Bike Racing for All: More Winners than Just Those on the Podium

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By Kelly McPherson — Bike racing is a challenging sport that highly favors the young, light, and athletic. If you get dropped off the back of the peloton, are you even still racing? The nature of the sport does not lend well to newbies and the cost to entry is much steeper than most other sports. Is there a place in this sport for all? Yes!!! Cycling is not just for those who have a chance at getting on the podium.

Kelly McPherson at the East Canyon Road Race. Photo by Bri Hoopes
Kelly McPherson at the East Canyon Road Race. Photo by Bri Hoopes

A friend of mine snapped this picture of me at the East Canyon Road Race this last weekend and I am really glad she did. This moment, this exact moment, is when I won this race. No, I did not get onto the podium. Let me explain.

You probably can tell that I am a heavier, older cyclist and East Canyon has a lot of climbing, which doesn't play to my strengths. The moment in this picture is me, after having climbed this climb once already, headed into a brutal headwind and had turned around and am heading up the climb again. The race started out really cold, but by this time, it wasn't anymore, and I was overlayered and tired. This is the moment when I chose to give it my best effort even though there was absolutely no way I was going to get onto a podium. This is when my attitude towards the race was happy and strong regardless of the outcome. I have done this race before! I knew that this would be the outcome before I even signed up.

In cycle racing, very few people will ever get onto the podium and officially “win.” If only those very few people, who have the potential of getting on a podium show up for a race, that will be a ridiculously small race.

The real winners of cycling races are those who keep coming back, those who keep a good attitude clear until the finish line, those who don't blame others for them not getting on a podium, those whose bodies have long ago peaked but stills squeeze into kits and roll up to a starting line, those who have had injuries and are still doing the best they can, those who are racing for the first time and are so scared they are ready to puke. The real winners are those who keep trying.

Want to be a winner? Come sign up for a race! You may get a picture of yourself with your hands up, medal around your neck, standing on a podium. You may not. It really depends on who else shows up. Just by showing up and giving it your best, whatever that may be, gives you the win.

See the calendar section in this issue for regional events, or online at: https://www.cyclingutah.com/event-calendars/

While there are tons and tons of winners out there, below are three that I have met and have chosen to highlight. Keep on being incredible out there!

Rosann Greenway at the Antelope Island Road Race. Photo by Julie Kirby Photography
Rosann Greenway at the Antelope Island Road Race. Photo by Julie Kirby Photography

Winner!!!!! Rosann Greenway

Roseann is new to racing this year and is excited to come back for more. Her first race was at the challenging East Canyon Road Race where the presence of a good friend helped to calm her nerves. He helped her know where to go and what things to expect and it helped a lot. She popped off the back on a short little climb because she didn’t know that the group would take off like they did. She eventually caught up with a teammate on the long climb and rode with her most of the rest of the way.

Roseann has come from a running background, but since a friend of hers invited her to start riding, she has hardly run since. She even came out for the Emigration Hill Climb race. Yeah!!! She is being converted to the One True Sport.

Jillian Gardner has been racing since age 11. Photo by Michael Finch
Jillian Gardner has been racing since age 11. Photo by Michael Finch

Winner!!!! Jillian Gardner

I met Jillian quite a few years ago when she was working at Canyon Bikes (now Hangar 15). She has always impressed me with how friendly and approachable she is even though she is really, really kick-A. Jillian has been racing bikes since she was eleven years old and achieved a CAT 2 ranking. She is very accustomed standing on a podium.

In 2018, she was riding her mountain bike, crashed and broke her back. Imagine what it would be like to have something that you love and is something you view as integral part of your identity, suddenly taken away. The ground was quite literally taken out from underneath Jillian.

Due to the extent of her injuries, she wasn’t even allowed back onto her bike until 2020. She has really had to adjust her expectations from training. Where she used to be able to go out, push hard and hit the numbers she wanted, now she needs to pay more attention to what her body is saying and be happy with the best that it can give her rather than worrying so much about hitting it hard ALL of the time.

I was absolutely delighted to see Jillian roll up to the starting line of East Canyon Road Race and then again at the Emigration Hill Climb. She was surprised to get dropped on the wall at East Canyon but was thrilled to reach her personal time goal at Emigration. Her stubborn persistence to regain bike fitness is paying off! It is hard for her to have to ride with the CAT 1-3 girls right now and she would have loved to have ridden with the Masters 35+ group, but she isn’t old enough.

When asked why she keeps racing, she responded that she has been involved in this sport since she was very young, and it has given her a lot. She can’t give up on it now. Acknowledging that she may never get back to where she was, in fact, she feels she is healthier now than then, she would like to put her passion to work to help youth get more involved in racing.

Wendy Gusner Pinson and Kelly McPherson at the West Mountain Road Race. Photo by Cameron Scott
Wendy Gusner Pinson and Kelly McPherson at the West Mountain Road Race. Photo by Cameron Scott

Winner!!!! Wendy Gussner Pinson

“I completed a 50-mile bike ride Saturday. Well, technically it was a race, but I refused to allow my heart rate to go above 170, which meant it was a ride for me. I got dropped on the first hill, rode with my friend Kelly Snider McPherson and finished in time to eat 3/4 of a medium pizza, coach 2 basketball games, and do yard work till dark. 2 months post-pneumonia, I’d say I’m recovered. Plus, this is the longest stretch since August 2020 without a medical incident!! Oh, and my bone scan last week came back clear, except for degenerative joint disease in my right knee and right shoulder. That may be why radiation has affected me so negatively, maybe exacerbating what was already there. Oh well, come what may and love it. I’m glad I can do more and more, while choosing to have different goals, like finishing a race with a heart rate between 150-170, as opposed to winning.”

 

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4 COMMENTS

  1. This article is a great reminder for all of us who love riding and racing. Thanks for highlighting the diversity of riders who make up the peloton and contribute to this great sport.

  2. Thank you for an inspiring article. I’ve been riding about 50 years and would never compete – don’t have an athletic body! I will enter a few races and likely be the last one in, but I’m now inspired to do so.

  3. Dang! I was so inspired, I forgot this is UT where everything is on a Saturday. I can’t ride on Saturdays as an Observant Jew.

  4. Thank u Kelly for this! You’re right: racing is so much more than a podium spot.
    I love that you get out there with your amazing attitude! <3

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