By Anthony J. Nocella II, Ph.D. — Anthony: Could you tell me how you got into cycling and if any women supported you in the beginning?
Melissa Coles: In college I sold my first car and bought a road bike and road my bike to work. It was an 18-mile commute to my job. My mom is one of my biggest supporters. She is always encouraging me to believe in myself and work hard.
AN: Tell me a bit about your racing history, such as your podiums and other accomplishments, including the teams you have ridden and raced for?
MC: My passion is with triathlons so that is where my focus is. The first one I joined is the Salt Lake Tri Club in 2017 and for the last 3 years I have been fortunate to be a part of Team Zoot as well. I have had the opportunity to take part in many local races here in Utah. In 2016 I was able to get my first Overall female podium. In 2017 I received a couple podium spots as well in the local smaller triathlons. I also completed my first 70.3 in St. George Utah. 2018 I completed my first full Ironman in Tempe Arizona. 2019 I did several local small races here in Utah and was able to podium at each one making me 1st overall female in my age group at the end of the season for all of Utah.
2020 was a bit rough on the racing schedule but I did manage a couple. I did a 70.3 and ranked 1st Overall Female and a 140.6 Bear Lake Brawl coming in 2nd overall Female.
2021 I broke my foot in late February and had surgery to repair a Jones Fracture but was able to come back and race in September placing 1st overall Female at the South Davis rec triathlon and 2nd overall female at the Brineman Triathlon just 5 days later.
AN: As a competitive cyclist can you tell me how your personal life or family life is shaped to support your racing and training?
MC: We try to schedule rides and exercise in general right alongside with family time. I do many workouts in the morning and then try to be home as many nights a week as I can. I also love having my kids join me on workouts when it’s possible. I could not do this without the love and support of my family. They are my biggest cheerleaders!
AN: When training and racing with other women what are some key differences that you see as the best part of the women’s cycling culture?
MC: Anytime I am able to train with other women there is a certain level of enthusiasm and excitement that I find to be contagious, and I love being able to cheer each other on and support each other in our goals!
AN: In your opinion, how can the industry, race promoters, and bicycle shops be more inclusive to women and girls, besides hiring them as is much needed?
MC: I know that I go to certain bicycle shops because I have built relationships with the owner and staff. They are smaller bike shops, but I feel more comfortable and learn more from them then the bigger bike shops.
AN: How can the general community support upcoming girls who want to be elite racing cyclists like you, and what do you have to say to young girls?
MC: I feel like we need more bike shops promoting all women’s group rides. Stop giving women the short end of the stick. The public needs to push for gender equality. Last big race the prize money was a joke for women vs men. Tell the big races that these kinds of things are not ok. This sends a signal to all women in cycling that we are not important or worth investing in.
Anthony J. Nocella II, Ph.D. is a full-time professor at Salt Lake Community College, author of numerous books, trail runner, triathlete, competitive cyclist, and in his free time works at Hangar 15 Bicycles Millcreek.