Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Women of Bike Racing
ATC Racing’s Anne Flanagan & Lori Bergeron

Marla Briley, Sammi Runnels, Anne Flanagan, Lori Bergeron
Behind every woman on a bike, there’s a story, and we’d like to share those individual stories with you. How they got started, what it means to be a bike racer, who they are on and off the bike... We’re starting close to home with the women of our own team, ATC Racing. Our hope is that in sharing our personal experiences—the good, the bad, the embarrassing—we open the door for other new women racers.

ATC Racing is made up of seven very strong and very different personalities. We’re an amateur team, and all of us work a job of some kind (or several). Between us, as Lori Bergeron says in her piece below, there’s one obvious unifying characteristic: we love to race our bikes.

Bike racers are short, tall, big as houses, skinny as rails, pretty as a picture, ugly as a post, prissy, butch, quiet, loud. This sport shows you how highly individual a group of people can be. Even age isn’t necessarily a limiter. Anne Flanagan is in her fifties and works part-time as a nurse. Full of energy and wisdom, she’s a beautiful person inside and out, and I think we all wish we could have her looks now, much less 20 years down the road. You’ve got to watch the derogatory grandma comments around her—e.g., “I’m riding like a grandma today”—because she is one. Lori is 30 like me. I have a 10-month-old baby and am by nature very quiet; my typical night is about as exciting as a bingo match. Lori works as a dessert chef (she makes a mean salted caramel) and occasional pedicabber. She goes out, dates, rock climbs, gets new tattoos—a good portion of her barely 5-foot frame is inked.

Can anyone be a bike racer? Probably not. If the idea piques your interest, though, that might be a sign you’d enjoy it. Check out our new nonprofit, the Women’s Racing Foundation of Austin, and read on to learn more about our first two athletes in the spotlight.

From Anne Flanagan
It is about 100 degrees in the middle of August 2012. I am lined up along with about 10 other women and a few 10- to 16-year-old kids to race my bicycle for the first time. We are at the Driveway, a privately owned racetrack that caters to motorsports, but on Thursday evenings from March to October it is all about racing bikes.

Since that day the Driveway has become a weekly ritual, either racing, volunteering, or just spectating. I joined ATC’s women’s racing team, raced some local and out-of-town road races and have generally fallen in love with cycling. This was not supposed to happen to a woman well into her 50s who thought she would be a runner forever. The Town Lake trail was my second home, and the Decker Challenge and the Austin Marathon were my yearly rituals.

Cycling was part of my rehab activity after a minor knee surgery. I found a couple of women in the neighborhood who were training for triathlons, and I rode with them on their training rides. Judy and Doray introduced me to Lime Creek, Liberty Hill, and South MoPac loops. They taught me how to eat and drink on the bike, and how to change a tire. They gave me the confidence to ride on Austin roads by myself when I had to. When their training ramped up for IM Texas, I went looking for a ride that wasn’t necessarily 100 miles long.

2013 State TTT win - Anne F. at far right 
I found the Bagel Ride. I know that those guys wanted me to get lost, but I kept coming back every Saturday. I got dropped plenty of times, got pushed up many hills, and got yelled at for not holding my line, and after about 18 months (yes, it took that long) I felt like I could kind of hang with them, sort of. The Violet Crown guys taught me (still learning) how to ride in a group, stay out of the wind, and ride in a pace line. They taught me about wheels and tires, cassettes and cranks, but the great mystery remains: how does Ted keep his bike so clean?

The mentoring in this sport has amazed me; I see it on group rides and at the races.  For the most part people are encouraging and supportive and are willing to share what they know with those new to the sport. The camaraderie among the women is phenomenal. I feel blessed to have found this sport, even at this later stage in life.  I know that my arthritic knees are happier than they were pounding the pavement, and I hope to be out there for years to come. My hope is to be able to encourage other women who are just getting into cycling through ATC’s newly formed Women’s Racing Foundation of Austin.

From Lori Bergeron
I am in my second season of competitive bike racing. At 26, I picked up a bike for the first time since I was a child, and then shortly thereafter found myself at the Driveway lined up with a group of ladies ready to race. I was wearing tri shorts and a wife beater (gasp!). I lasted a short three laps, feeling like I was hyperventilating. I was instantly in love and ready to get strong!

I’ve always liked excitement. The problem is I find joy in a lot of exciting things. Cycling is a sport that requires a lot of time and dedication. It only seemed fitting when I found myself falling in love with crit racing; the short, mind-intensive races are extremely exciting to me and require less endurance.

As a racing team, all the ladies I race with have a strength they bring to the team. Some ladies kill it time trialing and in road races. We all love what we do, and I think that is what is most unique about female racers in Austin. We all have this one thing in common: We love riding our bikes. I even enjoy my interval training on my indoor trainer. (Never thought I’d say that!) But being able to watch and feel myself grow athletically is easily one of my favorite things about competitive cycling.

Racing is one of the coolest hobbies I have ever found myself involved in. Especially at the Driveway crit in Austin. There is so much fun competition and good people, and there is nothing like the adrenaline rush of riding your bike that fast, learning to handle your bike in tricky situations, and hopefully being one of the first through the finish line!

I don’t have a specific goal with cycling or have aspirations of becoming a pro. For me, cycling is about becoming a stronger athlete and person. High-intensity riding teaches me a lot about myself. It is hard to avoid the flow of emotions that come with competition. It has made me more aware of my strengths, my weaknesses, and who I want to become as a friend, an athlete, and a person in general.
Cycling creates an emotional and spiritual outlet through physical activity. It takes you to beautiful places and at a speed you can appreciate what’s around you. I ride to work. I ride out in the country and in the rolling hills of Austin. It’s awesome and there is nothing like it.

Proudest cycling moment to date? Getting my mom on a bike and training for a triathlon at 58! I get excited to get on my bike every day and to see who I will become every day, and also to learn to grow and become stronger physically and mentally through the amazing world of cycling.

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