Beginning in 2015, USA Cycling has given me the opportunity to work with a couple of different development teams in Europe; junior women and junior men. Last spring, I started out by working with the junior women’s groups, and it was a helluva steep learning curve, for both myself and the team. Yeah, I was a bike racer for a long time, and I know a lot about racing, but I learned that there is a lot more to being a director, and being in charge, that I didn't know.
I guess we all survived!
Some of our girls raced well, and other didn’t but hopefully they all learned something. I know I did. I learned how to drive in the caravan, which scared the living shit out of me in the beginning!
During last summer USA Cycling had me working with the 15- and 16-year-old boys. What a group they were, and we had such a blast working together. I’ve never seen a group of kids riding as hard as they did. They fought in every race until they fell off their bikes. And, honestly, they made me the proud mum on the sidelines. It was a knew experience going to the kermesses and seeing the craziness of Belgium cycling in the making. I can only image what it must have been like for those boys.
After those two European experiences with the USA Cycling development teams, I was so stoked that they asked me to be a part of the junior girls development team for the World Championships in Richmond, Virginia.
Many of you know that I spent much of my career racing in the US, and it has been my home for a long time now. Like you, I was looking forward to experiencing Worlds on home soil.
I had not really been around junior racing since I left that age group myself, so I forced myself to sit down for many afternoons to research that category, and try to find out as much information as possible about that scene, which was not an easy task. I also got to know the four girls I was going to be working with at the World Championships; Chloe Dygert, Emma White, Skylar Schneider, and Ashlyn Woods.
I knew I had a big pool of talent and that they would be ready to represent their country at home. I also knew that having Worlds at home puts more pressure on athletes, and I wanted to make it as easy as possible for them, mentally.
To be honest, these girls were more then prepared mentally, and they still had that easiness about them that some older athletes lose. We had a blast from the first day.
The race days didn’t really spoil that first impression. I knew both of our time trial girls; Chloe and Emma, had the potential to be on the podium but that never means it actually happens. Seeing them succeed and ending up finishing with the gold and silver medals in the time trial was beyond anything anybody would have predicted.
There’s no need to say how excited I was for these girls! After that experience it was time for the road race.
The hardest part for me during the whole Worlds experience was to try and figure out every possible tactic that could happen in the road race. When it comes to strategies like breakaways and sprinting, I have knowledge to offer the young girls. But when it came to being a solid team, it was tough to gauge how well the girls would connect with each other during the road race because it was truly the first time that they had ever really raced together.
I also knew that other competing national teams would look to our junior team to make the race, especially after their success in the time trial.
Together we came up with a really good plan, which the girls changed up a little bit on the fly during the road race, but that was encouraging because they showed that they were capable of following their instincts. They took the race into their own hands and… what can I say? They ending up with the gold and silver medals, again, in the road race.
In my wildest dreams, I didn’t think we would take the top two spots in both events.
The most important outcome of the World Championships was that the US junior women’s team showed how well they could race together as a team; Chloe, Emma, Skylar, and Ashlyn.
These are the big talents that will be stepping up to fill the spots in the elite women’s peloton in the future, especially taking the place of those who might leave the sport after the Olympic Games in Rio.
Chloe has shown that she is already on her way after winning another world title in the US women’s team pursuit at Track Worlds in London. And Emma, who was sick in the off-season, will hopefully get healthy soon and get back into the swing of racing in both US domestic events and across Europe with the US national team.
I'm excited to see what the future has in store for these junior women in the US.