A slight tap on my shoulder startles me in the grocery store. I turn around, a stranger looking at me, looking at the tattoos on my arm. They point and chuckle as they stare at the compass tattooed on the back of my left bicep, “So which way would you say is North?” A question I am commonly asked, satirical in nature initially, but it always leads into the deeper question, “what does it mean?” Asked commonly by my close friends and family, all the way to the stranger in the grocery store, they want to know more beyond the obvious meaning of the compass. I always have to take a deep breath, collect my thoughts, my words, and my memories.
It was October 4. 2013. My M.B.A. program at Lindenwood University was coming to an end that month, I had just returned from my first UCI cross race overseas, and my heart was heavy. I had spent the day before at work in the bike shop sitting at my computer in tears. To this day I feel confused, lost, and uncertain about it all. After one of my strongest years as a racer, a student, and an independent woman, I felt everything break me down that day before. Weeks before I felt powerful, I now felt weak. So sure and confident, I now felt insecure and lost. I woke up October 4th and lay in my bed staring at the dark ceiling. Emotions flooding through like a beaver dam that had so much time being built only for a heavy rain to wash it all away. All that hard work, physical and mental, seems worthless now as vulnerability sinks in. I thought about Amy and what she would want from us. She would want us laughing, smiling, strong, and powerful. I wanted the reminder I do not always have to be lost, and in moments of weakness I should feel strong and proud; it is what Amy would have done. That morning I called the local tattoo parlor and got in immediately for an opening. “A compass. I want a compass.” It accompanies a small bicycle that I got tattooed with my best friend, Ashley James, when we were 18.
I now have large arrows pointing in every direction on my tricep. A reminder that I will not lose home, which is in Northern Wisconsin, and that I do not need to feel lost in times like these. Amy lifts me to be the strong, motivated, and successful woman that I am. So when the stranger in the grocery store wants to know the story behind my tattoo, I tell them about Amy. They do not know the cycling community, or the racing scene that we are all so interconnected with, yet, this doesn’t matter. They get to know a person that continually touches our lives, and I hope that her story and her strength can touch theirs.
A place that I will never forget as home always waits for me after all these years of traveling, racing, and studying. Born and raised in a small town, Eagle River, Wisconsin, cycling was not popular. Always tearing around the woods with my two big brothers, they found the local mountain bike series, WORS. I was 12 and wanted to do whatever they did. I picked up my old red rigid Schwinn bike that I had purchased from my neighbors that year for $20 and asked my dad if I could do a race. My first mountain bike race was the NCWMBC – The North Central Women’s Mountain Bike Challenge. The rain made the singletrack unrideable, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t even know what singletrack meant. I finished with a huge smile on my face and my dad waiting at the finish line. I was hooked.
Mountain biking became everything to me, despite my friends not understanding the sport. I traded in my t-shirt, soccer shorts, and tennis shoes I had originally started racing in for lycra and mountain bike shoes. I was eager to learn more. Once I got into high school and could drive, I took my ’92 Ford Ranger down to Madison where I did my first cyclocross race. Cycling really was addicting. In 2007 I won my first and only stars and stripes jersey at the 24 hour MTB National Championships on a 4-person junior women team.
I attended Lindsey Wilson College where I began competing in all disciplines: mountain bike, downhill racing, bmx racing, road, and cyclocross. I dabbled in track, but I preferred dirt more than anything. This is where I first started meeting new riders across the country who were just like me, maybe a bit faster. I earned my first cyclocross podium in 2008 in the U23 race where Amy stood on the top step. Needless to say, she crushed us, but it is the proudest podium I had ever been on. I stood next to my best friend, and a podium full of talented and strong women. I was so proud of what I had accomplished, and proud to show who I was standing amongst.
I continued wanting more in life. I studied abroad in London, England for a summer at the Imperial College of London. There I studied Economics of the EU. I transferred to Lindenwood University where I completed my Bachelor’s in Arts: Business Admin – Marketing and Accounting. I came onto their cycling team as the only female, and only mountain biker. Me and our coach at the school, Chris Mileski, grew the program and when I graduated we had a full women’s pro/amateur squad to send to nationals.
I traveled to Kenya and Uganda on my own to see more in life and volunteered at remand homes (juvenile centers) and talked with kids, encouraging them to a world full of possibilities. I spent time in Australia, training, surfing, and racing the local criterium series. I worked as an intern with VeloNews in Boulder, Colorado and with Trek. I always sought for bigger and better opportunities and experiences in my life. I fell into work after graduating and gave up racing and riding. After a year off of school and selling cars in Northern Wisconsin I yearned to be back on the bike and find my passion again; I returned to Lindenwood University in the fall of 2012 where I began my M.B.A. in International Business.
While working towards my M.B.A. I was an assistant to the Lindenwood Cycling team where I also competed with them. I attended Junior Recruiting Fairs at the National Events and showed girls the options they had in life. I was able to work closely with communities, sponsors, and local businesses and show them just how vibrant young adults we were. After lots of ups and downs through 2012-2013, I also became involved with the Wisconsin High School Cycling League program that is in its inaugural year. While my hope is always to get more girls involved, it was great getting to work with the juniors all together, boys and girls alike.
Since then, I have moved to Salt Lake City, Utah for work. I currently work for CompetitiveCyclist.com and still am very blessed to get to ride and race my bike in the meantime. My hopes of accomplishing more and more in my life never fades, especially when all I have to do is look down at my bike and see memories of Amy staring back at me, or when I tell the story when people ask about my tattoo, or the stickers on my bike. “Who is Amy?” Amy pushed me to ride harder when we raced together. Amy continues to push me to ride harder when it hurts, when all seems lost, or when I need a smile. Just a brief story about Amy makes anyone smile, whether they knew her or not and to have that strength in my everyday life is a true blessing.
2006-2008: PCW Cycling
2008-2009: Gear Grinder/Hyundai
2010: Trek Store Colorado
2011-2012: Stopped Racing
2013-Present: Quantum Mesa Cycles
Collegiate: Lindsey Wilson College
The 2014 season has been centered around my cyclocross season. Typically active in an early road season, mountain and cross, I needed to push my season back and take the spring a little slower. After a long cold spring of moving and job hunting, I finally am getting into the swing of it all again. With cross season strongly approaching, I want to see myself grow more and more there, and become more competitive in the UCI races. My body gets stronger every year, and it is fine-tuning to see what best fits me on the race scene. The thing I have found benefits me the most is the knowledge and experiences I can share with others. While I may not be the fastest on the bike, I have been racing for a long time, and have experienced a wide range of racing. To share that with juniors getting into the sport, or even women who are scared to do their first group ride, I want to be a positive person they can turn to and ask what chamois is best for them and not be embarrassed.
This ties into how I plan to achieve them and how the Amy D. Race Program complements it tremendously. For me, it has always been more than just me racing my bike. It is a community, and an opportunity to share empowerment in individuals and women. I joined Lindenwood University Cycling Team as the only female wanting to grow the program. We succeeded. I joined Quantum Mesa Cycles out of St. Louis which is a men’s elite development team to grow the program. We are succeeded and growing with more women becoming involved. We feel so free when we ride our bike, and it impacts our physical and mental health off the bike as well. When I am having a rough week, I go out mountain biking or snow biking with friends, at the end of the day I have no words and a goofy grin slapped across my face, I know this is the good life.
Representing Amy D. Racing and the Amy D. Foundation is challenging to express in a word document. The way she touched my life on and off the bike, I want to be able to do the same. I want to share her passion and drive with others, which consequently is what many of us stand for as well. This also would mean representing anyone that ever knew Amy. That representation would need to be respectful, and it is a deeper representation of anything I probably have ever done. I can straight up say how proud I would be having her name across my chest at races, events, and even within the local community. It gives the opportunity to share her world and values with so many more people and really grow women’s cycling! Being able to break out of the Colorado race scene, and even cross, and into the cycling world as a whole would allow for great exposure. All in all, it would be quite possible the largest honor I would have ever had in my life.
I continue to push for someone to give me a chance in racing, and to say “This girl can do something, let’s make it happen.” I have an amazing support group behind me, my family, friends, colleagues, team, and coach, and I want to share all of my experiences and races with others.