Veronica Ewers sprinted across the finish line to secure the bronze medal at the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships in Knoxville in June. It was a surprise performance and few from the professional cycling scene recognised her name.
Now, she's heading to Europe as the newest member of TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank, where she has signed a two-year contract that will take her through 2023.
Ewers, 27, has had a whirlwind experience in her relatively short but very successful career in the sport of cycling.
She landed a last-minute guest-ride spot on team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank to race Joe Martin Stage Race, where she finished on the podium on all four stages and secured second place in the overall standings in August.
The team has offered to continue her guest-riding contract at the Tour de l'Ardeche held from August September 8-14 in France. It will be her first experience racing in the peloton overseas, but it will also be a valuable learning opportunity ahead of full-time professional contract that begins in January of 2022.
"I am so looking forward to racing alongside the other strong women of Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank and representing a team whose mission is to help women like me achieve their goals of becoming international competitors," Ewers said.
Cyclingnews interviewed Ewers in a phone interview on Tuesday to get to know the next big talent in the pro women's peloton.
Cyclingnews: Can you tell us about where you’re from and how you became involved in the sport of cycling?
Veronica Ewers: Absolutely, I’m originally from Moscow, Idaho, and that’s where I grew up and played soccer throughout my childhood. I went to college at Willamette University, in Oregon, and played [Division III] soccer there, but after that I wanted to continue doing something more competitive.
I fell into running and that didn’t satisfy whatever competitive edge I needed to satisfy, so a running friend brought me to a meet-the-team ride in Washington, which is where I lived after graduating from college.
I showed up wearing leggings and tennis shoes on an ill-fitted bike with flat tires, flat pedals. Looking back on it, I showed up to a ride where everyone was wearing cycling kit and had nice bikes, and I was wearing regular athlete leisurewear and tennis shoes with a dorky helmet.
Jennifer Wheeler and David Richter saw something in me - I’m not sure what - but they wanted to get me onto a real bike and in cycling clothing, and I got pulled into it. I joined Fount Cycling Guild in 2019 and that was my first racing season. I was coached by Jennifer, at the time, and I was still running, too, but I had to begin focusing on cycling.
CN: What was your pathway toward becoming competitive in cycling?
VE: The biggest thing has been riding and training with our men’s team and having a bunch of strong women on the team as well. We’ve always done race simulations together, beating up on each other during our night rides or the Rocket Ride, we show up and beat each other up on the bike every day. Consistency of showing up and being competitive with each other, but also being really good teammates with each other, has given me competitiveness.
I’ve also only missed one, maybe two, workouts in the last couple of years of being coached by Jennifer Wheeler. That’s huge, to trust the coaching programme, even when I’m not motivated to get out and get a workout done.
CN: Were you a competitive runner?
VE: I was on the verge of being competitive, but doing OK in the local races. I was in the top-10 in our local Seattle races. I wanted to get into ultra trail running.
CN: What were your first impressions of cycling?
VE: I was terrified. One of the first times I clipped in the pedals, we did a group ride and Jennifer, my coach, was telling me to get closer to the person ahead of me. I had not ridden in a group before and that was scary. I ended up running into his back wheel, wrecking my front wheel and crashing. I was fine, except my glasses went into my eyebrow and I got a ridiculous black eye.
It was intimidating at first, but I could not have asked for a better support system to help me get through and to identify all the resources I needed to get into the sport.
CN: Fast forward to the USA Pro Cycling National Championships where you won the bronze medal. Was that a surprise or were you prepared for a strong performance?
VE: A bit of both. I had a lot of external validation to say that I could do it - my coaches and teammates. It was hard to be confident and believe in it, because as a team, we had not raced at that calibre before. It was hard to gauge how we could compete at the Nationals. It wasn’t a shock but it kind of validated what all these people told me that I was capable of doing. I was really excited and happy to see that all the work that I put in showed.
CN: How did the race play out at the Nationals?
VE: We had done a lot of race simulations. I tried to hang on and do what I could to not get dropped - that was my mentality. I also recognized that there were big hitters in the pack and I needed to be with them. If they went up the road, I needed to be there, too.
I hesitated when Lauren [Stephens] attacked and decided to stay with the peloton. She did an amazing job finishing it off, and I was racing for second. Coryn Rivera hit it hard on the climb on the last lap, and along with a few others, we went over the hill quickly but no one really wanted to chase or waste energy. There was a point when we all knew it was too late to chase it back and that we were racing for second.
I tried to get into the last climb first, Coryn came around me, and did exactly what she needed to do in that moment. I ended up second wheel and Coryn and I battled to the end. It was cool. There was a moment within that sprint that I was thinking, ‘oh my gosh, I’m sprinting Coryn Rivera,’ as a fangirl, and then realized I needed to sprint.
CN: What are your strengths as a cyclist?
VE: I’m an all-rounder, punchy, and not super into long mountain climbs, but I can hang on in those circumstances.
CN: You guest rode with TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank at Joe Martin Stage Race and finished second place overall. Tell us how that came about?
VE: There was talk of me joining the team for Joe Martin but I wanted to do one last race with Fount Cycling Guild. A series of unfortunate events led to us not being able to compete. I was already in Arkansas and within 12 hours Linda Jackson worked overnight on the paperwork to get me on as a guest rider. I didn’t know that I would be racing until 30 minutes before the start of the first stage.
It was really cool to finish second place overall. It was a team effort and I was blown away by the team dynamics, it was awesome, especially as someone coming in at the last minute. The team worked cohesively and it was cool to be involved and a part of all of it.
CN: Was that your first National Calendar or UCI-level race?
VE: The National Championships was my first big race, and yes, Joe Martin was my first national-level stage race. I think it validated that I’m able to compete at this level. That makes me excited. I definitely had imposter syndrome recently because I’m very new to the sport of cycling. I recognize that I put in so much work and I have an amazing support system. Now, I have the support of TIBCO, who believe in me and it validated that this is where I should be.
CN: What will you be racing for the rest of 2021?
VE: I will be guest riding for TIBCO in Europe. I head to France on Friday and I’ll race Tour de l’Ardeche. I’ll race with them through to the end of the season. I’m confirmed for l’Ardeche and I’m available for the rest of the season in 2021. I’m very excited for the opportunity.
CN: How do you feel about racing in Europe for the first time?
VE: I know it’s going to be a big wake up call to what real racing looks like. I’m really excited for the challenge. I’ve been following a lot of big WorldTour races and it’s different but I’m excited to get there and learn. I’m really excited to race with TIBCO. Lauren is an amazing leader and I’m excited to learn more while racing with her in Europe.
CN: Since your bronze medal at US Pro Championships, have other teams been interested in signing you?
VE: Yes, I’ve had a few teams interested and reach out. It’s a lot because I had no idea what to expect or what was going to happen after that race.
CN: Do your ambitions to race full-time change your day-to-day lifestyle going forward?
VE: I used to work for Seattle Children’s Hospital, first as a patient account specialist and later as an authorization coordinator, but with all of the cycling and my hopes and dreams, I realized that I need to be able to train full-time to be competitive. I’m left my job, which was bitter-sweet because it’s a great organization. I also had wanted to do UX [User Experience] Design and started doing a program so that if cycling is not fruitful then I have a backup option. Even if it is fruitful, I will have a career to work toward in the future. Having a backup plan is important.
CN: Where do you see your future in the sport of cycling?
VE: In the short term, I want to learn a lot over the next few weeks in Europe, and hopefully being competitive while I’m there. Long term, getting that WorldTour contract is amazing and I would love to go to the Olympic Games - that would be amazing to compete in 2024.
Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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