March is Women’s History Month, and I want you to meet to some of the amazing women on our team, in our company, and in the sport of cycling! The sport may be male-dominated in number, but we are all equal in passion, commitment, or dedication.
I asked these inspiring and impressive women when they were inspired by their community, when they had opportunities to empower other women, and if they ever had to face adversity and oppression because of their gender, and how they overcame it.
I've been surrounded by awesome women in this community for years - I've competed against them, raced alongside them, looked up to them, been mentored by them, and trained with them. A few standout moments come to mind, though: my coach Susan Hefler has been my rock and the one pushing me for years, my former competitor Lauren Hall was the pro cyclist I most aspired to be, my teammates Whitney Allison, Liza Rachetto, and Jess Cerra showed what it means to be tireless and selfless, and my dear friend Jenna Bullbrook worked harder than I've ever seen a person push herself for a year to crush her first IRONMAN. When I look at the women I'm lucky to have close in my life - my mother, my friends Esther and Suzanna, teammates like Starla who rise above tough challenges to shine on the bike, colleagues like Arielle Jackson and Whitnie Narcisse - I see so much strength and tenacity. It makes me work harder to be better so these people don't look and me and think I'm the weakest link.
I'd like to think running a pro women's team for four years empowered other women. The team gave a lot of female cyclists a job and an opportunity to move their cycling careers forward, and our riders mentored newer riders for two years and hopefully inspired a lot more. The community really rallied around this team and said a lot of kind things about how much they supported and loved what we were doing and how we raced our bikes.
I work in tech/venture capital - it's almost always more men than women in the room. On the bike, you'll find me at group rides surrounded by 99% men. Last weekend I rode with 50 guys and not a single woman. I'm used to it and don't much care about being the lone lady in the bunch. What I have cared about in the past are the subtle and irritating discriminations: being told I'm too intense and should make more small talk with my coworkers to soften my personality, having men in meetings hear I'm a pro cyclist and make jokes about whether my team publishes a calendar, addressing a man in a meeting and having him respond while only looking at my male boss. These things aren't obvious or earth-shattering; sometimes my own husband tells me I'm reading into them too much. But they're there and they're annoying because they get in the way. How many men get told they need to make small talk to be more liked at work? Who even uses physical calendars anymore?
I have made some of my best friends from the women’s cycling community. When I first started racing, like many women, I had no clue what I was doing and I was completely alone. After one year of racing, I earned my Pro license and felt even more lost. I remember near the end of my first season thinking that I needed to make friends if I wanted racing to be sustainable and fun. From that point on, I started talking to women at races, reaching out with questions, and inviting women to cool down with me after races. It worked!
This past winter, I took a trip with Rose Grant to Tucson for a mini-training camp and more importantly, to spend time with a good friend during an otherwise challenging time in my life. On the third day, we had a magical ride. We had reached out to women who we knew were in the area to plan a gravel ride. Six of us ended up riding together and having the raddest time! As we rode in a paceline towards the next gravel sector, I felt pretty emotional. We were different ages, ethnicities, disciplines, regions of the country, fitness levels, and on and on - but the bike had brought us all together. I will never forget that ride and I hope to have many more just like that.
Being a female in a male-dominated sport can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be! I would encourage all women to reach out to other women at events, on the trails, in bike shops, etc. Even a ‘hello’ can go a long way. And who knows, it might just lead to a dream ride that will live in your memories forever!
After a long cycling career on the road, I made the transition to mountain and gravel racing in 2021. That change of focus, the community, and women supporting women while remaining competitive was an inspiring experience. This contributed to my husband and I creating Distance to Empty, a platform where we tell stories of human pursuit against all odds. I’ll be racing under the Distance to Empty banner this season, and I’m super excited about the launch of the Distance to Empty Pursuit Awards, and the 2022 awardees.
The Pursuit Awards are designed to empower and provide opportunities in cycling for Colorado-based women and girls who are looking to pursue something on the bike, whether it be competing in their first-ever gravel event or pursuing a goal of becoming a professional cyclist but lack the support system and resources to get there.
We’ve selected 4 award recipients who were generous in sharing their stories and goals with us. They will receive entry into a season full of Colorado gravel events, get product and discounts from my supporting sponsors, as well as mentoring from me throughout the season. The goal is to make cycling more accessible and inclusive, support and foster opportunity in cycling not only for those who were selected, but to all who applied by creating community, connecting women from different backgrounds, goals, and experiences. I’ve never been more excited to be a woman in the cycling world than I am now. With the growth of gravel, endurance, and adventure racing we’re able to define what cycling is and make it our own.
A time that stands out vividly to me was about 2 years ago in Vermont with a group of women I was coaching at a mountain bike skills camp. From the first morning my group was thrown together there was this harmony among the group. Laughter was abundant and supporting one another came with ease. What stood out the most about this group was their patience with one another and the zero ego attitude. We finished one of the days on a black diamond trail that had huge banked turns that proved to be intimidating for some. Some of the women rode through with no issue, hooting and hollering as they went. Others started to question if they were capable of riding this section of trail. Those that rode the trail immediately put their bikes down and hiked back up to where I was coaching and started cheering the other women on. “You can do it! Be the boss!” No ego just pure excitement for each other. All 7 women ended up riding the trail. Fear was over come confidence was gained thanks to one another. Many over came something they thought was impossible for them to do just hours prior. I was proud of all of them but most importantly was empowered by each individuals success that was fueled by the women who surround them. There is something powerful about the support from other women. When we hold each other up and cheer on each others victories, together we are making each other stronger and more powerful!
I have spent my entire life working in male dominated sports, to the point that I don’t really notice it anymore. Well, I didn’t notice it until I started leading women lead events. After my first women’s forum my brain shifted. I realized the power of women helping women. Since that time, I have made it my passion to help other women find adventure on their bikes. Women have the ability to change the narrative of the cycling industry… and I want to be part of that change!
If you’re a male rider, and you’ve made it this far in this blog, I really want to thank you for taking the time to meet some of our cool friends. There are millions more just like them out on the roads and trails. You, me, they, we all share the same love of the bicycle and putting in miles. So let that be our common ground!