This story forms part of our North American week on Cyclingnews.
In two weeks, the new year actually begins for American Alexis Ryan. She expects to “find the fire from 2019” this season, which begins at the one-day classic Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on February 27, for a sixth year at Canyon-SRAM Racing.
Ryan began the 2020 campaign with a top 10 on stage 1 of the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under, then top 25s in two one-day races in Australia before heading back stateside. She missed some of the early spring Classics due to a broken clavicle, suffered on a mountain bike ride, and used the summer shutdown for the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic to heal. But a return to the rescheduled Classics and the season-ending Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta produced more “DNFs” than top 10s, not a customary conclusion.
“My biggest goal (racing and personal) is to find the fire of 2019, and light it up. I had a stand-out year in 2019, but that fire fizzled out. I have an idea of where it has gone, and I'm close to rediscovering it,” Ryan told Cyclingnews from her new US base in Athens, Georgia, before traveling to Germany to begin her two-week quarantine and then this year’s European campaign.
At the moment, one-day races in Belgium and the Netherlands are back on schedule for the spring, including two of Ryan’s favourites, Acht van Weterveld and Women's WorldTour Ronde van Drenthe, although the latter has requested an October date. These are the races which suit her style of sprinting, and have brought success in the past.
“I'm not a traditional field sprinter, but I can play that role if necessary. I fare better in a reduced bunch sprint or out of a breakaway,” she said. “Acht van Westerveld is my favorite win. That gave me the confidence and motivation for my favorite podium - Ronde van Drenthe.
“I get way more adrenalin from a one-day Spring Classic. You have four hours to make something happen. That's it. There's no correcting the results page at the end of the day.”
In 2019, she had top-five finishes at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Drentse Acht van Westerveld, then a top 20 at Ronde van Drenthe. In 2018, she wrapped a pair of podiums at Omloop and Drenthe around her win at Acht van Westerveld, beating notable sprinter Jolien D'hoore.
Ryan is one of the original members of the Canyon-SRAM Racing team, formed when the Velocio-SRAM team disbanded at the end of 2015. Her new contract provides a solid home and income through 2022.
“It's special to watch a team mature from infancy into one of the most iconic women's professional cycling teams,” said Ryan, who joins a trio of riders who started together with the programme in 2016 - Tiffany Cromwell, Hannah Barnes, Alena Amialiusik.
“It's even more special to be part of the whole journey knowing that I was chosen for my talents and contributions as a rider and a person. I'm happy to continue that journey for another two years, and hopefully years to come,” she said.
Ryan’s speed is complemented on the team by Hannah Barnes and her sister Alice, British siblings who also looking kick it up a notch in races in sprints for 2021, and a new dynamic with former World Champion and fellow American Chloe Dygert in the mix.
“Chloe is a powerhouse who equates to three or four riders. Having her on the team will give us a few more cards to play in races. She'll also bring fresh motivation and enthusiasm to the team.”
New southern scene
One of her goals is to finish on the podium, the top step, at US Pro Road National Championships, which is scheduled to return in 2021 to Knoxville, Tenn. Ryan has been consistently in the top 11 of the US championships since 2015, when she raced for the elite title with UnitedHealthcare. Since the race has been held in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains for the three previous editions, although cancelled last summer, she has twice finished fourth, and was fifth in 2019.
“If the environment is deemed safe by local Knoxville officials and USAC decides to sanction the event, then I will be there. Yes, it's a big goal and one that has proven very elusive,” the 26-year-old said. “I do believe a ‘sprinter’ can win on the USPro course [in Knoxville]. The climb is hard, but it's not long. The finishing climb is brutal, but if a sprinter times their move properly it can be done.”
As a junior, the California native won eight US titles across all disciplines - mountain bike, cyclo-cross, track, and road. She and her older sister, Kendall, who will race this season with US-based team L39ion of Los Angeles, were introduced to cycling by their father, who “discovered the Southern California criterium scene after transitioning (no pun intended) out of triathlons.”
The sisters have not been on the same team since they were juniors.
“I think it would be super fun to have her as a teammate. I'm not sure if that is a realistic dream, though. Kendall's success in this sport has taken her down a different path--one that I'm very proud of! She's shown herself to be one of the best track riders in the world. I hope to see her racing on the velodrome in Tokyo this year.”
The younger sister said the 2024 Olympic Games would be a more realistic focus for herself, and will continue to enjoy a career on the road.
“The road is my favorite discipline to race. It has the most variables and is the most team-oriented discipline,” said Ryan, who moved to Georgia to be with her partner, Ty Magner (Rally Cycling). She now considers the Athens Twilight Criterium, part of the USA CRITS series to be a “hometown race” and if her schedule will permit would love to do that event in the summer.
“He is the reason [I’m in Georgia]. I love the area! I think the terrain suits my riding style better than California, and it has the added advantage of being similar to Belgian terrain. I spent a month or so in California with my family at the end of 2020. I've been preparing well in Athens since then.
“My racing career is a big motivation for me, and consumes most of my time. I dedicate the rest of myself to building a life with my partner and pursing new hobbies that may ultimately lead to another career down the road.”
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