US national team rider Kim Geist’s journey to the bronze medal in the points race at the UCI Track World Championships is nothing short of inspirational. She was left severely injured after a collision with a tractor trailer while riding her bike near her hometown of Emmaus, Pennsylvania eight years ago. Last week, she completed her recovery with her first international medal since before the accident. Her world-class track-racing endeavors will continue as she aims to build toward securing a spot on the women’s team pursuit squad at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“Getting the medal in the points race felt good, really good,” Geist told Cyclingnews. “I have blinders on now and my end goal is to get to the 2016 Olympics in the team pursuit.”
Geist, 28, grew up near Trexlertown, home of the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, where it’s common for kids to start racing on the velodrome at early ages. She got her first lesson in track racing at the age of nine, and went on to earn two bronze medals in the individual pursuit at the Junior Track World Championships in 2004 and 2005.
In 2005, she was fifth in the junior road race at the Road World Championships, and she turned her focus more toward the road as an under-23 rider. She raced professionally with Victory Brewing and later Team Lipton. One of her highlights was winning the Meiji Reoch Best Young Rider award at the Liberty Classic in Philadephia.
Her cycling career came to a halt in August of 2007 when she was involved in a horrific collision with a tractor trailer while on a training ride. She fractured six ribs, several vertebrae, her sacrum, and pelvis, and her lungs had partially collapsed. During her recovery, she had to use a walker to get around, but after a year of hard work, perseverance, and determination, and with support from her family and friends, she recovered fully.
“Had things happened an inch differently, I’m sure my life could be totally different,” Geist said. “Every time you get out there on the bike, you’re taking risks. You have to make every day count; that’s my mindset.”
During the year following the accident and recovery, she shifted her focus back to track racing and won the elite individual pursuit at the US National Championships in 2008. She also completed her Undergraduate degree in Exercise Science and Masters in Sports Nutrition, and started a business coaching cyclists through Kim Geist Coaching.
“Coming back from my accident, I sort of started shifting back to the track because I realized that that was what I really enjoyed. I was also finishing school, so it has really only been the last four years that I’ve focussed full-time on track racing.”
Exclusion from team pursuit squad ends in points race bronze medal
Geist fully dedicated her training to the individual pursuit and the team pursuit, which is why her success in the points race and the scratch race at the World Championships in St. Quentin en Yvelines in Paris last weekend was such a surprise.
Last August, Geist won national titles in both the individual pursuit and the team pursuit. She was also a member of the gold-medal-winning team pursuit squad at the Pan American Championships in Aguascalientes, Mexico last September, and raced the first Track World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico last November.
She did not compete in the third World Cup in Cali, Colombia, where the US women’s team pursuit squad, which included Lauren Tamayo, Jennifer Valente, Ruth Winder and new-comer Carmen Small, secured the bronze medal. That same team, including Sarah Hammer, was chosen to compete at the World Championships.
Instead of the team pursuit, Geist relied on the points that she had accumulated last summer while racing at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center to qualify for the scratch race and points race disciplines at Worlds.
“My run-in to Worlds was interesting in that I ended up here doing the mass-start races instead of the team pursuit,” Geist said. “The process started back in the summer doing UCI races in Trexlertown on my home track. They ran a bunch of UCI scratch and points races. I really just did that during the summer, my off-season, sort of as a fun training activity to add to my Olympic training load.
“So, I got selected for the points and the scratch races for Worlds based on the races I had done during the summer when I was racking up those points doing races at home, and at Nationals in August.”
When asked if she was disappointed not to make the US team in the team pursuit for Worlds, given that that event was her main priority, she said, “In the long term picture, the team pursuit is my number one goal, to get an Olympic start spot. The points race and the scratch race are not Olympic events, so to be involved in the team pursuit would be the number one goal, so yes, it was a little disappointing not to make this team.”
Because Geist’s decision to participate in the points race was somewhat of an afterthought, winning the team's first medal of the Worlds - a bronze - was a welcomed surprise.
Geist accumulated 25 points after winning the fifth sprint for five points and earned an additional 20 points for lapping the field. Germany’s Stephanie Pohl won the gold medal with 38 points and Japan’s Minami Uwano earned 28 points and the silver medal.
“My form for the points race was a little bit unknown,” said Geist, who hadn’t competed in a mass-start event since the Nationals last summer. “I hadn’t had my mass-start bars on my bike since August, so on the technical front it was a little nerve-racking just not being in the mix, but I knew that my fitness was really, really good from all the pursuit work that I had been doing.
“Looking at the field, it was really stacked but I didn’t expect that I would be ridden off of wheels or anything. I knew I would be in the mix.”
Although she was disappointed not to race in the team pursuit, she sees her bronze medal in the points race as more than just a consolation prize. “Maybe it was a blessing in disguise for the moment, and I can get back into the swing of things with the team pursuit next season.”
Geist up for the challenge of securing a coveted spot for the Olympic team pursuit
USA Cycling will no doubt select its strongest women to represent the nation in the women’s team pursuit in Rio next summer, and whoever makes the final cut will have big shoes to fill after the US team, which included Sarah Hammer, Lauren Tamayo, Dotsie Bausch and Jennie Reed, won the silver medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
“The US is sitting well at this point for qualifying for the Olympics, and I’m still in the mix for US riders for that event,” Geist said. “We won’t know names until further down the line.
“The plan is to train for the team pursuit over the next year a half for Rio. I believe we have a tentative [training] outline toward the Olympics. I’m expecting a lot of camps in LA, Colorado Springs and overseas before races. I’ll do a lot of home-base training as well.”
Geist recognized that there are more women training to be on US women’s team pursuit squad than there are spots available and that making the team will be a challenge. But so far in Geist’s life there haven’t been many obstacles that she hasn’t been able to overcome, and this is one that she is prepared to fight for.
“I was involved in the process in 2012, and I completely understand that this is a hyper-competitive environment,” she said. “every day, almost, in training is a competition but I’m a competitive person, and I’m up for that challenge.”