cycling utah October 1998
By Jan Hemming
Don't be fooled by Laura Patten's quiet, soft-as-silk exterior. Inside, this Navy brat from Pennsylvania has a gritty, beat-you-to-the-finish attitude that landed her in the winner's circle of the 1998 Cat 4 Einstein's Downtown Criterium.
In only her second year on the road racing and mountain racing circuit in Utah, Patten has sprinted to the top of the field with a second overall rating in the sport mountain bike category and she's looking to "cat up" after winning the King of the Hill competition in her category at the NORBA Championship Series in Deer Valley, as well as placing in the top three at Bear Hollow, Solitude, the Showdown at 5-Mile Pass and the Canyon Bicycle Draper Bank Bike Dash.
Patten originally started cycling about 10 years ago as physical therapy for a soccer injury to her left knee and to "stay in shape." She was accustomed to team sports having played soccer, volleyball, field hockey and basketball in high school-- and club sports in college. So the idea of pushing herself against the clock seemed a little foreign.
Nonetheless, Patten joined the Rocky Mountain Cycling Club Team Einstein in 1996 and rode recreationally. A year later she tried two road races and then turned it on this year with a good dose of experience at the Decker Dash and Rocky Mountain Raceway series, as well as road and mountain bike races up and down the state. Patten liked the adrenaline rush of the sport and "I just wanted to get better and get stronger."
Her breakthrough race at the Einstein Downtown Criterium in May nearly started out as a disaster. She dropped 20 to 30 feet behind early and almost threw in the towel as the pack pulled away during the first three or four laps, but she recovered and rejoined the other racers. With one lap to go, a teammate sprinted into the lead but couldn't hold it and Patten saw a window of opportunity. As she rounded the second to last comer another racer almost went down but didn't effect Patten and she got through cleanly. In a sprint to the finish, Patten out-hustled her closest competitor. True to her modest nature, all Patten would say about her first gold was that she was "surprised."
But by no means is she satisfied and content. She has set high goals for herself that include not only winning more races, but pushing her performance to better levels and moving up from sport to expert and from Cat 4 to Cat 3.
Patten finds that road biking helps her mountain biking because the road season starts earlier. The intensity of her weekly routine is dictated by the race she enters on the weekend. Usually, Patten rests on Monday, does the crits on Tuesday and Wednesday, rests again on Thursday or participates in a club ride or casual mountain biking. Friday, she'll pre-ride the mountain bike course or do a light ride. Saturday is race day and Sunday she does a recovery ride from 40-80 miles at a moderate pace. Patten admits she's still experimenting with the pace and intensity of her training "so that I can peak at the bigger races."
As Patten analyzes her strengths and weaknesses, she prefers the crits because they involve "strategy, power and bike handling." She follows Barry Sears' "Zone" diet - balancing proteins, carbohydrates and fat and usually eats about three hours before a race by loading up on pancakes.
Patten landed in Utah in 1991 after living in Pennsylvania, California, Japan, Virginia Beach, Jacksonville and Ohio as her family followed the career of her Navy captain father. After graduating from Miami University of Ohio, she first settled in Hurricane then moved to Salt Lake and started working for Chisco Sports Accessories, makers of the original action sports watchband THE BAND& At Chisco, Patten handles new product development and purchasing. The work environment at Chisco - with showers and protective areas for bicycle storage -supports employees like Patten. Twice a week, she bikes to work from 7800 south in Midvale.
Just as Patten caught the thrill of cycling through the encouragement of a teammate on Einstein's, Angela Synder, Patten would like to spread the word to more women in Utah to take up the sport of cycling. Although 36 women are registered in her category, only about five regularly show up for races.
She'd like to see more public education on bicycle racing, especially more courtesy from automobile drivers when they encounter cyclists on the road. She bemoans the fact that the citizen races at the Tuesday night crits at the Rocky Mountain Raceway have been dropped. And longs for the day when "bike racing in America would be like it is in Europe where the pros are revered the same way Michael Jordan is here."