An interview with Deidre Winfield, January 9, 2007
New to the big time 'cross scene this year, Velo Bella-Kona's Dee Dee Winfield has surprised everyone including herself with several UCI wins and even more podium finishes. How did this mom to 17-month-old daughter, Cadence, become one the top 'crossers in the country in such a short time? Cyclingnews diarist Barbara Howe explores the short history of this talented racer.
Perhaps it's the long miles logged in the past on epic bike adventures such as riding from Maine to Georgia and Charleston, SC to San Diego, or perhaps it's her strong work ethic and total commitment to the sport - either way Deidre Winfield, a.k.a. Dee Dee, has quickly moved to the top of the 'cross game.
Winfield's past isn't just filled with athletic exploits - her love of sport also translated to a Master's degree in Exercise physiology which she earned at the University of South Carolina. But her stay in Columbia during grad school was partly responsible for her love of cycling. In South Carolina, she never felt quite at home - the state just didn't click for her, so, missing her native Virginia and the miles of hilly country roads that just beg to be ridden, she sought solace by working in a bike shop.
Soon after graduation, Winfield moved back to the mountains of Virginia and she began racing bikes. This pasttime, which would soon become a passion, began with a few local road races where she had immediate success. She quickly moved up in categories and stepped up and raced several national criteriums including Captech and the CSC Invitational.
After her successful road season, Winfield decided to dabble in cyclo-cross. The fall of 2004 was her first 'cross season, and as with her road racing, she went straight to the top, winning the difficult Iron 'Cross marathon. But her life took a twist after Iron 'Cross. "I was so exhausted and sick after that race, I had no idea what was wrong with me. It turned out I was pregnant!"
The birth of Dee Dee and Buck's daughter in 2005 had a profound impact on how Winfield viewed the world. All of her priorities shifted to Cadence and the world that she was going to live in. Winfield knew she would be back on her bike at some point, but thought her family obligations would keep her racing career on hold for quite some time - she never guessed she'd be back at the start line so soon.
Winfield came back to the bike after battling post-partum depression following the birth of her daughter. During the middle of the night feedings, she would surf the 'net, and the news didn't help her mood. "It was worst during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and I would read about the lack of care and humanity fellow humans had for each other, and think about how awful it is to bring an innocent little girl into a world like this. I would just be overcome with grief and depression. "
At the insistence of her husband, Buck, Winfield cut back on her nocturnal readings and started riding again. Riding helped her focus on other aspects of life, elevated her mood, and quickly got her back into shape. With her regained fitness, Winfield's competitive drive also came back, and she decided to do a few local 'cross races.
When she was approached by Melanie Swartz about racing for Velo Bella, Winfield was excited, but hesitant - she worried about making a commitment when she just wanted to keep the season low key. But after being assured that she could race as little or as much as she wanted by Alex, Velo Bella-Kona's 'cross manager, she joined up. "I really intended on just racing a bit locally but the season started off well and it just got out of control. Next thing I knew I was planning on going to as many UCI races as possible and Nationals."
Winfield found a good deal of enjoyment in her new team. "It's really fun - this is my first time actually riding for a team, and it's great at races to get to know the other women and have people to hang out with." Balancing motherhood and racing might seem like a daunting task, but Winfield has a lot of support, especially from her husband. "None of this would be possible without Buck. He is so supportive, he watches Cadence so I can train and pits for me at all of the races."
And "all of the races" added up to be quite a few. Winfield returned to win the Iron 'Cross again, and went on to dominate the local and regional races. Once she decided to take the plunge and go to the bigger races, she quickly found herself on the podium and racking up UCI points. Winfield won the two North Carolina Grand Prix races, the Lower Allen 'cross, Beacon and Capital 'cross, and placed second at Highland Park, W.E. Stedman GP and Castor GP, making her the second ranked rider in the US and in the top 25 of the UCI rankings.
With such a stellar season, Winfield went into the US national championships in December with a good deal of confidence and the all important front row start, and proved to everyone that her results were no fluke. She started the week by taking her first national title when she won the Master's 30-34 race, and then went on to have a strong race in the elite women's race, finishing fourth behind Katie Compton, Georgia Gould and Kerry Barnholt - an impressive performance for her first national championships.
Going into the Master's race, Winfield knew she had a good chance of landing on the podium, and knew that even though the course suited her strengths, it also was good for several of her competitors. Once she opened a gap off the front, she stayed on the gas the whole time. "On the last lap I thought I had a flat and decided that I'd just ride it in on the rim. It turns out nothing was wrong with my tire, it was just me!"
The elite race was a high point in Winfield's career. Her legs were ready, and a great start put her right behind Compton and Gould, but the pair's furious pace was daunting. Not wanting to blow in the first lap, she found pro mountain biker Kerry Barnholt and spent most of the race with her.
Winfield knew that a group containing Ann Knapp was chasing, so she told Kerry "we gotta go!!". They worked together to hold off Knapp until the last lap, and then Winfield sat on Barnholt's wheel hoping to take the sprint. "Kerry was just too strong, she got a tiny gap on me at the end and I couldn't close it."
The sprint didn't work out but Winfield was pleased with her performance. "I couldn't have ridden a better race, everything went so well." Her excellent performance ranks as one of the best moments of her life. "I was euphoric - it was like when I got engaged to Buck. We spent so much time on the phone calling everyone we knew!"
Winfield's strong season and podium finish earned her a discretionary spot on the 2007 US national 'cross team, and she's headed to Belgium on January 11th where she will pack in lots of racing, as well as some leisurely riding around the country side to see all the sights Belgium has to offer. "I'm excited to get in some good riding, and of course try out the chocolate and waffles that everyone talks about."
Winfield, only one month after her first championship race, will go up against the best in the world at UCI world cups in Nommay, France, and Hoogerheide, Netherlands, and of finally, the World Championships in Hoogelde-Gits, Belgium. This talented young mother hopes to find her name near the top of the results, and will get plenty of support from her husband, daughter and her team.
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