In praise of the renewed recognition of cyclists
As a high school student I have made the choice to commute to and from school on my single speed. My peers have mixed feelings - amusement, dismay, disinterest and a few "really?" and "no ways!"
These are typical responses. In my community the whole bike thing is a little atypical for a teen. But as far as teens go I am a little atypical. Although as a cyclist I have had some typical moments with big trucks and small cars. It seems to be the right of passage for any cyclist to have a story or two about being buzzed, yelled and honked at while riding. My personal favorite includes a few filled styrofoam cups! I only include this to emphasize recognition of the efforts that have been taken to better support cyclist in my local community.
Good news! After all this time we are finally starting to see a move towards raising bike tolerance and awareness on my hometown roads including my whole route to school! I was very shocked, but excited when one day on my ride home I saw a road crew laying down painted bike patterns up and down the street right directly down the street from my house. I had a hard time believing that there was this kind of effort being put towards cyclists and other bike riders and I was very thankful to see this on a road so close to us. I have multiple ways to school, but there are two main roads that are used the most. By the end of that week, there were bike lanes the whole way through both of them all the way to my high school. I thought this was amazing! I know painted bike symbols may not seem like much to some people, but as a proud commuter I believe this deserves some appreciation! I've been riding these same roads daily for four years, I almost feel like they did it just for me! Go (Allen) Texas!
Dreams not yet realised
Besides placing 2nd in the crit and 4th in the TT on my road bike, I left the 2011 Junior Nationals with renewed motivation. My two trips to nationals have left me with lifelong memories. The atmosphere at nationals is really unique when shared by cyclists from all over the country. I went with a dream of a national jersey but I left with something far better. I was motivated by the genuine kindness from a cycling hero and I was encouraged by an unexpected stranger with a business card. I can only describe these moments as dreams coming true - dreams that I had not yet dared to dream.
I have many great memories to share but had an experience that was, for me, better than a national jersey and that was an unexpected conversation with - Kristin Armstrong. I was waiting with my parents at an awards ceremony and my stepmother pointed out Kristin Armstrong.
She was in the parking lot pushing her son along in a stroller. I had been presented the silver medal the previous year by Kristin for the criterium and my stepmother knew my regret for being too shy to say anything. I had let my shyness hold me back instead of asking to get a picture with her that year. This year was different. A little arguing and making excuses for why I shouldn't bother her didn't work this time. Sometimes parents do know what is best! I worked up the courage and started walking. As I approached her I hoped she would be understanding. I did want to meet her but I didn't' want to to be a pesky junior fan. I have read articles about Kristin and how genuine she is with fans and it was true. She was so nice even after a challenging day. In hindsight I have come to realize that she had a rough day from her time trial but she stood and talked to me for about 20 minutes. I came to Nationals a little burned out and doubting my potential as an elite cyclist. Kristin may not realize how uplifting and inspiring her conversation was for me. There were a couple of times we tried to let her go but she stayed to get to know me a little better. I had not met any rider at her level that was so interested in taking her valuable time to encourage me. I will never forget that type of genuineness and hope to pay it forward to others.
The very next day I raced the criterium but missed the jersey at the line. Later, at the podium ceremony I received my silver medal. I remember Kristin telling me that sometimes the biggest disappointments teach us the most. I was very grateful to receive a silver medal but am determined to learn from missing the jump. As I stood in the crowd a lady introduced herself to me. At the time I was in a daze and did not realize who she was but I knew she was important. Her name was Nicola Cranmer. I cannot even remember what I said and I cannot recall her exact words just that they were so unexpected and surprising. I do remember her asking about my plans for next year and to keep in touch. Then she handed me the most unexpected and amazing thing - her Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12 business card! I had not dared to dream that I would be handed a business card from Nicola Cranmer. This took a while to sink in. I just couldn't believe that a team this highly ranked would even consider me on their junior development team. I felt extremely lucky to be given this opportunity even if it wasn't certain at the time. I kept in contact and I am now living and believing in the cycling dream and the power of mentorship.
To this day, the card is laminated and kept in a safe place! It is a little intimidating to be wearing a ExergyTWENTY12 kit and I am still amazed that I have so many encouraging mentors surrounding and helping me. ExergyTWENTY12 is truly committed to encouraging and mentoring their juniors. I have many heightened goals for this season. I hope to place very well in the upcoming nationals events for road and track. I have a dream of going to worlds and wearing a national time trial jersey. More importantly though, as a junior rider I want to follow my coaches direction and absorb all the knowledge and advice I can to expand myself as a racer and represent my team and sponsors well. I am at a crucial point between being a junior and an adult racer and I still have vast amounts of knowledge to gain. This year I am very lucky to have top level female racers to help me through this process.
Lastly, but very important I just wanted to explain how proud I am have the opportunity to represent a company like the Exergy Development Group and be able to advertise the symbols of the windmills as I ride. Throughout high school I have been a big fan and have become very interested in renewable energy. I have considered many careers, but they all seem to relate back to the general field of aiding environmental improvement. In fact, I plan on going to college to major in Environmental Engineering in hopes of providing a way to transform renewable resource devices such as solar panels, commercial wind turbines, and other sustainable energy products into a more economical friendly component for homes. I actually have this dream that some day I will live in a full-blown self sufficient home able to live completely off the grid. So I have to say, the team found a very special company and concept to represent that has been an interest of mine for a long time. As my dad always says, we can't pass a wind turbine on the road without making a big deal about it.
Thank you to all the sponsors for giving this incredible opportunity to learn, grow and develop as a cyclist. I am so glad I am a cyclist and I am so appreciative of our sponsors and this life changing opportunity.
As a 4 year old, Kayla commenced developing her bike handling skills on her tricycle. Much to the concern of her parents her favorite trick was to jump the curb and sneak a ride without her helmet. This determination helped her excel in baseball and basketball before re-discovering the power of her pedals as a 15 year old. Her first year of racing comprised of an old borrowed bike, used equipment and her own taylored training plan - "How long can I stick on Dad's wheel"? With such persistence her parents relented and "the bikes" have became Kayla's number one passion.
She has since attained multiple podium finishes at Junior Nationals and is a two time Texas State Criterium Champion. Kayla is a disciplined and dedicated cyclist masquerading by day as the AP student breaking all "the teenage rules" by riding her bike to school. This Texan's dream is to race to her potential and integrate her love for the bike into the field of environmental science/engineering.