The US Women’s Cycling Development Program has had the honor to work with some amazing young athletes as they went from “unknowns” to the top level of women’s cycling in short periods of time.
We have made substantial efforts to scout and assist talented riders but in reality it is the clubs, bike shops, parents, schools, colleges and races such as the Nature Valley Grand Prix and their Nature Valley Pro Ride that do the greatest work. When you see those women athletes in Stars and Stripes racing in Europe, know that there was someone that recognized the talent and nurtured those athletes so that they could go forward with their athletic dreams.
I love to coach, and help riders develop. It was October 2008. I was reeling with excitement from just having been asked to help direct the 'one of its kind', January Early Bird Racing Series in Northern California for 2009.
The Early Bird Series is the most unique beginner racing series in the nation. It's a 5-week racing series dedicated to teaching the community how to race safely while having fun.
I could not resist capturing the momentum of this amazing series by starting a bike racing team, a place for women to keep the fire burning that they ignited with the Early Bird Series. I've been following women's racing for years, and there's been a little lull in the area of development, so to speak. Now, we're on the attack! In 2009, we had 15 riders, for 2010, we've got 21 riders. Please join us in support of developing women bike racers.
The idea behind Early Bird Women's Team is to fill a niche. The niche being among women of course, but beginning women, women who have never had a road racing license before, and more specifically, women who have already decided they want to race their bikes. It's a deep group, one that can hold talent, experience, and optimistic enthusiasm toward each other, as each rider in the group develops toward whatever level they choose. We want a variety of ages, as well as cultural backgrounds too.
A wide variety of women
By the end of the first year we had 15 riders, with a mix of ages, backgrounds and experience with cycling. Now, we are rolling into our second season. For 2010 we opened our arms to junior racers. We currently have 21 women, 13 under 30 (two of whom are Junior racers, already succeeding in local events), and eight women over age 30. We have six women from underrepresented cultural backgrounds, as well. Why is this important? The team is a better representation of our wider non-cycling community this way. There's a real world dynamic on the team with this kind of mix.
Denise Bailey (45) Firefighter, comedienne, has a huge heart and a tenacious attitude.
Cortney Burns (30) Professional Chef, feisty to the core, enjoys training with the guys in the Napa Valley.
Stephanie Dameral (29) Student, bike shop guru, carries her 100 pound frame up hills like it were fueled by a 300 horsepower motor.
Megan Dellavalle (16) Plays forward for Santa Rosa United Thunder U17 Soccer team, Ranked 5th in Northern California, chases the Team Swift Junior Cycling team guys around the hills of Sonoma County on her bike.
Anne Findlay (36) Ironman triathlete turned bike racer, loves taking off the front of a criterium.
Beate Heckner (43) Came to the Early Bird Women's team with 10 Ironman Triathlons under her belt, and upgraded to a Cat. 3 by end of 2009 season.
Michal Jmaeff (26) Personal trainer, team Captain, has focus, and discipline for the bike.
Helen Kwong (44, Chinese Heritage) Real estate agent, amazing enthusiasm, loves long rides, will do road races in 2010.
Alissa Maglay (25, Cat. 3 Track) Sneaky sprinter. She wants to ride all day, every day…and somehow figures out how to travel to Australia to bike race.
Colleen McLaughlin (27) Super scientist, city rider, track queen, takes herself seriously.
Deanna McKenzie (41) Business Manager in the field of technology, quiet strength, look the hell out.
Erica Mikesh (29) Civil engineer, loves spinning up climbs, Cyclocross fiend.
June Nguyen (40, Vietnamese Heritage) Certified Public Accountant, motivator, and incredible lead-out.
Caitlin Scheder-Bieschin (16) Junior Elite Triathlete, has over 50 triathlons under her belt, won her first junior girls 17-18 criterium race at Cherry Pie 2010.
Katy Scott-Smith (27) Full time law student, bike messenger, loves to road race.
Yuko Soneoka (40, Japanese Heritage)-Patent attorney in San Francisco, has done triathlons, climbs like the wind, can't wait to tap more strategy and teamwork for the 2010 season.
Katie Styer (24, Mexican Heritage)-Bike messenger, on her bike 8 hours a day, bike racing.. is nothing.
Tara Taylor (24, British)-San Francisco living, Vegan restaurant running, unstoppable climber.
Sarah Trejo (29, Mexican Heritage) Small business owner, and incredible Spin instructor, keeps all of us on our toes.
Daisy vanRavenswaay (25) Former Track and Field scholar (thrower) for UC-Berkeley, loves the track, can't wait to race more, and more, and more.
Shannon Werner (28, Native American Heritage) Post-doctoral Researcher at UC Berkeley, has switched from triathlon to cycling.
Laurel Green (42): Director, elite amateur racer, Physical Education teacher, coaching athletes since 1991; women's collegiate rowing, high school girls swimming, and cycling. Educational background: BA in Psychology with minor in Physical Education and Sports Psychology from University of California-Davis, and a BS in Kinesiology, with a Teaching Certificate in Physical Education from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Laurel has been a Wenzel Coach since 2006, and a bike racer since 1994. She loves to help develop riders to their potential.
Thank you to Laurie Fenech, Director of the Winner Within mentoring program for female racers in Northern California, for helping with the initial building of the Early Bird Women's team.
With the support of our enthusiastic sponsors, I see many good things coming with our development. We have support rolling in, and we expect there to be more. Thank you so much to our 2010 sponsors, whose support helps us fulfill our mission. A huge thank you to our generous, friendly, supportive sponsors: AutoBody Express, Bicisport Bike Shop, Clif Bar, EBA Engineering, Eleven Gear, John Fleckenstein, K2BCreative Photography, Michael Engleman and USWCDP, Oakley, Richard Stone, Rudy Project, San Jose Trek Store, Sensor Pro Marketing, 2Wheelsport, Tone Fitness Studio, West County Revolution Bike Shop, Wenzel Coaching, and Wright's Chiropractic. You may learn more about our team by visiting www.earlybirdwomen.com
As much as it seems, from the outside looking in, that I direct the team, it really happens from within the group. They all have great ideas. I elicit their thinking, I look to leaders outside the team. It's happening as smoothly as it is because the team is chock full of leaders and outside support.
Over the years, I have learned that good leaders see to it that things go well, they are thinking about the group as a whole, and about each individual, so that things can continue to go well, and develop. Our team leads from within. We have a unique bunch of women, who will continue to thrive as they lead each other and themselves to greater heights. How does that saying go? "The country is full of good coaches. What it takes to win is a bunch of interested players."
The objective is being reached: to bring experience, enthusiasm, youth, diversity and female all to the same table, on the same team. The sponsors we attract value a committed group of women who want to develop themselves toward their potential, as well as serve our community by acting as role models in athletics and life. There's a place here for developing riders who may become Olympians, competitive Elite Amateurs, and simply become bigger and better than they've ever been. As we build the team, the priority will remain the same: To foster the development of female bike racers with bike handling, racing skills, training plans, nutrition education, and racing strategy and tactics education. With a focus on development, our mission is to bring out the best in every rider.