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US Women's Cycling Development Program diary
The US Women's Cycling Development program was founded by former pro rider, Michael Engleman, as a way to help promising young women cyclists reach their full potential as athletes. The USWCDP networks current and former women pro riders with up and coming athletes through mentoring and coaching.
With experienced mentors like Olympians Dede Barry and Mari Holden, along with current pros Amber Neben, Tina Pic, Kim Anderson and others, the USWCDP helps young riders like Mara Abbott, Katharine Carroll and many more to race better, find teams and become professional bike racers. The dedicated and well spoken women of this program provide thoughtful, compelling and sometimes hilarious anecdotes of their experiences in this diary.
For further reading about the programme, visit the USWCDP website
December 4, 2008
As I became a cyclist
By Alison Starnes
As my inaugural year on the bicycle recently concluded, I came to the astounding realization that I had somehow managed to become a cyclist. This change did not only take place during this short span of time - it has been a transformation process that has slowly been occurring. I never noticed this progression happening but instead took each day in stride not noticing how I was changing.
It is entertaining to think how life persists and how we change and grow into each new stage. If you would have asked me at the beginning of summer what type of athlete I considered myself, I would have responded that I was a "variety show". I was searching for a niche I could call my own. As I look back at all the different sports and events that brought me to where I am now, I can see how each played a significant role into forming the athlete I am today. Within a short period of time, I have come to the realization that I am officially a cyclist.
Cycling brings together a myriad of athletes and we all have different stories and reasons why we are in this sport today. A common introduction in the women's peloton is the question of which athletic background each rider came from. When I respond with my collegiate tennis experience it is often met with an inquisitive glance considering that tennis is not known as a launching pad for a career in cycling, in contrast to other sports such as Nordic skiing, soccer or cross country. However, as most collegiate athletes would agree, it is not always the sport itself that defines you, but the dedication and determination it takes to be a scholar-athlete.
I was never a gifted tennis player. In my defense, I may have been a natural athlete, but I was not a natural tennis player. I first picked up a racquet in high school, which is 10 years too late to ever be a contender at Wimbledon or a tournament of that stature. Yet, I had one vision - to play NCAA tennis to assist in my college education. At the age of 14 I was blatantly told by my first tennis instructor that this goal was ludicrous and impossible. This may have been a logical rationalization due to my lack of finesse and experience on the court, but what this instructor did not recognize was my absolute determination. It goes without saying that I refused to work with a coach that could not identify the power of a driven athlete.
Even though I had the results to spur recruiting trips and multiple college options, it was Hutton Jones from Abilene Christian University who saw the potential I had as an athlete - both physically and mentally. It could be argued that the only reason Hutton selected me to join his nationally ranked team is because my father was a team member of a successful UCLA football team and my mother plays national open senior tennis. Regardless of Hutton's reasoning, his opportunity made a permanent impact on my life. Through this stepping stone to my cycling career I made the greatest lifetime friends and grasped the true meaning of a team, which will assist in my upcoming profession as a cyclist. I learned that although I could play college tennis I was not an exceptional tennis player, but I had the potential to become something more - I just had to find the right sport.
I have become a cyclist. When I look back upon this progression I not only feel the thousands of miles I have put on my bicycle, but I also see hours on the court and around the track. I see those who have unwaveringly supported me throughout the years, allowing me to take lessons and to compete. I see my ACU tennis teammates and their dedication to not only the sport, but to the importance of the dynamics of a team. I see the USWCDP (www.uswcdp.org) and how Michael Engleman believed in me throughout my development - even before I was a cyclist.
Getting ready to embark on my first official season as a cyclist, I will race for Team TIBCO under the unfailing leadership of Linda Jackson. Not only will I have the opportunity to race for a team director of the highest caliber, but I will also be able to grow and develop under the tutelage of the best female riders in the nation. Similar to my freshmen year of college, I am entering a sport where I cannot offer much in experience or skills but I can give my full commitment and resolve to realize my potential.
Once again, I am dumbfounded by the tremendous amount of blessings in my life. Entering into this holiday season, I am thankful for so many people in my life. I am thankful for the opportunity to race with an amazing team and once again be part of a group of women that are not only talented athletes, but incredible people as well. I am thankful that my husband, family, and friends are so supportive of the sacrifices we make to race our bicycles. I am thankful for my job at Endurance Performance Training Centers (www.enduranceptc.com), which not only provides me with a work and training balance, but also a great environment to pursue my dreams. Finally, I am thankful that I have completed my first "off-season" and I am back on bike for long grueling rides, eating Powerbars and continually validating the fact that I am now a cyclist - who would have imagined?
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