity to compete so it’s a good balance. I’m just loving my bike and then hopping in to races whenever I get a chance.
DEFINING “PROFESSIONAL BIKE RACER”
Okay, so in 2003, you may have noticed I said I started racing my bike “full-time.” I wouldn’t say I started racing “professionally” because that’s where, for me, it’s sort of a gray area. I was racing my bike and I guess that’s where my career started but I wasn’t getting paid. I wasn’t geting a stipend. I had my equipment and travel paid for.
This was when I was racing in Denmark and I wish I still had the email. In my second year racing with the team, we brought in a lot of international riders so we started the season as the number one ranked team in the world. We were the current World Champions. We had the Norwegian National Champion. We had a super star from Australia, a couple women from Canada, a couple from the UK. It was a crazy season and I believe some of those riders were getting paid, but as for myself and the Danish riders, we were not.
At one point in the season, I asked for my split of the prize money and I got an email back saying, “Oh my God. How dare you ask for prize money after everything we’ve done for you. You should feel lucky that essentially you have a place on the team and we’re taking you to the races.” I deleted the email at some point. I wish I still had it because that to me was such a – it’s not a surprise, I guess, to some degree – and it really sucks, you know. It was really pathetic. Luckily, I really enjoyed my teammates and I still don’t think I would trade that experience for anything, but you know, being told off like that when all I was doing was asking for my half of the prize money as I’m helping the world champion and all these other superstars try to win races. It’s like, well that’s how you’re going to treat everyone, okay.
It wasn’t until I went to Team Lipton that I essentially was earning a stipend. I wouldn’t say it was a salary because I never really made a livable wage during my time in cycling, even after winning the US National Championship in 2009. It’s a hard one to answer because you want to say professional should be defined as earning a livable wage but I feel like there are so few women in cycling who could say that. Cycling is still our career or passion and what we put our heart and soul into but we do it full-time, day in and day out. We live, breathe, eat, drink, train, and yet we can’t even make a living off of that.
ON ITS WORTH
When I went to Denmark with my husband at the time, it was much harder to get a job when you didn’t speak the language, so it was just kind of serendipitous for me. It was when my career took off and I was, you know, “getting my feet wet” in Europe, racing for a time. I mean, it was just kind of what I did.
It was the best option I had when I started racing for the American team, Team Lipton. Again, I was just sort of in a situation where the money I made was supplemental to my husband’s income. He was willing to support me one hundred percent. We just made it work. I would say that most women have a significant other or partner that helps subsidize their cycling income. We all do it for the passion of the sport and it’s hard to decide not to do something just because you don’t want to say it’s just about the money. The people who make it work – it’s not easy to living on Ramen everyday – but you know, it just draws you in. It’s attractive.
Riding your bike, as we know, is an amazing outlet. It’s such a sense of freedom and the competitive side is just so compelling and being a teammate. It gives you the sense of being in place. It’s hard to give that up despite not making a lot of money. But of course, there’s people who aren’t able to make it work if they don’t have a secondary source of income to help subsidize that. It certainly doesn’t work for everyone I don’t think. I think a lot of people are willing to make it work one way or another – just for the love of the sport.
ON HAVING A SECOND JOB TO SURVIVE AS A BIKE RACER
A lot of my teammates over the years had secondary jobs. Some of them were coaches so they could do that from the road. One of my teammates worked at a bank. She lived in a small town in Wisconsin and they made it work. I had a teammate who worked for Facebook years ago or they were students. There is just a variety of things and I would say I don’t know about nowadays. I’m a little bit more detached on the roadside of things but I will guess people are still having to take on second jobs to be able to make enough money on the side to survive.
ON IMPLEMENTING A MINIMUM WAGE FOR WOMEN RACERS
It’ll be interesting to see how it works for the teams and there definitely is a component whether or not teams can afford to pay the salaries. It’s unfortunate that women’s cycling is in that position, you know, having to put a strain on teams to make that happen because, well, the sponsors aren’t giving the team’s enough money. If they don’t give us more exposure then the sponsors aren’t going to give teams the money but the onus is on the teams to pay the riders so so it’s kind of a real Catch-22 cycle, you know? It’s hard, for sure.
There’s teams who can afford to do that. They’re able to pay those riders and they can quit those jobs to focus one hundred percent on training, racing, and recovering and all that goes along with it. The second-tier teams who are struggling, you know, I really just hope we don’t lose those teams.
ON APPLYING TO PROFESSIONAL TEAMS
I raced on the team in Madison, a couple of different teams when I was in California, and in 2002 I was on a team called Talgo America Cycling Team. I had some teammates that year that had been legit pro riders. So maybe we can call that a semi-pro team. Still, I wasn’t making a salary but that’s when I guess I was starting to travel to races outside of California (where I was living at the time) that wasn’t coming out of my own pocket. It was a little bit of a stepping stone to when I joined the Danish team in 2003.
Going to the Danish team was totally serendipitous. I was at the Montreal World Cup in 2002 and there was a small Danish team that had just come over to do a couple of races in America. I was like, “I should go talk to them because I’ll be in Denmark later this year,” and so I introduced myself. I met the director of the team. He said, “Yep. Stay in touch with me when you get to Denmark.” Because it was only Danish riders at that point, he said, “When you get here you can start training with us and we’ll see how things go.” So that went well, obviously. In 2003, they did a full-fledged UCI racing calendar.
We were doing all the World Cups at the time. We did the Tour of Flanders, Fleche Wallone, Tour L’Aude, Giro d’Italia Femminile, Grande Boucle Feminine Internationale. I mean, it was a Heyday of all these race. It was awesome! When that team folded, you know, I had contacts in America. I’d been racing in Europe, obviously, When the American Trade teams or National Team came over to Europe, we sort of congregated together in the peloton. Being the only English speakers, we looked out for one another, so I started making friends. I shouldn’t say, “making friends,” but getting to know more American women.
When I got that news the team was folding, I had a few different contacts, and I just reached out to them. I’m sure I put a resume together, but you know, part of it was just having gotten to know some of the American women who are on Lipton that I had met while racing in Europe. They probably saw me racing or whatever. When I was racing with Kristin Armstrong, we were a dominant team those two years so that helped kind of being on such a strong team.
Being a support rider for Kristen and my other teammates, it’s not like you have this resume full of wins and all these results that you can speak of, you know? Different directors are like, “Oh yeah, she’s the climber we want her,” or “She’s a sprinter, we want her.” As a support rider or domestique, it’s my the riders out on the road who notice the work that you’re doing. They might go back to their director and say, “Holy shit, you should have seen what Meredith did today! She sat on the front for the last 30k trying to bring back the break or getting her teammates in position.”
It’s just kind of word-of-mouth. I think you can kind of feel out what teams need and where the gaps are and what kind of rider they’re looking for. It’s also getting to know directors after being at the races long enough. At least the more outgoing riders get to know the directors enough. So some of it is just not working, some of it is just putting a resume together and sending it out to every director out there and following up and see who bites; and then you have those conversations with the directors and see what fits your schedule, what fits your philosophy or ethos best, or whatever it might be.
Now you have to make the choice if you do get a few different offers. It was weird because S.A.T.S, Lipton and Aaron’s – so three teams back-to-back-to-back all folded. I ended up going to another team and ended up on TIBCO where I stayed for five years. I am the kind of rider who would rather stay with what I know; keep with the core group of riders than move around, so I definitely found a home at TIBCO. I stayed there until I essentially gave up Pro Racing on the road in 2013.
ON BEING A DOMESTIQUE
I knew I wasn’t a climber, so I wasn’t going to win any type of mountain top finishes or anything like that. I wasn’t a pure sprinter nor did I want to become one. Oh my God, what those girls with the sprinters will do to fight for position at the end of the race is crazy. So I was like, “No, thank you.” I was happy doing the lead-out train, pulling off after my work was done, and being able to post up at the finish. Being able to watch the sprint.
With that being said, I certainly had my chances. I mean, I won Road Nationals in 2009 and that course suited a lot of different riders that year on my team. It wasn’t like, “Okay, you are our designated rider.” It wasn’t just one person. We were such an all-around strong team that we had a lot of different options and at the end of the day, I just happened to make the right break at the right time. I made the right move with just a few kilometers to go and I was able to solo away for the win. It wasn’t because I was the designated leader that day or it wasn’t because we thought the course suited me better than anyone else. My team was willing and able to give us opportunities so as support riders, we get those opportunities so makes it all right.
And the satisfaction you get of helping your teammates win is pretty awesome. TIBCO with Brooke Miller – such a Sprint specialist. I can’t tell you the number of races we won with her. On Lipton, being with Kristin Armstrong and being part of her thousand wins. I don’t know how many.
All my life I’ve always been a team athlete so I’ve never been an individual sport athlete. It was always a team effort so it just didn’t really occur to me to have it any other way until I started racing cross and that’s where I was getting more self-satisfaction: where I’m like, “Oh I can go out to this and I don’t have to worry about being in the right position for my teammate, having to go back and get bottles.” Obviously, you don’t do that in Cross but you know what I mean.
At the end of the day, whatever the outcome was, was all because of whatever I put into the races. For six years I did Cross and rode back-to-back with Road. I think with Cross, I was able to satisfy any sort of self desires or goals or results and then I could go back to the road season and be one hundred percent focused working for my team.
ON LOCAL WOMEN’S TEAMS
Alison Powers has a team and I think what she’s doing is pretty awesome. You know, sure, there’s different riders with different strengths, but that’s where she’s doing a great job. First of all, she’s going out with her riders and they do skills practice, they do tactical practices, they learn how to work as a team and even though maybe there’s one riders who’s the best sprinter of everybody, I think she gives everyone an opportunity to figure it out because maybe those other riders who aren’t the best sprinter still need to know all the nuances of doing a lead-out.
I think she’s doing a fabulous job whether that’s climbing or whatever. She took a team to Gila this year and one of my good friends is on that team and she used to be scared to death of climbing. Allison brought the team together and each and every other rider had a different goal every day and if you weren’t a climber then you had a different role before the climb started so each and every day all the riders had something to contribute to the team whether or not they’re the teammate winning or whatever. Everybody had a different role that contributed to the success for that team.
Even if the riders are not on the same level, she’s teaching them all the different skills and tactics, so at least the riders know what to do, you know? In any given race, the designated sprinter on any other day might be part of that lead-out so that everyone has that opportunity to learn because bike racing could be so boring. If it’s the same riders going off the front every time you don’t learn how to race. To some degree, this is what I learned my first year racing in Madison. We did more skills, but it’s still laid the foundation for the rest of my career.
ON TEAMS FOLDING
Sponsorship. The Danish team was sponsored by a fitness club called S.A.T.S that was around Scandinavia. I don’t really know the answer why they decided to pull out of the sponsorship deal but after three years they were arriva derchi. Team Lipton had actually been around more than just those two years. They had a Regional team before we became a full-fledged professional team or whatever you want to call it. The whole plan was to get through 2008 to get Kristin to the Olympics so when the team folded it was quite a shitshow because then she had to scramble to find a team that was going to support her and her goal to get to the Olympics. She ended up going to Europe and she race with Cervelo, so you know it was definitely a Scramble for her and all of us.
I think that has something to do with the leadership or because you know Lipton was part of Unilever so something happened with Unilever. That’s what happens a lot of times with sponsorships that dissolve. Somebody new takes over or there’s a new company so the new people who come in are like, “Why are we going to sponsor cycling?” You know, most of the brands that sponsor cycling is because somebody in upper management is passionate about cycling and when that person leaves, the next person who comes in could have zero interest in cycling and so they’re like, “We’re out.”
They don’t care if they have potential gold medals on the line and then there was Aaron’s. They had also been around, not sure how many years because they started at a regional level before they were National status. That was a one-year stint with them. We were in conversations with them about contracts and stuff for the next year when we got the news that they were pulling out of their sponsorship. So again, I’m not really sure what happened there, but that was a real surprise to me. It was unfortunate because our Director that year – who got me into cyclocross – felt so burned that she just ducked out completely, which was really sad because she has a long history with cycling, mostly on the mountain bike and cyclocross side. She was just a fantastic Director and to see her walk away from the team because she was so burned and so frustrated with it.
Oh, it’s hard. I mean, yeah, it sucks and you know, especially when you think things are going well, and you think, “I’m pretty sure I’m going to be asked to come back next year” and then the sponsorship leaves, you’re like “Okay, well I guess I got to start over from Ground Zero.” For riders who haven’t really developed yet or who aren’t as known in the peloton, their job certainly is harder finding another team especially when they get the notice late in the game or late in the season when most teams have already signed their riders.
This year, the men’s Peloton of the US got hit hard with how many teams folded. There’s a lot of riders who are just hanging out because there is nowhere to go. That many teams pulling, there’s nowhere to go. I mean it’s happened to the women’s field. There are teams that just come and go every year. It’s really unstable and you never know and there’s very few riders in the US I would say that have more than a one-year contract. It’s more common in Europe but in the US, I think it’s rare that to see two or three or multi-year contracts, so you’re just out there ear to the ground, pounding the pavement, trying to make sure you have a job.
It’s a challenge and it’s why Cyclingnews or Velonews posts a list of riders who everyone expected to have these big results and came out short. Now everyone’s wondering where they’re going to go or if they’re going to be asked back. It’s when riders sign with one team under the assumption that they will have all these results. At the end of the season and they come up short, the team’s like, “Yes, alright. Thanks but no thanks. You didn’t really do what we thought you were capable of” and they have to go find another team.
Sometimes as riders move on they’re even more successful because it’s just a different atmosphere so sometimes it turns out the best for everyone, but it’s stressful. It’s definitely stressful towards the end of the year for some of the riders who haven’t gotten the results and are begging their director, “please please.”
ON HER PATH TO CYCLOCROSS
So in 2008, was when I was racing on Aaron’s and as I mentioned, Carmen D’Aluisio was our director, she had a long history in mountain bike and cyclocross. She had been to Worlds at least once and I don’t know how the conversation started but myself and a couple of teammates were like, “You know, maybe we should try Cross this off-season” and her ears perked right up. She was like “For real?”
Her husband, Chris, worked and still works for Specialized, so she was like, “If you’re serious about this I can probably get you guys bikes. We can put together a calendar you might be interested in.” At that point we were just talking about local races and so I did that, I guess, in September. I was going to Interbike with the team anyway and she was like, “Meredith, you know you should do Cross Vegas. It’s just a crit on grass, you’ll be fine.”
I’d only had the bike for maybe a month, maybe. I got out and I did a couple of practices with friends so I could learn how to dismount or whatever and I was like, “Okay, here we go.” I get to Cross Vegas and I’m like freaking out because as you know, Cross Vegas is like a crit on grass basically, but the spectators are crazy. Everyone’s come over from Interbike at the end of a long day. Everyone’s drinking and it’s just a big party.
So I did the race and was just totally smitten right away. I finished with the biggest grin on my face. The crowd was just amazing. It was so different. I was getting to meet new people, see new faces, and it required different skills.
When I finished Cross Vegas, I was like, “I want to do more and not just Colorado races.” Aaron’s didn’t have the budget to send me around to do a full Cross schedule outside Colorado so then there was Cal Giant which was also a Specialized team. I had a friend who raced on the team, Rachel Lloyd. Carmen was friends with the director so we all just kind of fit the pieces together and they ended up bringing me on the team in the 2008 – 2009 season.
That first season I thought I would do it as offseason training that was different and fun. And it was so different and so fun though I was like, “Okay, I want to do more of this.” So I ended up racing for Cal Giant for the next 6 years and doing a road season and taking a little break and hopping into their cross season, taking a little break and going back into the road season again.
It was a way to satisfy any sort of self – I don’t know – any kind of goal I wanted for myself. I was learning new skills, meeting new people, going to different races. After racing on the road for 10 years, yeah, some things became a little stale, so it was just a nice way to keep things fresh.
Yeah, so I just sort of kind of fell into it through conversation with teammates. I don’t know if they did a single race that year. I think they were like, “Actually, I’m not really that serious about it.”
I don’t know if I’ve encountered many people who try cross who didn’t want to come back and do it again. You know, it’s weird because you’re like, “What are we doing? What is this all about?” Or maybe some people will start the cross season where it’s kind of nice out and once the weather turns, they’re not super stoked on riding in the mud, ice, or cold or anything, but it’s just something different.
There’s different parts of it that are intimidating, like getting off your bike, getting on your bike, running with your bike, going upstairs, “why are we going through sand?” But at the same time, I think it’s such a fun atmosphere and kind of a family-type atmosphere that everyone’s looking out for each other. It doesn’t really matter if you know what you’re doing or not. You just go out there and make a fool of yourself and laugh at yourself at the end of the day. Or, you’re taking it a little more serious and go practice your skills and technique and come back out and start to improve instead of,”I’m just go out to slip and slide around.”
ON THE STATE OF CYCLOCROSS
Cyclocross has taken a little hit recently because we had really good momentum going into the World Championships in Louisville in 2013. Everyone was excited having the World Championships on North American soil for the first time in the history of cyclocross. When that was over, it was sort of like, “Oh, what now would we look forward to?” Then the US GP was also done and it really kind of divided the country again into the West Coast – East Coast and everything in the middle.
On any given weekend, we have multiple UCI races so instead of having all the top riders go to the same race and really telling the story over a series, racers will stay closer to home. You didn’t have the top riders fighting against each other weekend after weekend and telling us an overall story. I think Cyclocross is starting to fall through the cracks a little bit and I think that’s probably where we’re at right now: How do we or what do we do to bring back cross to the level it was was in ‘13 with ‘12, ‘13, and ‘14 being the height of the Cross.
I really think we need another series again. Just looking at the races in North America over the last few weekends, there have been multiple so don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome that we have more support to have more races in North America. Not every team or athlete has the financial ability to travel across the country to get to those big races but it definitely dilutes the field.
As we have had multiple UCI races on the weekend, we haven’t seen some of the top riders go head-to-head. Coming into Nationals this weekend, we haven’t seen Steven Hyde or Gage Hecht go head-to-head or Katie Compton and Ellen Noble go head-to-head, so everyone’s just biting our nails.
ON FOUNDING TEAM NOOSA
I raced Cal Giant for 6 years and the last two years was when my teammate, Alan and I, started Noosa. That was just a right-place-right-time to find Noosa as a sponsor. They wanted to revamp their marketing and they felt like getting into Cyclocross. They already sponsored a team up in Fort Collins, which they still do, so they stepped up in a big way for two years.
I’m super grateful for what they did for us. Unfortunately, at the end of those two years, they were ready to move on to even bigger marketing plans and we didn’t fit in that marketing plan anymore as much as we tried to say, “Look at how many people we won over who had no idea what Noosa was until you started sponsoring a cycling team and now you’ve got new people buying left and right because they appreciate what you do for the sport?”
We thought that I was going to retire and manage the team and Alan would keep racing and we would bring on another female. We even started talking to females not knowing whether or not the team was going to continue or not, but in the back of our minds, we were hoping the team would continue.
ON WORKING FOR RAPHA
In 2014 I was a Rapha ambassador and at the end of that year was when I started Noosa. The team was sponsored by Castelli so obviously there was a bit of conflict of interest there, so I was no longer an ambassador. In 2016, after I finished my season, I was like it’s time to move on. I had started a little communications agency with a friend of mine who’d been working with World Tour teams since 2011. She wanted to start a company with me where one of our biggest clients was Cannondale Drapac, so we managed their social media and all that. We also worked with Boels-Dolmans. There were a few different things that we covered. Mostly my part was working with Cannondale Drapac and honestly, I enjoyed the team but I did not enjoy the social media aspect.
For years and years, I missed being able to go on rides with friends or going to events because I was at a bike race or I was going to a bike race. When I was covering social media for the team, I needed to be watching races on TV so I could tweet about what was happening, so I could report about what was happening at the end of the race or whatever might be. So here I was, again having to miss opportunities to ride with my friends because I needed to stay home and watch a bike race on TV that I didn’t care about.
I made it through the Tour of Utah and I got to go to the Paris Roubaix with the team. I really enjoyed being on the ground with a team but I didn’t like being at home stuck behind a computer doing the social media. After the Tour of Utah I told the team I was leaving.
I got news that Rapha was opening up a clubhouse store up in Boulder. The General Manager is a friend of mine and he mentioned they were hiring for the RCC coordinator. Everything on paper sounded like exactly what I was looking for and it turned out to be. Because of my prior relationship with Rapha as an ambassador in 2014, I had still stayed in contact with some of those people that I worked with and they knew me on some level at least.
I applied for the position and went through the whole process and everything and obviously got the job. I am a people-person. I really enjoy people much more than sitting behind a computer with the social media thing. I like being out on the road, showing people new rides, new routes or whatever, being in the clubhouse, chatting with people, organizing different events. That’s a lot more my personality and I still get to go to really cool places and ride my bike around the world so it’s been a really good journey so far.
About a month ago, I got to go to Taiwan where Rapha hosted the RCC Summit. I got to go be part of the team that got to show 112s guest a completely awesome experience: four days of riding and it was so incredible. To have the opportunity to do that and still travel, ride my bike, and kind of have a different team you know? It’s not like a competitive team where we’re looking for a win, but we’re a team encouraging everyone up the climbs or teaching each other how to ride so it’s really cool.
ON “GOING PRO”
I think that the biggest thing is when you’re looking for a team is that you have to use all of your resources. You can’t be afraid to ask. You have to put together a good resume, send it out, and if you have any common thread to anybody or anything on any team, use it to your advantage. Mention it in your cover letter or in your resume, whatever it may be. Really networking is key.
Sometimes it’s all about who you know, so when you’re at the races, don’t be the shy little butterfly off on the corner. I mean if you’re so good your results speak for themselves, that’s awesome because people are going to know who you are anyway, but when you’re at the races, don’t be afraid to talk to the directors. If you’re more of a support rider and you’re not necessarily the one getting the results, you’ve got to be getting seen or heard somehow, so introduce yourself. Don’t be shy. If you know riders on other teams, hit them up too and say, “Hey, what do I need to do? Can you put in a good word for me?”
Whatever it might be because I do feel like at the end of the day it is so much about who you know. All it takes is one rider on the team to say, “Hey, I got this really great person in mind for this particular role we’re looking to fill in the team. I really think you ought to give her a shot.”
You just have to keep putting in the work on the bike, but off the bike, it’s really just about putting yourself out there and it’s hard to do because not every rider is capable of that. We live in an age of social media where everyone has their own personal brand and that is not everyone’s forte but as much as you can, you have to put yourself out there to be seen, to be heard.
It’s a hard game. It’s a really hard game but it’s an important one. The social media part of that plays such a big part of getting those contracts these days.
The results still count but for a lot of sponsors, it’s more about the lifestyle of healthy living so they know who are you beyond just a bike racer. These brands want riders who can appeal not just to competitive athletes but to a full spectrum, a whole wide audience, so it’s really telling your story – not just being a bike racer but your lifestyle to.
And the other thing about about being a person of impact: when you’re in a race, you got to be willing to take risks and put yourself out there within a race. I think there’s more credit given to the riders who try and fail rather than the ones who just sit in and hide, who finish in the top 20. I would rather see a rider give it all and take a risk and go off the front or whatever it might be. You chase down the break or be part of the break, get caught, and finish 50th than a rider who hides, who isn’t really doing anything, and ends up in the top 20.
Rarely do you hear about the riders without a team or the riders experiencing teams folding one after the other. We don’t hear about the stress professional cyclists are under to get another contract. I told Meredith it gave me anxiety just listening to her talk about it. I’m not sure if my performance would suffer knowing that my contract was constantly on the line if I didn’t perform well. Even then, if I performed well, the following season wouldn’t be guaranteed either.
That’s also life. We’re not guaranteed a tomorrow or even the next minute. We aren’t guaranteed our jobs because those ends, businesses close, people are jerks. Even if you perform well, you could still get told to kick rocks. Absolutely nothing is guaranteed in life, except for death and taxes.
If you always play it safe, what kind of life is that? At the end of the day and at the end of our lives, how are we truly living? Are we just surviving? Are we thriving? Are we doing what we most desperately want to do?
I keep tossing the idea back and forth: do I want to become a professional cyclist? One who actually receives a livable wage for racing my bike? Do I have the grit to work hard enough to make that a possibility? And why? Why do I want this?