Staying Power:Forgiving and cycling…not words you often hear in the same sentence but with women’s cycling and age, the sport is in fact, forgiving.
This dawned on me a few years ago when I entered the sport as a masters aged rider, but it was in my face yesterday while climbing Oak Glen with fellow teammate Andrea Hensler. Andrea is in her early 50’s and zipped by me on some pitchy intervals I made her do with me. What is it with that age range? At the SCNCA State Championship Road Race, the race predictor dubbed Ruth Clemence—same age as Andrea— to finish 3rd behind two women who are racing at the Nature Valley Grand Prix! (Ruth went on to win the 45+ Masters State Road Racing Championship then hopped into the Pro 1-3 race on that hot Bakersfield afternoon. While I’m at it, she is also the current Masters National 50-54 criterium champion and former masters WORLD time-trial champion, among other accolades. Congratulations, again, Ruthie!)
The 50-54 age range was arguably the most competitive category at Nationals last September in Bend. Between Ruth and Ski Utah racer Laura Howett (former pro teammate of Pamela Schuster and rider of the women’s Tour de France back in the day), that category would have annihilated the 35-39 group I was in. I know this because I raced in Utah last season and Laura flogged me every weekend.
Then take Primal’s Nicky Wangsgard who single handedly won the prestigious Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium earlier this year against teams of young talent. While Nicky has announced her retirement, having just turned 40, it is clear that she could continue racing professionally for years to come if she wanted to. The Presbyterian crit win was her most recent wow, but the woman has won Superweek for the last three years straight! Orange County darling Amber Neben is another one who defies the misguided stereotype of age. Few can touch her consistent dominant time trial performance, which explains her 2008 world time-trial championship. Amber is 37 and will likely represent the US in the Olympics this summer. Aspire away, young 20 something’s.
Earlier this year I was on a little spin with Tibco pro Lindsay Meyers, who I have the good fortune of living near, and as we engaged in zone 2 small talk the topic of age came up. When Lindsay volunteered being in her early 20’s I thought out lout, “Yon could race professionally for the next 20 years if you wanted to. What other sport affords that?
For the past year, I have had the joy of riding, racing and traveling with Joy Joy (Joy McCulloch). For the first time in Nature Valley Grand Prix Pro Chase history, Joy was selected by the race director to join the national composite team that others had to compete for. While she has learned from mentors, she doesn’t give herself enough credit in having taught herself how to stage race at the NRC level. Her background is in mountain biking but you’d never know it now as she’s converted herself into a prime pro road racing recruit. Joy’s in her early 30’s and if she’s not picked up by a pro team, will continue to content with them on composite teams for the foreseeable future.
What other sport affords such a competitive range if not cycling? Pretty forgiving. Pretty inviting. Call to action ladies. No time like the present to enter the sport or up your game. There’s more time than you think.