Bend bodes well

Meredith Miller's two Oregon nationals yield gold and silver

It has been very rewarding to me to work in women's cycling and get to know the remarkable women athletes and to watch their careers and Meredith is a personality that really stands out. She is a perfect example of the remarkable women in the sport who not only work at the craft of cycling but also at far more things off the bike. I hope that her story will bring more attention to women's cycling because many of the women athletes deserve more support.

Michael Engleman, USWCDP, Inc.

Rewind to July 29, 2009 - the evening before the US Road National Championships in Bend, Oregon. I wasn't thinking about the fact that we were racing one of the biggest races all year the next day. Instead, I was more concerned about the $1000 coral snake that I had just killed (our host family breeds and sells them). Ironically, killing the snake turned out to be a good omen for what was to come. The next day I was crowned the U.S. Road National Champion.

Never once did I think that it would be me crossing the finish line as the winner, much less doing it solo. Any one of my teammates could have won the race that day. Fortunately, I was in the right place at the right time to bring home the stars and stripes for me, Team TIBCO, the team's sponsors, and my friends and family.

My win meant that I had qualified for a spot on the U.S. Worlds team, so off I went to Europe for one month to prepare with the national team. First up was the Tour Cycliste Feminin International l'Ardeche followed just a few short days later by the Giro della Toscana International Femminile - just what we needed, two solid tours to kick the system into high gear before Worlds. After a few days of recovery at the team house in Lucca, the team rolled into Mendrisio, Switzerland, to fine-tune before the big day.

While I've had the experience of racing nearly every major race in Europe and the U.S., this was my first time representing my country at Worlds. I was thrilled to be part of such a strong team. Kristin Armstrong had just won her 2nd World Time Trial Championship title so the mood was high all around. In the end Team USA missed the podium by one place. Bike racing is full of unfortunate circumstances, and on this day we were plagued by several mishaps - but my experience of being part of such a well-oiled machine is one of the highlights of my career.

My husband and I spent the next several days vacationing around Lausanne with some friends before heading back stateside. Those few days of trekking around Switzerland were my "off-season". Just two weeks after hanging up my road bike I was on my 'cross bike. And I wasn't just training, the racing season had begun. It was game on with Cal Giant Berry Farms.

Before leaving for Europe I hadn't had a chance to ride either the mountain or 'cross bikes so I was pretty apprehensive about my skills and 'cross fitness going into my first race in Providence. As luck would have it my skills weren't that far off the mark and my fitness was good enough to pull off a couple decent results - two 4th place finishes. For the next several races I couldn't seem to break the 4th place barrier, though. Consistent but frustrating. Finally, FINALLY, at the USGP in New Jersey I broke the curse when I rode myself onto the podium both days - two 3rds. The wheels were finally spinning in the right direction. When I won all three races at Jingle Cross in Iowa my momentum really began to build.

I went into the Portland USGP with a little more confidence and even more determination to keep myself on the podium. Now that I had been there I didn't want to step off. On day one I was the first non-podium finisher. Yes, 4th place again. Let's just say it was fuel for the fire because I was more than determined to get back on the podium the next day. I rode with a fervor I hadn't yet tapped into which helped catapult me into numero uno position for a few laps. I didn't hold onto that lead but I did finish 2nd. That was my final race before 'Cross Nationals in Bend, OR, the next weekend. Needless to say it was another boost to the confidence.

The conditions in Bend turned out to be a new challenge for me. The cold wasn't new (I do live in Colorado) but the ice was. I'd only ever raced in the snow/ice once but I was hell bent on proving that I could handle the conditions. My goal for nationals was nothing less than a podium finish. I know I'm not the most technically sound 'cross rider out there but with grit and some luck on my side I knew I could do well.

The next thing I knew I had secured my spot on the U.S. Worlds team after finishing 2nd behind Katie Compton (six-time national champion). It seems that Bend, OR, and I have a solid relationship with one another. We seem to see eye to eye. Or maybe it's the unfortunate mishaps that happen the day before the big event that turn out to be a positive forewarning of what's to come. Did I mention that I ran over someone's bike the day before 'cross nationals? And it wasn't just anyone's bike, it was Jeremy Powers' bike.

Just four months after Road Worlds I found myself traveling to Europe once again to prepare for another world class event, the Cyclocross World Championships. Never had I done a 'cross race in Europe so I wasn't quite sure what I was getting myself into. Nonetheless, a couple days after flying into Belgium, I got my 'cross feet wet, literally. My first 'cross race in Europe was the Roubaix World Cup (on and around the famous Roubaix velodrome). I finished 12th.

I felt pretty good about the Roubaix result but couldn't hang on to the momentum the next weekend at the Hoogerheide World Cup. My performance was dismal - the harder I tried, the worse I rode, so I tried even harder and rode worse still. Put into perspective, though, it still wasn't that bad and all I could do was realign my focus for what was yet to come - the World Championships.

The course in Tabor was a solid sheet of ice. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Bend was cake compared to the icy mayhem in the Czech Republic. I struggled with the conditions during our pre-rides but on race day I woke up with a different attitude. I told myself to go with the flow, forget everything and everyone around me, and ride my own race. Thankfully this strategy worked. After a pathetic start I clawed my way past quite a few riders and rolled across the line in 12th place. I wanted a top 10 but 12th place (and top American) at my first World Championships in my second year of racing 'cross isn't too bad.

After racing for 10 consecutive months, most people would have a long off-season. Mine was 2 weeks. Then my training started - I spent a whole three days on the bike at home before training camp with Team TIBCO in Carpinteria, CA. Getting back on the road bike was a bit of a shock to the system, but with the team that has been assembled for the 2010 season I was more than happy to get the ball rolling on the road.

It's now mid-April and I've already been to California three times - training camp, San Dimas and Redlands, and Sea Otter. The Tour of the Gila starts in less than a week. Where does the time go? Before I know it 'cross season will be just around the corner and I'll be wondering when I'm going to have my off-season. All two weeks of it.


Meredith Miller has repeatedly been called the super domestique of cycling. Years of selfless service on TIBCO, Aaron's, Lipton, SATS and the U.S. National Team has earned Meredith a reputation as the ultimate team player. Her teammates point to her role in their victories. The media calls her opportunistic riding style on behalf of her teammates critical to her team's success. Meredith consistently frames her goals in terms of the team. This super domestique wears stars and stripes in 2010 after winning a U.S. National Championship title on the road last year.

Meredith raced CrossVegas in 2008. On a whim. Her first cyclo-cross race. She called it the most fun she's had on a bike and decided to give the discipline a whirl. Less than 18 months later, she finished 12th at the 2010 Cyclocross World Championships. Meredith had the top American result on the day. Turns out ‘cross isn't something she'll simply be doing for fun anymore. With her recent and rapid success, Meredith looks forward to devoting herself to the discipline as she pursues her personal aspirations.

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