A dominant force on the gravel track
A dominant force on the gravel track, a skilled musician, and a devoted mother. In our chat, we unpack how she juggles these roles, the silent power of music in her training, and her vision for the ever-evolving gravel racing scene.
Having competed in the 2023 and now the upcoming 2024 LifeTime Grand Prix series, how do you plan to leverage your past experiences to adapt and evolve your strategies or mindset for the third iteration of the series? Are there specific lessons or insights from previous years that you believe will be particularly influential as the series continues to evolve?
The past two years I have balanced the LifeTime Grand Prix with a road schedule. This year will be the first that I am entirely focused on off road. Along with that, being a privateer, I am in charge of my own logistics which, although more work, gives me a sense of calm. I am also surrounded by sponsors who are focused on the off road, another big change from previous years. I feel equipped, encouraged, and fully supported which will play a major role in my success. Along with that, having experienced the season long series twice, I understand the type of longevity an athlete needs to have, both mentally and physically. I am preparing for that now, putting in long and hard hours to build an aerobic system that will take me through the entire year.
Your music background adds another layer to your persona as an athlete. Can you share how music influences your performance, mindset and training? Any favorite go-to favorite songs or albums for hard sessions?
I rarely listen to music when I ride which has surprised most people who ask me this. There have been a few weeks where my headphones are a go-to, but I train the best in silence. I’ve often wondered why, and I think it is because I crave the quiet and peace that it brings me. When I listen to music, it is for the most part very intentional and because I am highly impacted by it, I need to be in the proper mindset to fully enjoy it.
Although the sound of music doesn’t often overlap into my cycling career, my years as a musician have greatly influenced who I am. I gained an enormous amount of discipline and structure from my time in music school, and learned techniques to combat performance anxiety which is easily relatable to sports performance anxiety. I learned from experience that the faithful, daily commitment to one’s craft will always yield results. Because of this, when things get hard, my mind goes to “I can get better and overcome this” versus giving up.
With the increasing popularity and visibility of gravel racing, how do you envision the future of the sport in terms of its impact on broader cycling culture? Are there changes you hope to see as the sport continues to gain momentum?
In general, I have noticed that the lives and actions of privateers seem to have a greater impact on the general public than that of elite road cyclists. Perhaps this is because gravel racing includes everyone, from the 15 year old getting their feet wet, to the 70 year old veteran. I love the inclusivity of gravel and hope that while professionals are moving into the field in droves, it retains its friendly, welcoming atmosphere to everyone.
With this popularity does come responsibility to protect the sport. We’ve enjoyed years of “no rules”, but as the sport grows, invariably there will be challenges. There are many stalwart and broad thinking characters who are embedded in the gravel scene who work hard to retain the equity and fairness gravel is known for. But that responsibility also lies with all of us who embrace this privateer life; a responsibility to be welcoming and encouraging, while also looking for ways to keep the integrity gravel has always stood on.
As a mother, musician, and elite cyclist, you juggle multiple roles that require immense dedication and discipline. How do you prioritize these aspects of your life during the demanding race season?
I won’t pretend this isn’t a great challenge for me. There are times when I have felt like I will explode and I cannot possibly manage to fill each role properly. But I have learned that I don’t need to fill each role simultaneously, and that has helped. I tend to be a multitasker, but I have had to teach myself to become better at compartmentalizing. For example, if I have a few heavy days of training, I have to turn the home keeper, meal maker, nurturer side of me off and be ok with a few home chores piling up, and serving chicken nuggets for dinner. But then, I will have a few easy recovery days where I am fully engaged in my daughter’s activities, and present for any troubles she may be working through. Along with this, I have an incredible husband who picks up whatever slack I may leave and more, allowing me the freedom to fully focus on the task at hand.
Music has suffered the most during my career as a professional cyclist, but I still purposefully accept gigs so as to force myself to sit at the piano for multiple hours, moving my hands and letting my mind reacquaint itself with the sounds and movements. I do find comfort in knowing I spent so many years of my life engrossed in music, that it will never leave me and someday, I will be able to give it time. All this to say, juggling multiple roles isn’t easy, and there are many days where I could allow myself to feel like a failure. But I remember to keep perspective and give myself the grace and love my family gives me. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to succeed.
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