Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Women of Bike Racing
ATC Racing’s Marla Briley & Katie Kantzes

Continuing our effort to put women’s racing in the spotlight, ATC Racing members Marla Briley and Katie Kantzes write about how they found their way into the sport and what it means to be competitive cyclists.
Marla making a solo attack at the Driveway.

Marla, co-captain of ATC Racing and long-time triathlete, is one of the founding members of the team. She and her boyfriend, Kent Snead, are the team’s biggest behind-the-scenes supporters, both in terms of sponsorship dollars and devotion to day-to-day operations. Marla and Kent sponsor the team in the name of GSP Rescue, the German shorthaired pointer dog rescue organization that Marla helps run as president (alongside her full-time data-wrangling job!). As a teammate, Marla is pure gold, always willing to use her talent on the bike to selflessly and aggressively work for the team win. She’s now back to biking, running, and racing at the Driveway Series after ACL surgery in November 2013.

Katie, who’s working on her masters at the University of Texas in public health epidemiology, is the newest member of the team, joining at the beginning of 2014. A mean hill climber, she’s a veritable aristocrat of the local Strava scene, with 273 QOMs to her name.  Those who don’t Strava will probably know her as the girl who doggedly hangs on to the hardest Austin group rides, often with a smile on her face.

Marla and Katie were willing to share photos from their earliest days in cycling. Pictured below on their first bikes, they would have many, many more miles of riding in their future.

From Marla Briley
Everyone has heard of the “Butterfly Effect,” or maybe you saw the movie? In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependency on initial conditions in which a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.- Edward Lorenz
Marla at Captex in 2004, her first triathlon

I experienced something very similar but like to call it the “bike effect.”

In 2000, I went to work for I knew nothing about bikes and came to the job through the IT department. I met a few of the guys in the back. These cyclists turned phone support were the “real” bike guys and actually had intelligent conversations with prospective customers. I conducted Q&A on our site to make sure it wouldn’t crash if someone actually visited. I thought it would be a good idea to buy a bike; I mean, I got the bike at cost, and would maybe, through owning a bike, better understand the jargon and lingo everyone was talking. Of course the only brands we carried were Giant and Schwinn. I decided on a Giant. The guys in the back helped me pick out one that would fit me and my budget. When it arrived, they made sure to remove all reflectors (they could not have me looking like a Fred) and outfit it with clip-in pedals (which I had no idea how to use). One of my first rides, a 20-mile jaunt through the Austin neighborhoods with one of the “real” bike guys, left me so tired and dehydrated (I had not learned how to ride and drink at the same time) that I cramped up and fell over at a stoplight.

That is how I came to the bike. What amazes me is how the bike has shaped my life. In 2001, a friend convinced me to join a Team In Training group. We raised money and awareness for leukemia while training for a 100-mile bike ride around Tahoe. During that adventure I met one of my longest running friends who helped me get an awesome job at the company where I still work. Also, I made a friend, who became a training partner, who later became my much better half.

After went the way of most dot-coms, I decided the only way for me to keep the bike out of mothballs was to have a goal. I had always enjoyed running and had even swum on the JV team in high school, so why not triathlon! I joined a local training group, and they helped me prepare for my first 70.3. From there I went on to complete multiple half and full Ironman races. These races and adventures have brought me the best memories and experiences of my life.

In 2011, I was invited to join an all-women’s cycling team. I have learned so much about myself through road racing and being a part of ATC Racing. I have learned how much I enjoy racing on a team and not just for myself. I have realized I like to be in control of my surroundings, and I need to be okay with it when I’m not. I have also found out that I’m not as tough as I thought I was, but I’m braver than I give myself credit for. With the help of my amazing teammates and my coach Gray Skinner, I am continuing to grow as an athlete and, hopefully, become the best cyclist and teammate that I can.

Between racing and training, cycling is a huge part of my life. It shapes most of my week. There are the everyday training rides and every Thursday, from spring till fall, the chance to race my bike at the Driveway. My boyfriend and I spend many quality hours riding our bikes together. We even plan our holidays around new places we can travel to ride our bikes.

All these things I have learned, all of these amazing people I have met, the friendships I have gained, and where I am today—it’s all because I bought a bike.

From Katie Kantzes
When questioned about my farmer’s tan, or asked what I do for a hobby outside of school, my standard answer is “I ride bikes.” With the puzzled look that typically follows I add, “You know. In spandex, like Lance Armstrong.”
Katie on one of her first training rides in 2012.

I mean, I wish I rode that fast. But even if I was slow as hell, I’d still ride. The draw of bike riding and racing is less explained and more easily experienced: it’s something that develops over time, as many things of value. It certainly took time for me. Even though it seems like a straightforward sport (you just ride in a straight line and try to not crash, right?), I’ve found that I learn more and love the sport more on every ride.

I first got on a bike three and a half years ago – if you count the spin bike in my then-boyfriend’s gym. I had just sprained my ankle after my first half-marathon. Prior to that sprain, I’d had every injury in the book: chronic overuse in both calves, patellar tendonitis, pulled hamstrings. But the bike was fun. It was easy to go hard and not get injured. So I hammered away, indoors, for a year or so.

When I braved the paved road I fell over at every stoplight because I couldn’t unclip. Once I could clip in, I got dropped on every ride. I told myself so long as I can see the group up the road I’m fine! But as I tacked on the miles, I got better. I learned to love hills and long endurance rides, and then last year I learned what it was like to do those long miles with the encouragement and unpredictability of a pack. As the basics (pedaling, drafting) became natural habits for me, I began learning how to read the pack, how to attack, and how to push my pain threshold.

There are several things that attract me to racing: the nervous tick when lining up, the thrill of attacking, and the beautiful exhaustion that comes from an effort that was previously beyond you. The most rewarding aspect of riding for me has been the friends I’ve made on the road. I have never been so consistently surprised at the openness, companionship, and generosity of an entire community as I have been with cycling. The community is what keeps me riding more than anything else, and I’d encourage anyone with an inkling of interest to give it a shot.

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