Cycling

Turns out there is more silver lining than cloud

For my birthday last October, my dear friend Ivy gave me a necklace:


It was more than just a piece of jewelry; it was a reminder and a life philosophy. Get shit done. Keep going. Don’t let anything stop you.

There was a moment last November when I almost forgot that. Everything felt broken and insurmountable. I sat alone in my apartment in Seattle and wept at the mess I’d made of my life. In that instant, I couldn’t figure out how to begin untangling the wreckage of an entirely derailed life plan.

But then I got up off the couch and did. One step at a time, one day at a time, with the help of my tirelessly loving family and friends. I got shit done. Now it’s time for the next step. I just left home to go on the road for the season.

I often write something here when a chapter of life comes to a close; it’s my way of processing things. When I thought of this time and what I’d say about the 10 weeks prior, originally it was going to be depressing as hell. “I spent all winter being cranky, training indoors, and doing work, WAHH WAHHH.” But while mentally drafting a recap of this past winter, I realized that’s not what actually happened.

Well. Not entirely. I was definitely irritable far too often. As Andrew delicately said, “I think you do too much and give too many fucks, and when it comes to anything beyond that, you don’t have any fucks left to give.”

I’m going to start a GoFundMe for fucks. Please help me overcome this critical shortage.

It was definitely a difficult period and there have been many moments when I felt lost or mired under disappointment and hurt. I spent a not insignificant amount of time eating Veggie Straws in my bathrobe watching old MTV shows. But in retrospect, this has also been one of the most productive, strongest times of my life. I guess I didn’t see how much was happening until it was time to stop and leave.

It started with a bike race at the beginning of December that reminded me how much I love this sport and want to keep racing. After that, training kicked off hard and provided a place to put my feelings and attention every day. It didn’t matter how shitty I felt; when it was time to train, I threw everything into the workouts. It paid off; testing with my coach last week showed the best numbers I’ve ever put out. While I love to complain at length about indoor riding, this winter it saved me.


Off the bike, I fixed all of the minor problems on my beloved M Coupe, got it detailed and ready to sell, and then decided to keep it because why the hell not. I moved out of my condo, fixed it up, put it on the market, and signed a contract to sell it. The relief of unloading that place after nearly nine years and being free to call anywhere home is huge. In the process of ditching my Seattle apartment and my Reston condo, I also got rid of boxes and boxes of stuff I no longer want or need. There’s something liberating about being able to fit all of your worldly possessions in one large closet. (There is something distinctly less liberating about telling people you live in a closet at your parents’ house.)

I also kept up with my plans to keep traveling, and spent a few weekends wandering all over Philadelphia and Charleston, seeing and eating everything. Back home, I caught up with friends, met some wonderful new people, visited new places, and even decided ice skating would be a good idea (wrong). Most excitingly, after fifteen years of fussing with glasses and contacts, I finally got laser eye surgery and can see perfectly. IT IS AMAZING. As the eye doctor said during my final check up last Thursday, “Your flaps look good.”

There’s an uncomfortable compliment.

Finally, between work and running the team and training, I also started writing a regular column for Peloton Magazine and launched a podcast, The Dirt Field Recordings, with the help of Bill Schieken (aka CXHairs). I’ve wanted to do more creative projects for a long time but always felt like those ideas got pushed to the side because there were too many other tasks to do. In rebuilding life into what I want it to be, those things finally became priorities. We only get one shot at life and nobody dies being really glad they knocked out their to-do list.

Things still hurt. There are still moments when I feel lost. But living a full life means accepting that with the good comes the bad and from the bad, there can also come good. This past winter wasn’t what I expected or thought I wanted, but in the end it was so much better.

Lindsay Bayer Brett Rothmeyer

Photo by Brett Rothmeyer.

Lindsay Bayer Bruce Buckley

Photo by Bruce Buckley.

Posted on in Cycling, Employment, Family, Friends, Life, Sadness, Travel 1 Comment

On exiting 2016 like a bat out of hell

What a year! I will forever look back on 2016 as the year that overflowed with joyful moments like slamming into the ground repeatedly, getting my heart pulverized, and finding out we’d elected Trump. What a time to be alive! And yet, in the wake of a year of sometimes crippling defeats, I have never felt more alive, excited, and ready to plunge ahead.

So many things happened in the last 12 months. We launched Hagens Berman | Supermint and had an incredible season of highs and lows, victories and learning experiences, and a roller coaster of thrills that took the team all over North America and to Italy for the Giro Rosa. (Meanwhile, I went to Canada. So that’s basically my 2016 life choices in a nutshell.) It still feels surreal, yet we’re now well underway towards our second season.

In my own cycling career, I raced hard, crashed harder, stubbornly kept going even harder than that, and then retired. It seemed like a good idea at the moment, sort of like jäegerbombs or that time I pierced my nose. But like any good pro cyclist, I quickly unretired and kept training because that is what we do.

Off the bike, I drove back and forth across America a time or four, in the way that other people run to the grocery store. Oh, you need something in California? BRB. I don’t regret the experience – I love a good roadtrip and the thrill of motorpacing behind my car for three hours along the highway – but maybe the next time a guy suggests I move across the country for him, I’ll just pack a carry-on and fly. Because there’s a good chance it’ll be a short trip anyway.

Which brings me to that little thorn in the side of 2016, the Great Shocking Heartbreak Adventure. I rearranged my life for a dude that turned out to be not what he seemed, or maybe exactly what he seemed had I been willing to be less delusional. I made a serious of bad decisions that culminated in realizing abruptly that I was a sucker and the unfortunate owner of a fully-furnished and now entirely unnecessary home in Seattle. So I cried and screamed WHYYYYYY at the heavens and then moved back across the country and cut my losses.

Now it’s the end of the year and a great time to reflect on a number of valuable lessons to take into 2017 and beyond. Let us all learn from my foibles so that at least some of us can avoid the joy that is letting somebody break your rib AND your heart.


1. If you are not sure about a new living arrangement, stick to Ikea options. It makes bailing in a hurry much less painful and expensive; nobody weeps over the loss of a particleboard bed frame.

2. Say yes to adventures that make you feel anxious. Say no to people that make you feel anxious. It’s a great idea to step outside your comfort zone to explore the world and branch out personally. But if somebody tries to tell you, “no, really, you LIKE this,” and your gut says you don’t, listen to it.

3. Consider refundable plane tickets. After retiring, I bought a plane ticket to Japan for a 3-week adventure in January. Hooray spontaneity! Then I unretired and need to spend January training. Changing that ticket to a trip after the season ends was an unpleasantly expensive undertaking. Lesson? For big trips, it might be worth building in flexibility.

4. If you are looking for a way to spend all of your time and money, start a professional cycling team. This requires no explanation.

5. Money can buy neither love nor happiness. “But it can buy a bicycle and that’s basically the same thing!” Oh, please. Seriously, though, if you think you can throw money at yourself or somebody you love in hopes of making everything better/happier, just stop. It doesn’t work. (Or throw it at me instead.)

6. Always do your workout. You’ll rarely regret it. Getting up and moving when all I want to do is read the Internet and eat Veggie Straws never fails to make me feel better. And besides, the Veggie Straws are always there waiting when I’m done.

7.  Compromise is key to making any relationship – personal or business – successful. But compromise by definition is mutual. Be willing to give, but not everything all the time.

8. There are three things on which you should never budge: How much you’re comfortable spending, how much you’re comfortable drinking, and what saddle you ride. Your butt deserves better.

9. If you find yourself Googling “is this the right person for me?” you can stop right there because you have your answer.

10. There is always time to stop for coffee or a snack. Life is short and nobody ever dies saying, “Thank god I never made time to sit and eat ice cream.”

11. Sometimes stopping entirely is the only way to move forward. This is hard for me to accept because I stubbornly refuse to back down under any circumstance, even while losing a fight with a tiger that is poisonous and covered in angry wasps. But I wish I’d sat out the Gila race after I got a concussion, and I wish I’d given my body time to recover from the crash at North Star, and I wish I’d walked away from the relationship that made me feel badly long before it imploded. A well-timed cease and desist would have made all the difference many times over.

12. Instead of trying to have what you want, want what you already have. I’m perpetually discontent and always chasing more in life, and frankly after 32 years of this, I can tell you it’s not doing me any favors. Don’t make the same mistake. Chances are, you already have everything you need to be happy.


There were a lot of painful moments this year, but perhaps that’s not a bad thing. Maybe I needed to learn hard lessons in cycling to make me a healthier, wiser athlete. Maybe I needed to get my heart trampled by a guy to figure out how to be smarter and stronger (and more careful with the concept of joint checking). Maybe I needed to walk away from everything I’ve worked for to realize just how badly I still want it.

All any of us can do is weather the shitty times, learn from them, and keep going forward. I am so happy to be here now, surrounded by people that make me feel lucky to be alive, doing things that make me excited to wake up each day. There is no better way to start a new year.

Posted on in Cycling, Employment, Family, Friends, Life, Sadness, Travel 1 Comment

On deciding to retire

The first thing I did after deciding to retire was spin for an hour on the trainer.

Of course that’s how it would go. I decided to retire; I didn’t stop breathing or being a head case.

But I should back up.

In early June of 2007, I bought a mountain bike and later that month, I started racing it. By August, I’d decided I wanted to go to the Olympics for cross country racing and by the following December, I was in training. My whole life shifted: my diet became healthier and actually included water, I rode a bike all the time, and every day included some type of cross-training. Sometimes I loved it; others I’d put off training all day and throw tantrums as I dragged myself onto the trainer at 10pm. How I felt about the process was mostly irrelevant – I had a goal and absolute tunnel vision to that end. My whole life shifted to being about training and racing and I made choices repeatedly to support that goal and abandon everything else.

2010-greenbrier-racingWhen I stumbled into road cycling (or crashed into it, as some of you may recall), everything changed except for the steel-trap focus on making it to the highest level of the sport. I was more successful on the road than trails and that stoked the fire to work harder and sacrifice more. Two years later, I was racing professionally all over the country and have been there since. It’s been a wild ride.

podium-in-walterboroStarting the Hagens Berman | Supermint team was an incredible experience and I enjoyed racing this past season more than ever before. I was fitter and stronger then any year prior, and finally had the confidence and experience to feel in control in races. I didn’t achieve some of my personal goals but have no regrets.

2016-redlands-tt-1
What I do have is the certainty that I need to step away from racing now. Not from riding, not from running the team, but from the demands of being a professional cyclist. The negative feelings started months ago but I ignored them or chalked them up to temporary injury/fatigue/burnout. They didn’t go away, though, and I would listen to myself chatting with people about racing and the coming season and it sounded like I was talking about getting teeth extracted or attending my own funeral. There is nothing in professional cycling so rewarding that it is worth doing when you don’t feel like it anymore.

2016-bokanev-trainer-2
As for the why? part: Phil Gaimon had a great interview recently talking about his own decision to retire and many of his reasons mirror mine. It felt like my fire to race dimmed to the point where it no longer blotted out the magnitude of the risks and sacrifices. I’ve missed events and holidays for years, begrudgingly put my body through grueling workouts when I wanted to be doing ANYTHING else, and visited the ER more times than people who work there. Throughout all of it, I kept seeing the goal the goal the goal and that was enough, but when the goal stopped meaning as much, I couldn’t figure out why to keep going.

In the middle of a Saturday morning while visiting the San Francisco area in October, I abruptly decided to retire.

2016-redlands-stage-1-finish-1
There was an immediate feeling of relief and excitement about how wide open my future suddenly felt. There was also panic – who am I if I’m not a professional cyclist? – but that wasn’t a good enough reason to keep going anymore. I told a few people about the decision, did my daily core workout, and then rode the trainer. Although I was done racing, I wasn’t done being fit or feeling compelled to ride and I needed to spin my legs out in advance of the next day’s big ride.

The rest of the week in San Francisco was spent smashing my body on long rides and not giving a shit about being totally cracked, having terrible legs, or stopping for coffee mid-ride. Off the bike, I ate and drank like it was my last meal and spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I wanted to be next. I bought a plane ticket to spend three weeks in Japan exploring because this is the first time in nearly a decade that I felt free enough to travel without thinking about training or racing. It felt a bit like being let out of jail.

2016-sf-ride-in-redwoods
When I think about racing, I do feel sad and miss it already. I’m certain it will be hard to watch or hear about races I should be in and know that I’m not part of the action anymore. But it’s like outgrowing a romantic relationship; you can look at the person and love them so much but know they’re not right for you anymore and it’s time to move on. I love racing and everything it has done for my life, but it’s time to figure out what is next and plunge wildly, terrifyingly, and joyfully into that unknown.

2016-bike-path-at-sunset
Until I come out of retirement, that is. There will likely be a sequel.

Posted on in Cycling, Employment, Life 2 Comments

So you want to be a pro cyclist.

One of the best things about this past racing season was no longer constantly worrying about signing my next professional contract. When you run your own cycling team, you worry about everything except whether or not you’ll have a job.

Jono and I did have a conversation about this few months ago.

“You’re hiring me as a rider again,” I said. “You don’t have a choice.”

“I could say no, but then you could fire me. And we haven’t talked about whether or not you’re hiring me back as the director.”

And so that was settled.

After five years of stressing all season about getting a job the following year, it was a relief to let go of that concern and race my bike without thinking about a result on a resume. [Instead I worried constantly about the team getting results to keep the sponsors happy and the team in existence. No pressure.]

I also didn’t have to spend July through October desperately checking my email for good or bad news. Rachel Heal and Linda Jackson are likely still relieved that my emails have stopped coming, while Jono would probably give his right arm to go back to the sweet old days when my emails to him began with “Dear Mr. Coulter…

Now I’m on the other side and would like to offer some advice to every rider hoping to sign a professional contract. I’ve been you, I feel your pain, I know that hunger. There were times where I would have traded a major organ for a contract. But here are some things to consider:

1. Just race your bike. Results do matter, but if you spend all season chasing results just for the sake of getting hired, you are asking to be unhappy. I remember dragging my burned-out, weary butt all over the country because I was desperate to get that stand-out result that was going to make all the team directors swoon. At one point, I paid $900 for a plane ticket to do a single crit in Aspen, took a 5am flight to Virginia the morning after, had 36 hours to rest/recover/attend a bachelorette party, then drove 6 hours to race another crit the next day. When I finished 4th in that race, I cried hysterically and felt like a crushing failure because it wasn’t a podium and I wasn’t going to get noticed by directors and was probably going to die alone in a cave. That is the definition of doing it wrong. You should race because you love the challenge and want to be the best — that’s the only way to keep it rewarding enough to be worth doing.

2. But no, seriously, race your bike. Please do not spend your entire season racing locally and then send your resume to national/international pro teams telling them about your great results. You need to learn how to race at national-level events and show directors that you can be competitive in those races. Yes, it is expensive and challenging to do as a solo rider. Life is not fair but that’s the price of climbing the ladder in this sport. True story: I genuinely believed after winning my first few local races as a category 3 rider that pro teams would want to hire me and sent out my resume accordingly. Please do not be me. I am still embarrassed enough for us both.

3. Being hired to a team is not going to make or break your life. Yes, it is great to be able to call yourself a professional cyclist, to have things paid for and given to you, and to be part of a collective organization in matching clothes working together towards a single goal. Some of my best moments in cycling have come from traveling and racing with a team. But some of my worst moments in cycling have also come from the drama and politics and budget struggles inherent in so many teams. The wrong environment can wreck your season and motivation. Before you structure your whole season and personal sense of worth around getting a contract, make sure you figure out what you want from the sport and THEN decide the best way to get there. A pro contract on a team where you are not a good fit isn’t going to get you anywhere you want to be.

4. Be sure you’re ready to be on a team. Unless you are a very special snowflake, you are probably going to spend your first few seasons on a team as a domestique. It is hard to go from being a hometown hero with brilliant results to finishing 58th consistently because you are part of the leadout train. My ego struggled with that because I worried that people back home would think I suddenly sucked. My own parents spent most of my first pro season asking why I kept doing so poorly in races where I’d gotten top-10 results the previous year. Figuring out how to be truly happy that you got somebody else on the podium doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re not ready to take orders and be a cog in the machine and give up being an independent agent, that’s fine, but don’t join a team. Go into a team ready to learn, willing to listen, and happy to cooperate.

5. Prepare a strong resume and introductory email. Your resume should be succinct, current, and easy to process. Directors do not want to wade through five pages of lovely photos and touching narrative. When you write your introductory email, focus on what you can do for the team, not what the team can do for you. If your objective is “To find a team that can help me accomplish X, Y, and Z,” you are doing it wrong. Your parents, friends, coach, therapist, significant other, and pet all care about your hopes and dreams. Directors care about the team’s hopes and dreams, so you should focus on telling them how you will be an asset. Make an effort to show that you want to be part of their team for a specific reason so it seems like you’ve done more than just cut and paste the same message to a dozen directors. If you email me and mention that you were so impressed when the team set Scotti up to win at Stage 1 of Redlands or that you have a fetish for polka dotted bottles, I am going to be impressed enough to at least open your resume. If you want a director to care about you, start by showing that you care about their team.

Note: This advice can also be applied to your resume/cover letter in your professional career outside of cycling. In my non-cycling career, I review a lot of resumes where people seem oddly convinced that corporations care about their personal career goals.

6. Ask the right questions. Ask directors what their race program goals are for the following season. If your heart is set on going to Europe, be honest about that so you and the director can determine if the team is a good fit. Ask about the team’s views on riders having outside employment, if significant others or family members can be accommodated on travel plans, whether the team prefers to keep riders on the road or send them home between races, and what expenses are covered or not. It’s okay to ask these questions and if the director won’t answer them, then it’s probably not a team you want to spend a year with anyway. As for the salary conversation, people seem very uncomfortable about this all around. That is stupid: cycling is a business and this is a job. Even if the salary on offer is low or non-existent, let’s all agree to have the same professional discussion one would expect in any hiring dialogue.

7. Rejection is not the end of the world. I have received a lot of rejections in cycling. Jono himself has rejected me multiple times in past seasons. (NOW WHO’S LAUGHING??) There are a lot of great riders and not a lot of teams. There is not a lot of money to go around in the sport, and there are tons of politics and weird relationships that make navigating the world of teams even more challenging. If you get rejected, just keep riding and racing your bike. If you were only doing it to get on a team in the first place, please go reread point #1. Don’t give up because you never know what could happen. Teams often bring on guest riders throughout the season that end up getting hired. Teams also make final hiring decisions at the end of the year or the start of the new year to round out their rosters. If you always focus on racing your bike hard and being a generally decent person, your time will come.

Posted on in Cycling, Employment 5 Comments

The story behind the Hagens Berman | Supermint Pro Cycling Team

The news is officially out: I’m riding for the Hagens Berman | Supermint Pro Cycling Team for 2016, a new women’s UCI professional cycling team I co-own with Jono Coulter.

A team I co-own.

Those are words I never aspired to say. No part of me ever wanted to own a business, especially not one where profitability is irrelevant and breaking even is the goal. I’ve spoken to people in the past who were all, “I’d love to have my own team!” and I’d laugh and reply, “I’d love to slam my hand in a door repeatedly!” The idea of coordinating sponsors and riders and travel and logistics made my brain melt, especially when I watched teams struggle and fold year after year.

As the 2015 season wrapped up, though, Jono and I started talking about plans for 2016. We each had options on the table but also ideas of how we wanted to change the experiences we’d already had working for other teams. Those ideas turned into casual conversations that turned into more serious talks that turned into….wait. What? We’re starting our own team?

We had concepts, some connections, and balls the size of cantalopes, but no money. It didn’t matter at that point; our enthusiasm was enough to get the planning started for real and we each maintained the foolhardy belief that everything would work out. Alcohol and constant pep talks helped. We talked so many times a day that we may be legally wed in several states.

Our plans became more official as the weeks progressed – we started branding the team, brought on a great group of riders, and lined up initial details for a schedule. We were all in and excitement was building. The only minor hiccup was a complete lack of outside funding. Financial agreements we made were backed by our own money, an ill-advised, frightening concept but also the only way we could move forward and ensure that we fulfilled our promises. We refused to take on obligations we couldn’t already afford, but in the absence of a major sponsor, that meant we were agreeing to personally cover salaries and expenses.

I didn’t sleep in October.

My parents and friends expressed some concern over this plan. This is not wise, they’d say. Are you sure you want to back this plan with your own money? I knew it was a gamble, but a time-honored one taken by entrepreneurs everywhere. I believed in what we were building, believed in Jono, and believed that it was better to go all in on our dream than play it safe and sign up for another dissatisfying year. When it came time to submit the initial fees to the UCI and USA Cycling, we paid unhesitatingly out of our own pockets.

Meanwhile, I spent every free moment networking with, chatting up, and emailing potential title sponsor companies. Our sponsorship proposition was something new and different in the business – we had riders with professional careers off the bike and wanted to leverage those backgrounds to deliver better benefits to our sponsors. Instead of promising “clicks” and jersey space and “mentions” – frankly useless and hard-to-measure propositions for companies – we offered networking, access to riders for company initiatives, and our ability to engage effectively with customers and partners.

The proposal was strong but finding the right partner was a challenge unlike anything I’ve faced before. I’ve worked in business development for a long time, but never on the sales side. Making cold calls, pushing for meetings, and taking rejection repeatedly were all new, harrowing experiences. I was constantly bracing to take on the next target, send the next email, and explain the concept to yet another CEO. Getting shot down multiple times stung and it took a while to build up a shell; sometimes I would hang up the phone and just cry. Fatigue, frustration, and anxiety were overwhelming at times and I was perpetually on edge wondering what if it doesn’t come together? 

Our big break came in November. Steve Berman of the Hagens Berman law firm read the team proposal and wanted to come on board as our title sponsor. I hyperventilated, wept, and laughed all at once; it sounded like somebody was shaking an emotional hyena, but all I could hear was the sound of our dreams coming true. I love lawyers! I even went to law school for a bit! HAGENS BERMAN 4EVER!!1!11!!

I’d love to say it was painless and easy from that moment forward, but that would be a lie: building a team is hard. Just when you think you’re on top of things, another issue arises or the next item on the list needs to be sorted out. I’ll be falling asleep and suddenly jolt awake thinking something like WATERBOTTLES! The official team launch occurred while I was on a highway in New Mexico moving cross-country; I awoke on the first day of 2016 to remember OMG, payroll.

But this has also been one of the best experiences of my life. Jono and I had a dream and we refused to let it go, even when the obstacles seemed insurmountable. We have built a team with great riders and a cool brand and a talented creative director. We have sponsors that believe in what we are building and are giving us the support we need to represent them well. I’ve learned to take rejection in stride, to keep going even when the odds are not looking good, and to manage a million details at once without cracking.

Okay, I have cracked a few times. There is significantly less scotch in my pantry than there was in September.

While I can’t predict how all of this will turn out, there are a few things I already know for sure. HB Supermint’s riders will be treated like professionals on and off the bike. Each rider is paid the same salary, because every team member is valuable, whether they’re sprinting for results or finishing dead last after the leadout. We will not make promises we can’t keep, not to riders, staff, or sponsors. Our sponsors are the key to our success and will be treated as such. These are the principles on which we built this team and no matter where the season takes us, there will be no compromises. The scariest but best thing about being the boss is that you call the shots.

That’s the story of how I came to co-own a cycling team. It’s been a wild ride, but I suppose the fun is just getting started.

HB Supermint
You can read more about the team on the Supermint website or the Supermint Facebook page.

 

Posted on in Cycling, Employment, Life 7 Comments

LinkedIn: Strava for Female Pros

Yesterday was exhausting; a 3:15am alarm woke me in Logan, UT so I could get a 6am flight home out of Salt Lake City. By the time 10pm rolled around, I was cranky, borderline incoherent, and overly emotional about things like the dog wanting to pee on too many shrubs. It was an ideal night for an early bedtime, except that as 11pm came and went, I was on my LinkedIn page updating my profile to more accurately reflect my non-bicycle accomplishments. Or, summarized more honestly: to make it clear that I’M A BAWSS, YO.

Frankly, I don’t give two shits about LinkedIn. It’s like Facebook but even less interesting because people don’t overshare or rant inappropriately. I would rather watch my nails grow than review my LinkedIn newsfeed and fewer things elicit less excitement than finding out that a colleague wants to connect online. I hardly even want to connect with my colleagues in real life and I’m getting paid to do that. But suddenly LinkedIn seemed crucial, because it was the only way to validate publicly that I’m, like, smart and skilled and stuff.

It seems pathetic to admit this, but oversharing is pretty much the reigning style guide here. Somebody said something recently that made it feel like I needed to point out that I do more than just ride a bike. There is a mentality in this sport that women are a second act to the main show of the men, but it generally brings me some comfort to know that most professional men are just cyclists while most professional women are cyclists and something (coaches, dietitians, scientists, doctors, lawyers, so on). It’s no surprise that this is the most popular 140-character sentiment I’ve ever shared:

Tweet
While I don’t have a PhD, I do have a career off the bike that I’ve worked to establish and grow over the last decade. I am proud to be a professional cyclist, but that’s not my only job and I’m discontent to let somebody think all I can do with authority is pedal. Thanks to the nature of women’s cycling, it’s rare to find a professional female racer who is not also well-educated, already enmeshed in a separate career, or both. It’s basically a necessity to survive in a sport that offers minimal pay and no long-term security.

So I took my frustration to my LinkedIn page last night and spent too much time tweaking the content to prove something that I’m irritated about needing to prove in the first place. The irony is that the audience I’m trying to educate is the least likely to even notice or care; as long as I’m pedaling with boobs, that’s going to be what they recognize.

Okay. You can’t win them all. That’s the story of racing, right? You keep entering races and fighting knowing that more often than not, you’re not going to win. Instead of an extra hour of sleep, I fought the good fight on LinkedIn. (Dumber words were never spoken.) At least the next time I feel marginalized by some idiot or I get crushed on a climb, I can totally be like, “OMG WHATEVER, have you seen my LinkedIn?!”

Posted on in Cycling, Employment, Life Comments Off on LinkedIn: Strava for Female Pros

All of this talk because BOOBS

There are a number of people complaining that the women’s World Championship road race this past Saturday was not sufficiently exciting to watch. I’m sorry; did you confuse the race with your Netflix queue? The race happened the way it did because that is how the race happened. The racers shouldn’t have to implement tactics to make it more “interesting” to watch. I find baseball to be excruciatingly dull, but I am not going to say the the pitcher should be required to juggle and sing while also doing his job just so I am entertained. That is why Gossip Girl is streamed online.

Somehow this conversation – like every other that relates to women in cycling – has circled back into the dialogue about equality in our sport. Equality is good. I don’t believe a professional male racer is better or worth more than me simply because he’s a dude. Frankly, his parts look weirder than mine and I probably smell better. But I am pragmatic and outside of my cycling career, I work in business, an industry where nothing happens “on principle” or just because it’s right. Business is impersonal, fiscally-motivated, and controlled by economic logic. Because that’s the mindset in which I operate so much of the time, it is also the basis on which I form my opinions on the current conversation about women’s cycling.

Here is what I believe. Women racers are equal to men racers. Not better, not worse, not any more or less interesting to watch or support. Women racers are more interesting to me because [a] I am one, so they are my peers (hahaha Marianne Vos is my peer, lemme just marinate in that fantasy for a sec), and [b] economic and life factors have led a majority of women racers to be highly educated and have fascinating careers outside of cycling. Lawyers, scientists, doctors, PhD students, etc. It adds depth to these racers that I find compelling.

I also believe that women’s teams should not have salary minimums. Yes, there are men’s teams that do and it’s unfortunate that our sport and the surrounding industry isn’t such that women’s teams are equal. But if you enforce salary minimums, then what happens to the teams that can’t afford to meet them? They go away. The last thing professional women need is fewer teams.

I believe the same thing about race prize purses. If an event offers equal payout, then that event is AWESOME and I want to support and praise it. But if an event can’t (and, as the treasurer of a cycling club that puts on races, I do know that sometimes there simply isn’t the money), I don’t want the event to disappear entirely. I’d still like a chance to race, and for other people to have that chance as well. I don’t want to punish other racers – pro or amateur – just because it’s not a fair situation. I’d rather show up and speak up and ask for better in the future. It is so wonderful that the NCC races in 2015 are required to have equal prize purses for men and women, but I’m also afraid that the calendar will lose some beloved events that couldn’t afford to pay out that money. I want equality, but I also want racers and spectators all over the country to have opportunities to be engaged in our sport, and losing events works against that.

My underlying feeling is that there must be economic drivers for everything. It is not enough to just ask for financial equality, because that doesn’t answer the question of where to get that money. I don’t want teams and events to disappear because we legislated monetary requirements that they can’t meet. I think the conversation should be about how to enhance and display the value of women’s cycling to both the industry and the world so that the price tag represents something tangible. We have the supply; now we need to show why there should be demand.

That doesn’t mean the women should throw away their races in pursuit of putting on a show. I think it means creating race events and courses that are interesting to spectators. Finding ways to engage the audience and showcase the athletes to give fans somebody to cheer on. Convincing our governing bodies within the sport that they must see women as equal to men. At a personal level, racers should work to engage people and sponsors outside of cycling. Create fans, don’t wait for them to come to us. Calling for equality is a start, but developing a sound, fiscally-logical approach for reaching it is the only next step that will actually work.

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The American Dream

My trip home from Redlands earlier this week began with an American Airlines flight from Ontario, CA (ONT) to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), followed by a 90-minute layover before the second flight. I was waiting at the gate at ONT before the scheduled departure of 2:25pm, but by 2:15pm, there still was not a single airline employee in sight. I looked the flight up online and saw that there was a delay, but no announcement was ever made at the gate. This was not unlike my trip out to Redlands, where the American flight was delayed by 90 minutes without explanation or apology.

I started to get anxious; the flight was now scheduled to land 19 minutes before my next one was due to depart. It didn’t look promising. A phone call to the airlines and a visit to the gate counter indicated that (a) if I missed my connection, the only option was a flight the following morning and (b) my suitcase might make my connection or might not, but they couldn’t say.

When the flight landed at DFW with 11 minutes until my next departure, I was still foolishly hopeful. I sprinted through the terminal past 25 gates. Nobody was around when I got to my gate, but the door to the gangway was open so I ran in. The first thing I saw when I got to the end was the plane….with the cabin door already closed, which in airport land means the plane might as well already be at 35,000 feet. A rabbity little American Airlines employee was standing with his back to me as I pathetically gasped, “Is that the plane to Washington?”

Instead of answering, he demanded to know how I had gotten in. “Uh, through the door?” He was outraged, furious that I’d evidently broken some commandment by walking through an open, unattended door. By the time he and I walked back to the American counter near the door I’d so HEINOUSLY entered, we’d established that (a) he sucked tremendously as a person and (b) he was the one tasked with fixing my situation. I would rather have eaten my now-defunct boarding pass than been there with him.

He remained huffy and indignant while booking me a new flight for the next morning, offering no apologies and making the arrangements without a word about flight times or seat options. When I asked about the status of my suitcase, he became even more irritated, telling me there was no way to know where it would spend the night. “It will either go to your final destination tonight or it will not!” My one option was to go to baggage claim at DFW and wait there “for several hours” to see what might happen.

By that point, I was furious and exhausted and trying not to cry. He handed me vouchers for a hotel and $19 worth of food (which buys roughly one granola bar at the airport) and that was it. Not a single kind word or apology on behalf of the airline. I snapped. Before leaving, I snarled, “You could be a little less rude considering that it was YOUR airline that f***ed up.”

His only response was a haughty “Nice language!”

Let’s not talk about my reply.

**********

When I first boarded the plane in Ontario heading towards DFW, I was seated next to a stately older lady. She and I chatted through takeoff and discussed the possibility that I was going to miss my connecting flight and have to spend the night in Dallas. “I had that happen to me once,” she explained, “and now I always put a clean pair of panties and a nightgown in my carry-on.” I replied that fortunately space constraints had left me with no choice but to put all of my socks and underthings in my carry-on.

After our plane landed and I unsuccessfully sprinted to catch the next one, I shuffled dejectedly out of the airport to catch the hotel shuttle. I was standing on the curb in the dark when she walked by and saw that I’d clearly missed the plane.

“That’s a shame,” she said. But then she smiled a little as she turned to walk away and whispered conspiratorially, “Clean panties!”

**********
My boarding pass said Gate C17. I entered the airport at Terminal A, boarded the inter-terminal Sky Train, and proceeded to slowly circle the entire airport on my way to Terminal C (which oddly enough came after both B and D). After over ten minutes of riding, I used my phone to check for a flight delay. No delay…but my gate had been moved back to Terminal A. I got out at the same stop I had boarded on over fifteen minutes earlier.

**********
Two men boarded the nearly empty plane out of DFW together. The flight attendant gestured at the row after row of empty seats and announced to them, “Sit anywhere!” The first guy filed into a row of three seats, followed a moment later by his friend. As the friend was about to sit down, the first guy exclaimed, “Dude! Get your own row! I like you, but not that much.”

**********
While sitting on the plane waiting to take off, I started texting with my boss. She reminded me about a meeting I’d scheduled for that afternoon (when I was supposed to have arrived home the previous day), and I told her that I’d make it back on time to attend the meeting in person versus calling in. Since she knew I’d been delayed overnight without my luggage, she made a joke about me showing up in the same dirty outfit and then texted, “Send me a picture of what you’re wearing!!”

There was a time in my life where a text like that meant something so much more saucy.

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The perils of mixing business with pleasure

I dialed into a teleconference for work this morning from my team host house in California. Because there are people nearby talking and moving around, I immediately muted my phone.

As the automated teleconference line added me into the group call, I was instructed, “Please announce yourself!”

I un-muted the phone to say my name and company affiliation. Just then, a teammate standing right behind me loudly asked, “Do we have any more toilet paper?”

I have never felt more announced.

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Initial thoughts on being a pro

Being a professional cyclist so far is totally cray (in the words of my teammate)! I am now rich and famous, so much so that I sign $100 bills when people ask for my autograph, which is, like, constantly.

Okay, none of that is true. Few people know who I am, including people who have already met me before, and cycling appears to not have caught on to that whole “do what you love and the money will follow” concept. I still work full-time so that I can pay my bills and support my eating habits (which another teammate described by saying, “You are a food hustler! You pack away more food than anybody I know!”). But I do feel different now, because when I put on my team kit and head out to train, I can legitimately call it going to work and there is a sense of pride about riding for Team Colavita. I’m part of something bigger than myself now [insert joke about how that must be saying something considering how much I eat].

In addition to the thrill of being part of a real pro team, there a few things that are notably different this season.

For starters, Traveling Feels Like The New Normal
A few weeks ago, I was in California. Last weekend, I was in Florida. Next week I go back to California, followed by North Carolina the next week, Alabama after that, and then a week spent driving around Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. And that’s all by the first week of May. It seems natural now to live out of bags and shower in strange places. I even let my butt touch strange toilet seats (a barrier I enthusiastically crashed through less than an hour into the norovirus debacle).

Speaking Of Breaking Through Barriers
Today’s workout was time trial (TT) practice intervals, which I was instructed to do with clip-on aero bars so I could get comfortable in the position before next week’s TT at the Redlands Bicycle Classic. I had managed to make it through two years of road racing without ever hunching over those bars, but the time to learn arrived today. When I get to Redlands next week and the team manager hands me a TT bike with my name on it, I can’t exactly be like, “Nah, I’m good; I’m just going to stick with this here road bike.” So I learned. It was awkward at first (and probably not timely, considering the residual effects of my recent head injury) but by the end of the ride, it felt natural and my regular bars felt overly wide and non-aerodynamic. And that’s what it means to be a pro; since it is my job to ride my bike and do it well in service of the team, there is no room for slacking or hesitating. What’s that quote? Do or do not; there is no try? Yeah, there’s actually only Do.

I’m Behaving Like A Classy Lady
When a driver does something dangerous/aggressive/stupid while I’m out training in my team kit, instead of offering them my middle finger and a choice selection of words, I smile and wave. (When I am wearing winter apparel that covers my kit and renders me anonymous, all bets are off.) I am also trying to keep my online presence, uh, family-friendly. So I don’t go past ‘shit’ on the bad-word-o-meter and I let the “that’s what SHE said” type remarks remain unsaid. Please feel free to add them in the comments.

Weather Is Confusing
I’ve spent time riding in Florida and California in the past month, and those places are warm and lovely. Here, not so much. But my body is having trouble understanding why it is not still nice outside, so I keep leaving ride while dressed like it’s going to be warm out. It’s not. Today was windy and cold and unforgiving and I want to say obscene, unkind things about March in the DC Metro area, but I can’t since I’m behaving like a lady.

People Like To Ask Me About My Equipment
And they ask by saying things like, “I’ll bet you got a sweet discount on that!” Yes, yes I did. It was 100% off. The catch is that I have to use the sponsor gear and only the sponsor gear, which works out well because truthfully, I love the new stuff. The Rudy Project helmet and glasses fit well and are very comfortable, my Castelli kits and warmers are some of the best I’ve worn, and I actually really like my Jamis. I thought nothing could come between me and my former love (that bike I accidentally bought on eBay a few years ago from Vince in the Ukraine), but while I’m still in love with that mail-order bride, my Jamis is dialed to fit and ride perfectly.

And finally, I’ve Stopped Drinking Tequila And Eating Cake Regularly
Haaaaa! Not a chance.

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