Having landed on the women’s professional road cycling circuit with a bang, Brooke Miller ended her four-year career with a surprise at the Chris Thater Memorial Criterium on Sunday. The former US National Champion cited untouchable Olympic Games dreams and a need to spend more time at home as her primary reasons for the unexpected retirement.
“I had all my focus on the Olympics and I pretty much realised that I’m not going to be going,” said Miller. “The sacrifices I have to make at this point of my career in order to be competitive enough to go to the Olympics involves things that I’m not willing to do anymore. I would be racing full-time in Europe and I’m just really not happy when I’m on the road for three plus months straight.
“I’m really happy in my real-world life and so I came to the realisation that if I’m not going to the Olympics, which is what I was training for, then I didn’t want to have a half-assed mediocre career,” she added. “My goals were to be overseas and when I realised that the travel was too much on me, and if I’m not going to the Olympics, then it’s not worth the cost in my personal life anymore.”
Miller started racing bikes seven years ago, having previously competed in volley ball at the University of California. She went on to earn a PhD in Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she won the Division I Road Race at the Collegiate National Cycling Championships. Six-time Canadian national champion Linda Jackson later signed Miller to her California-based Palo Alto team.
The squad transformed into the Tibco Professional Women’s Cycling Team and this year joined the UCI ranks with a focus on Belgium and Netherland races like the Tour of Flanders, Drenthe 8, Unive Ronde van Drenthe and Fleche Wallone. The season was combined with domestic racing on the National Racing Calendar in the US.
“What Linda has done for me was indispensable,” Miller said. “In the first two years it was her and I building up the sponsors for this team, which was really exciting and a lot of hard work. The team built so fast and from day one we wanted to build a strong team. We didn’t want the team to be all about me, I was just the first rider and we wanted to bring in more strong riders.
"Now the team is phenomenally strong,” she added. “I like to think that I’ll be missed but more for comic relief than for my legs.”
Miller put a stamp on American bike racing scene as one of the fastest developing sprinters in the sport during 2006 and 2007. In 2008, she placed on the podium in a series of early season races and capped off the summer with victory in the national criterium and road race championship events.
She went on to join the US National Team where she experienced some success on the European circuit and currently holds more than 50 career wins. Despite her accomplishments Miller says her career highlight was watching her teammate Meredith Miller win the USA Cycling Road Championship last year in Bend, Oregon.
When asked if she felt fulfilled with her professional cycling career, Miller said: “Yes and no. Without question there are a lot of goals that I never accomplished and I had some lofty goals. I don’t feel satisfied in the sense that I set the bar really high, wanting an Olympic gold medal, a World Championship title and to win the Tour of Flanders, and I didn’t clear it. At the same time, now I’m having a different perspective when looking back at my accomplishments that I had dismissed over the last few years.
“All the little things that I didn’t give myself credit for before, in hindsight, I’m now seeing that I did well,” she added. “I had a pretty good run at it. I’m giving myself more credit and permission to be happy with the positive things that I’ve done in the sport and less credit toward the things that I did not achieve. My win on Downers Grove, at the US Criterium Championships, was huge because I had a perfect lead out and it was team effort. The races that stand out in my head are the ones that I did not win on my own.”