It was about this time a year ago that I decided to ride my bike a bit more seriously for road cycling races – both crit and road races. To preface this story, the year and a half or so before I made this decision I was an average cyclist that raced in some category 4 races when I wanted and raced in a few category C and B collegiate races. I was never a winner with decent competition, and half the time I would get dropped from the lead group.
Fast forward to today and I am the first female from Oklahoma to qualify and compete at USA Cycling Collegiate Road Nationals, won two stages (the road race and crit race) of the Joe Martin Stage Race, won the age based state championship crit race, and am looking to grab the win at some later criterium races this season.
Q: How do you go from zero to successful?
A: There were a few changes that I plan to write about later, but one major change was to change my training mentality: Adopt the training mentality of a guy.
That is exactly what I did.
I know that statement may upset some feminists or #LikeAGirl lovers, but you learn a lot from training with men. All of the top female cyclists I knew trained with a bunch of men. Initially, I challenged myself to go on local group rides with a fast group of guys. Yes, they would drop me at some point during the ride, but each week I would hang on a bit longer and felt myself becoming stronger. There were aspects of every group ride that taught me to be extremely tough and I began to incorporate them into my own training. The guys do not care if you are dropped, they will not ride slower for you, they expect you to pull the group as fast as them, they enjoy the pain of hard rides, and they attack at will and expect you to keep up. Building a thick skin to handle those rides transitioned well into my solo training rides I did about 90% of the time.
I never gave up on myself, I rode hard, and I began to genuinely enjoy the pain of hard training as my fitness began to increase. Later that fall, I was asked to join DNA Racing, and my motivation to train hard skyrocketed. I have to thank the incredible men on the team for all of the training advice and camaraderie I have received. It has launched my healthy obsession with road cycling and I know I would not be nearly as strong without them there to push me on every ride.
After enduring a brutal winter training season and team training camp, I began to think I could handle any women’s race after learning to ride like a guy.
My thoughts were correct: After putting in a whole off-season of training with a new attitude, my first race weekend ended with me on the podium both days. It was an incredible feeling because I had never been on the podium for a USAC race! The trend of podiums and winning prime laps has continued this whole season as well as upgrading to more competitive racing categories.
So, what’s the take home message for female athletes who want to give themselves a competitive edge? COMMIT to constantly going on rides that are above your fitness level, learn to handle the PUNCHES of hard training because it will make you incredibly strong, and don’t be discouraged if at first you can’t handle the intensity of training with a group of men. Eventually you will become an insanely STRONG female athlete – and other women will FEAR you at the starting line because they know you can “ride like a guy.”
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