Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Friday, February 20, 2015

ATC Racing's Junior Women Program

by Allison Atkinson

"Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned." - Peter Marshall

I was asked to write a little blog post on ATC's newest, youngest members and how our Junior Squad came about. I wish I had an exciting story, that I could say I'd always wanted to work with juniors, or that I saw a void in the Austin cycling community for the young ladies who wanted to race their bikes and had no team willing to guide them. Well, those thoughts never crossed my mind. This was one of those unintended yet meaningful collaborations that came about through a collection of "small deeds."

Sunday Morning: The juniors and I ride trainers on a rainy day out at Austin Tri-Cyclist 360. We are goofing off during the warmup, blasting Major Lazerthe shop won't open for another two hours. Meanwhile, my mom shouts "Be careful!" to my sweaty five year old son, who's riding hot laps around the length of the shop. The girls' moms hang out while a young ATC employee who just got his USAT coaching license chats with them. The girls tell me about their lives as teenage bike racers.

Estefy Gonzales (16)
Estefy Gonzales

Estefy is one of the loyal participants of my Thursday night spin at ATC360. One night after class she asked if ATC had any openings for junior racers. I admit that I was caught off guard by her interest, yet found myself shaking my head yes and telling her I was sure we could work something out. I was not surprised that the team was supportive. In fact, team manager Marla Briley told me to seek out one or two more juniors.

Estefy's mental toughness is on par with any elite woman. I've seen her brave the coldest and muddiest of conditions to race her bike in cyclocross. She is a natural cyclist, very independent, quiet, and driven. I was surprised by her power the first time I hooked her up to a Computrainer one Thursday night. She races the TXBRA calendar and loves traveling to big stage races like Joe Martin and Tulsa Tough. I'm really excited to see her race with the Adult W4's this Sunday at Pace Bend. Her brother, Alex, also trains with us and "tolerates" being treated as one of the girls, and Estefy's mom, Olga, makes all other minivan moms look basic with her pimped-out support van.

Lily Howe
I came to realize that ATC always wanted a junior team but didn't have time to make it happen. I was already on track towards becoming something of a cycling coach, so leading our juniors would be a good role for me. Within a few weeks the "ATC Junior Squad" became a reality, and I would act as the director/coach with the intentions of keeping things simple and fun for the girls. We quickly added sisters Lily and Hailey Howe to the roster and developed a basic weekly training schedule.

Lily Howe (15)
Lily is a tad more quiet than her outspoken sister, Hailey, but still tough as nails. Polite and poised, she surprised me with her climbing and pack-riding capabilities. She races local triathlons as well as TXBRA events and some NRC events. This Saturday she will race with her sister at Walburg. Both girls run track at Westlake High and swim at Rollingwood. For them, balancing schoolwork with tri training/bike racing while maintaining a fun social life is tough but doable with the support of their amazing parents, Bea and Philip.

Hailey Howe (16)
Hailey, like our entire junior squad, is a regular at the Driveway Series and loves the speed and intensity of crits. She loves hanging out with friends and is rarely seen without a smile on her face. I was impressed with her ability to power up River Hills during our first ride as a team despite having spent the majority of the winter mostly running track. She is easygoing, positive and hard-working. All around, like Lily and Estefy, she is a natural athlete.

Hailey Howe (center)
I remember being a bit older than these young women when I became interested in cycling. My bike racing days (like a lot of women I know) started later in life; though I've always played sports, there were no cycling clubs at my school. After all, in the late 90s bike racing seemed like something really hard to get into. The only women I saw racing were on television in the Olympics. I never thought I'd be lucky enough to race a bike, and I'll never forget my first race and how happy I felt. Having grown up in Austin, it's like one of those "circle of life" things that I'm working with these young ladies. ATC Racing will continue these local "small deeds." We look forward to doing our part to encourage more women to ride or race bikes in the years to come.

Dad Philip Howe rides along with his girls on our Sunday training ride

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