Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Beauty of Women’s Cycling

By PCG Elite Coach Julie McKenzie 

Descending a Georgia mountain. The road is wet. Flashback to two days prior. Anxiously watching Mara Abbott descend from the defining climb of the Rio Olympics Road Race on slick roads, with thoughts of the best male descenders in the world flying off the same road in dry conditions the day before. “Keep it upright, Mara, be safe!” I’m hollering to the big screen T.V. in an empty room. Announcers saying she’s “not a great descender.” Understood in context but I’m pretty darn impressed!

Cut to Netherlands race leader Annemiek van Vleuten up ahead, locked up wheels, horrible crash, lying motionless. Now I’m scared. Riding without confidence, which is exactly what I tell my athletes is the most likely reason to crash. Switch it! Visual imagery of Mara nailing the correct speed and lines into the corners, perfect apices, providing me confidence to find the outside-inside line and counter-steer Pretty2 like she’s in a criterium race. Wheeee! I’m down, that was so much fun, I’m going again!

Women inspire Women to be Fearless! 

Mara is one of the best female climbers in the world; by definition, she’s not as strong in a flat time trial for the last 10k to Gold, let alone a solo time trial against the 3 amazing women working together to chase her down: Anna van der Breggen of Netherlands, Emma Johansson of Sweden, and Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy. “We saw Annemiek lie there and it did not look good,” said Van der Breggen in a team statement. “It took a while before I could switch [back to racing]. Only when Emma Johansson (who ended up winning Silver) said, ‘Let’s do it for Annemiek’, I was able to turn the switch.” Van der Breggen won it for her teammate.

Women care about the Fate of Women! 

In my skills clinics, I encounter many women who are afraid to draft in group rides or attempt to race. When I ask “What are you most nervous about?”, invariably the answer is, “I don’t want to hurt someone or make them crash”.

Women don’t want to cause bad things to happen to Women! 

Some of my best race memories are from when I was a Cat 4, off the back, with a small group of women of similar strength. As soon as it was clear we were dropped, names were exchanged. When we caught another singlet, we’d holler “jump on!”. We would make our own race of it, encouraging each other through the tougher parts of the course with the better climbers soft-pedaling a touch over the top to allow the group to reform. We all achieved our goals and made new friends in the process.

Women nurture Women! 

I love riding with the boys, no doubt they make me strong and tougher, but riding with the gals additionally warms my heart! Have you experienced the Beauty of Women’s Cycling?

Share your story!

Julie Mckenzie is a PCG Elite Coach