Category Archives: Racing

Ellen Noble: The Next Big Thing in American Cyclocross

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Ellen Noble taking the U23 leaders jersey at Gloucester. Photo via cycle-smart.com

For most people, riding bikes in second grade meant cruising around on park sidewalks with friends. For Ellen Noble, it meant lining up against adults in her first mountain bike race. It helps explain how, at just 19, she’s a professional cyclist with two cyclocross and two mountain bike national titles and nearly a dozen UCI podiums and wins to her name.

Though she’d been making a splash for a few years as a prominent elite junior, it was just last season that Noble had a major breakthrough and established herself as one of the strongest racers in the pro women’s field. She credits much of that success to joining the JAM Fund cycling team, the nonprofit development squad founded by Jeremy Powers, Alec Donahue, and Mukunda Feldman. I spoke to Noble about her early days racing with her parents, her development into a professional, JAM Fund’s successful development program, the difficulties of being a teenage pro athlete, and much more.

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Alison Powers: America’s Fastest Retiree

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Alison Powers demonstrating her well practiced victory salute. Photo via Amgen Tour of California.

If you’re a fan of road racing, you’re no doubt familiar with Alison Powers. If not, you certainly should be. In her eight year professional career, Powers was consistently dominant, winning four national championships, a Pan American championship, two National Race Calendar (NRC) overall titles, and many, many more. Last year, she became the first American woman to win all three road national championship titles–criterium, time trial, and road race–at the same time. Powers followed up that tremendous feat by retiring from professional racing. And though she’s burnt out on being an athlete after 20-plus years of high-level ski and bike racing, Powers’ passion for cycling continues on through her coaching business, ALP Cycles Coaching. I spoke to Powers about her entry into bike racing, her lightning fast rise to the professional ranks, the glacial growth of professional women’s racing, her race career burnout, and her new life as a retiree.

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Allen Krughoff: The Bumpy Business of Professional Cyclocross

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Allen Krughoff riding in Colorado. Photo by Dane Cronin.

Nearly any conversation about U.S. cyclocross these days will hit on two points: its status as a participant sport and its explosive growth. USA Cycling says it’s the fastest growing sector of cycling in America, with participation numbers quadrupling over the last decade. That boom paints a picture of a big sales of cyclocross bikes and a sport flush with sponsorship money and good salaries for professional athletes. But that’s often not the case. While there are certainly some American cyclocross pros making a nice living, many racers receive little money beyond travel expenses, equipment, and race-day support and often have to hold down another job to make their racing life viable.

It’s a reality Allen Krughoff knows well. Over the last few years he has established himself as one of the best domestic cyclocross pros, notching wins and podium spots at the country’s biggest races (as well as an impressive 7th at CrossVegas as one of the few Americans able to hang with a stacked field of Euros). Financial success as a bike racer hasn’t been on such a consistent rise for Krughoff, however. Last summer, on the cusp of his best season yet, he and fellow pro Meredith Miller were scrambling to pull together sponsors for their new, two person Noosa Professional Cyclocross program. I spoke to Krughoff about the difficult business side of being an American pro, his winding path to cyclocross racing, launching and maintaining his own team, and more.

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Sonya Looney: Finding Peace at the World’s Hardest Races

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Sonya Looney. Photo via Topeak Ergon.

Cyclists love to grimace. It is, in part, because pain and suffering have been venerated in cycling culture to the point of fetishization. Entire clothing empires have been built on marketing the nobility of suffering on a bicycle. But it’s also because racing and riding hard just really, really hurt sometimes. From the pro peloton to local cat 4s, people tend to scowl and frown in race photos. Then there’s Sonya Looney. The professional endurance mountain biker is smiling so often in race photos it’s slightly disconcerting. She says it’s because she just has fun on the bike. I suspect endurance athletes have some sort of subconscious love of hardship. Either way, Looney has parlayed her endurance talents and smiles into a successful race career. Her specialty is 100 milers and multi-day mountain bike stage races. She’s notched podiums at the US National Championships, Breck Epic, Mongolia Bike Challenge, Trans Andes, BC Bike Race, and many other races around the world. I spoke to her about her foray into endurance racing, that smiling-while-racing thing, the business side of being a professional racer (and the need for a side business), adventuring around the world, and much more.

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Kathryn Bertine: The Fight for Women’s Equal Share of the Road

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Kathryn Bertine. Photo via kathrynbertine.com.

This year was big for women’s professional cycling. The Women’s Tour of Britain–the country’s first stage race for women–saw upwards of 10,000 spectators lining the streets for some stages. A.S.O., the company behind the Tour de France put on La Course, a one day women’s circuit race in Paris that coincided with the final stage of the Tour. Races such as BC Superweek and the US National Road Championships started offering equal prize money for the first time. But though these steps towards equality are important and signify a little bit of progress in professional cycling, they are the exception not the rule. Prize money is still often wildly unequal. According to journalist Lee Rodgers, 2013 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad women’s winner Tiffany Cromwell won just 270 euro while her male counterpart Luca Paolini won over 65,000 euro. The 2013 Giro d’Italia winner Vincenzo Nibali netted 90,000 euro. Giro Rosa champ Mara Abbot earned 450 euro. A one day circuit race ending on the Champs Elysees is better than nothing, but it’s certainly not equivalent to three weeks of the world’s highest profile racing. Luckily the cycling world is starting to open its eyes to inequality.

Perhaps as important as 2014’s big races and sometimes-equal prize money, the conversation around inequality in professional cycling was elevated further into the mainstream than ever before. And Kathryn Bertine helped make it happen. The former journalist and current professional road cyclist combined her passions for storytelling and sport with her documentary Half The Road. The film documents the vast disparities between men’s and women’s pro cycling through interviews with the top women in the sport and the top decision makers in cycling’s governing body. It played to sold out theaters around the country this year and helped spark broad conversation about the subject. I spoke with Bertine about making Half The Road, the struggles for equality in cycling, the path to gender parity, her careers as a journalist and professional racer, and much more.

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